Bureaucracy takes over utilities and their outrageous storm bills


As utilities in Oklahoma asked for regulatory relief from massive natural gas bills that hit them during the February winter storm, some sought protective orders for their confidential business information. However, most have just started the long and slow process of seeking state government help.

Corporation Commissioners voted Thursday in support of a protective order for Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. which wanted it to cover all confidential monthly gas purchase detail and gas supply cost and gas pricing information not publicly available.

The protective order covers ONG’s internal analyses and predictions of gas pricing and gas supply availability, possible curtailments and outages.

The order will prevent the public from learning how ONG went about dealing with the advancing winter storm before it hit the state, resulting in massive shortages of natural gas for power production. Questions about why the utility acted or reacted the way it did will only be answered behind closed doors.

ONG in one of its filings claimed it spent $1.5 billion in natural gas purchases during the month of February compared to $306 million for all of 2019. OGE estimated its cost at $1 billion.

The preliminary estimates from Public Service Co. of Oklahoma were $825 million on storm-related costs. Like ONG and OGE and AOG, PSO wants help from the regulators “to mitigate some of the impact on utilities and customers in Oklahoma” as a result of the severe winter weather.

PSO said it wants “to explore approval of regulatory treatment for cost recovery of natural gas” after the costs are fully known to the company

The company in its filing with the Corporation Commission aid it “is seeking to reduce the impact to customers.” It asks regulators to issue an order to create “a regulatory asset for cost recovery” of natural gas and to approve “a mechanism to recover the costs.”

The Corporation Commission has yet to set any dates to consider the requests.

The Attorney General’s office has also made filings to intervene in the cases of the utilities. So has the AARP. The AARP also filed motions to intervene or be a part of the same process involving OGE.

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