TOPEKA – (March 26, 2020) – Kansas has now recovered more than $1.75 million from a natural gas antitrust lawsuit, including nearly $800,000 received last week, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
Kansas last week received $795,768.01 from a 2015 price-fixing lawsuit in which the attorney general’s office participated before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week’s payment is the second the state has received from the lawsuit, following a $957,451.02 reimbursement in June 2019. The recoveries stem from litigation that held several companies accountable for illegally inflating the price of natural gas in the early 2000s.
"Our successful defense of state antitrust law in front of the nation’s highest court made possible this recovery of taxpayer funds exceeding $1.75 million," Schmidt said. "We are gratified by this outcome, and our office remains determined to continue defending the public treasury from unlawful charges.”
In 2014, the attorney general filed with the U.S. Supreme Court a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that federal law does not preempt the authority of states to enforce state antitrust laws against price-fixing of natural gas in retail transactions. The Court took the unusual step of allowing Kansas to advance its views at oral argument, which the attorney general's office did in January 2015. The Court ruled in favor of the Kansas position, allowing several plaintiffs to continue their lawsuit that alleged violation of state antitrust law.
The resulting settlement in that case enabled Kansas to recover funds overpaid by the state because of the illegally inflated prices. In 2017, the attorney general's office filed claims to recover the overpayments on more that 5.2 million Btu of natural gas.
Both reimbursements cover overcharges from 2000-2002. As with last year’s payment, the reimbursement received last week will be returned to the State General Fund. Schmidt noted that it is uncertain whether any further settlement funds will become available for the State.
The case was Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 1591 (2015).