Supreme Court to hear lawsuit over price gouging

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit against an Oklahoma-based company claiming it and other natural gas companies gouged the Topeka, Kansas, school district and Learjet is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

More than a dozen other businesses and schools are the part of the lawsuit, which says ONEOK and other natural gas companies illegally fixed prices between 2000 and 2002.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for next month, The Topeka Capital-Journal ( ) reported.

ONEOK denies manipulating natural gas prices. Spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins said placing interstate natural gas markets under state laws could create confusion and contradictions.

“Federal statutes give (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) exclusive authority to govern various aspects of the interstate natural gas market,” she said.

ONEOK used to own Kansas Gas Service, but the companies split in 2013. KGS and natural gas distribution companies in Oklahoma and Texas formed a new company called ONE Gas. Kansas Gas Service spokeswoman Dawn Ewing said neither KGS nor ONE Gas is involved in the lawsuit.

The school district and Learjet initially filed separate cases under state-level antitrust laws in 2005, but they were eventually combined into one.

In 2011, a district court ruled that a federal law pre-empted the state laws that the plaintiffs cited so the lawsuit couldn’t continue. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled last year, allowing the suit to proceed after plaintiffs appealed.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the defendants, no compensation will be given to the plaintiffs unless the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission penalizes ONEOK. If justices rule in favor the plaintiffs, the case would need to return to district court for trial. It’s unclear how much money could be at stake.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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