Symmetry Energy Solutions wrongfully passed certain costs for the supply of natural gas onto customers amid Winter Storm Uri as it battered most of Texas in February, a proposed class action alleges.
Symmetry, who’s alleged to have charged customers “excessive prices and costs” for natural gas during and because of the massive storm, “saw an opportunity to profit” and took advantage of proposed class members by bypassing its contractual obligations “during a vulnerable time,” the 14-page lawsuit claims.
Symmetry charged the plaintiff, a Tyler, Texas business, $248,943.48 for its use of gas in February 2021, the breach-of-contract complaint alleges, a more than 2,000 percent increase from its bill in the same month the year prior.
According to the case, Symmetry is an energy supplier who provides natural gas to more than 100,000 residential and commercial customers across 30 states. The plaintiff, described in the suit as an award-winning harvester and wholesaler of roses, stores its roses at its Tyler facility before they’re shipped to customers around the world, the lawsuit says. Per the complaint, the plaintiff agreed to an index price contract with Symmetry back in 2015, with the terms of the contract automatically renewing yearly.
In February 2021, as the plaintiff neared six years under contract with Symmetry, Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc upon Texas and other states, causing five million people to experience power outages, the lawsuit relays. The storm, which lasted for more than a week, brought with it sub-freezing temperatures, snow and ice to “a region ill-equipped to handle such conditions,” the suit stresses. Texas Governor Greg Abbott on February 12 declared a state of disaster in all Texas counties as a result of the storm, a proclamation issued on top of one already in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, per the lawsuit.
Amid freezing temperatures, energy demand surged significantly as people tried to heat their homes and businesses, the suit relays. In turn, there was also an increase in demand for the purchase of natural gas, a utility necessary for human needs, the case says, noting Texas “largely relies on natural gas for power and heat generation.”
As Uri battered Texas, “well-head freeze off” occurred, and the failure of natural gas processing plants and pipelines reduced the overall gas supply and limited the ability to distribute and deliver gas, according to the complaint. During the week of the storm, the next-day natural gas market saw “historically high prices” amid a significant disruption in demand and supply, per the suit.
Around this time, Symmetry, the lawsuit says, told customers to “expect substantial price increases in market prices when consuming natural gas.” A month after the storm, on March 15, Symmetry told customers that their February invoices, where applicable, will include “separate line items for the additional costs to supply your natural gas” during the storm, including “any applicable penalties assessed, to date, by the pipelines or [local distribution companies],” the complaint states.
Upon receiving its February 2021 invoice on March 16, the plaintiff was dealt a line-item amount of “incremental supply costs” of $233,494.59, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, Symmetry passed on to customers the supply costs it incurred when buying natural gas to meet demand during Winter Storm Uri.
“Symmetry did not have adequate amount of natural gas on hand, so, to meet its customers’ needs, it secured gas, but incurred penalties associated with curtailment,” the suit charges.
Per the case, the contract between the plaintiff and Symmetry neither mentions nor defines “incremental supply costs,” and the defendant has not been able to provide further clarity to the business as to a detailed breakdown of the line item.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons and entities nationwide who purchased or obtained natural gas services from Symmetry and were charged and/or paid excessive and/or exorbitant natural gas prices and costs during and because of Winter Storm Uri of February 2021. In the event the court declines to certify a national class, the suit proposes to cover a class of persons and entities in Texas who fit the same criteria.
A spokesperson for Symmetry Energy told Law360 last week that while the company “generally [does] not comment on pending litigation, we believe this suit is entirely without merit and we look forward to vigorously defending Symmetry against these allegations.”
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.