Amer­i­can fam­i­lies have been bat­tered by COVID-19. One-third of house­holds face a chal­lenge in meet­ing ener­gy needs, accord­ing to the Ener­gy Infor­ma­tion Administration.

If we want to build back bet­ter, we must do what is right for these fam­i­lies and the small busi­ness­es that are the back­bone of our econ­o­my. That starts with keep­ing costs low for basic needs like food, med­i­cine and energy.

A pro­posed ener­gy tax as part of the bud­get rec­on­cil­i­a­tion plan threat­ens that.


Millions in Arizona rely on natural gas

Near­ly 180 mil­lion Amer­i­cans use nat­ur­al gas in their homes and 5.5 mil­lion busi­ness­es use nat­ur­al gas to heat their stores or pro­duce the goods they sell.

Local­ly, more than 1.25 mil­lion house­holds and 365,500 com­mer­cial build­ings like hos­pi­tals, schools and busi­ness­es in our state rely on the ener­gy source. Because nat­ur­al gas prices have remained afford­able and sta­ble, near­ly two new nat­ur­al gas users are added every hour in Arizona.

House­holds that use nat­ur­al gas for heat­ing, cook­ing and clothes dry­ing save up to $687 per year com­pared to homes using elec­tric­i­ty for those appli­ca­tions. The afford­abil­i­ty of nat­ur­al gas has led to at least $123 bil­lion in sav­ings for Amer­i­can busi­ness­es since 2009.

With all that in mind, it is shock­ing that a group of U.S. sen­a­tors have pro­posed a “methane fee” – or more plain­ly, an ener­gy tax con­sumers will have to pay, in the bud­get res­o­lu­tion mak­ing its way through Congress.

This mis­guid­ed attempt to reduce emis­sions will have the oppo­site result by rais­ing prices and dis­suad­ing cus­tomers from using a low­er car­bon fuel. Fur­ther, this fee lessens the will­ing­ness of investors to expend cap­i­tal for the infra­struc­ture upgrades that nat­ur­al gas util­i­ty com­pa­nies con­tin­u­ous­ly make to reduce emissions.


There are other ways to reduce emissions

The methane fee pro­pos­al has nev­er been the sub­ject of a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing and there­fore has not been appro­pri­ate­ly ana­lyzed or debat­ed among lawmakers.

Con­gress has also not assessed the eco­nom­ic hard­ship it could impose on low­er-income Amer­i­cans or its actu­al impact on reduc­ing methane emis­sions. It would also penal­ize com­pa­nies that are cur­rent­ly com­pli­ant with the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s methane reg­u­la­tions and new­er ones com­ing down the pike.

The methane fee, if enact­ed, would like­ly neces­si­tate rate increas­es for nat­ur­al gas and elec­tric­i­ty cus­tomers, includ­ing fam­i­lies, small busi­ness­es and pow­er gen­er­a­tors. In one sce­nario the indus­try looked at, such a fee could result in the aver­age cus­tomer see­ing an approx­i­mate increase of 17% in their nat­ur­al gas bill, or over $100 per year for the aver­age Amer­i­can family.

To be clear, we share the emis­sions reduc­tion goals of these sen­a­tors. The nat­ur­al gas indus­try has a proven track record of decreas­ing emis­sions and a plan to reduce them even further.

Nat­ur­al gas util­i­ties in Ari­zona spent 95% more on ener­gy effi­cien­cy pro­grams in 2017 com­pared to 2014. These pro­grams help cus­tomers reduce their car­bon foot­prints, help­ing con­tribute to emis­sions from the aver­age nat­ur­al gas home declin­ing 1.2% per year nationally.

Increas­ing cus­tomer costs is the wrong approach for emis­sions reduc­tion and penal­izes con­sumers. Now is not the time to place an undue bur­den on Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and busi­ness­es. We’re com­mit­ted to reduc­ing emis­sions in ways that pre­serve ener­gy choice for cus­tomers while also keep­ing costs down.