Regulators approve confidentiality for utilities in storm bills

 

Three more utilities seeking state assistance in pausing some of the billions of dollars in gas bills they suffered in the February winter storm were given confidentiality by Oklahoma regulators as the firms try to avoid a direct pass-through of their costs to consumers.

The confidentiality approval by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission came after questions were raised by Commissioner Bob Anthony about the need for protective orders regarding what he called “astronomical.”

“We’re asking people to pay unbelievable amounts of money and the consumers and public are entitled to now what’s behind those astronomical costs,” he said before asking attorneys from Oklahoma Gas and Electric, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and CenterPoint Energy resources Corp. to offer explanations.

“This is not an attempt to hide information from the public but to protect them,” explained Bill Humes, an attorney who represented OGE and said the company intends eventually to spread out its costs to consumers over a 10-year period.

Jack Fite, an attorney for PSO reminded the commission that some years ago it attempted to open some of its competitive bidding efforts and found some firms did not participate because it was open. PSO had to seek a protective order from the Commission before it could get more participation.

“Negotiations can’t be conducted in the public eye,” said attorney Curtis Long for CenterPoint Energy who added his firm is attempting to negotiate prices down. “The purpose is not to hide anything.”

The commission eventually approved the requests as commissioners Todd Hiett and Dana Murphy voted in support while commissioner Anthony did not participate in the vote.

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