State Regulators prepare for vote on PSO’s Wind Catcher wind farm

For nearly 3 and a half hours on Monday,  PSO executive Steven Fate spent giving testimony on his utility’s controversial bid for pre-approval and cost recovery of its $5.4 billion Wind Catcher wind farm proposed near Guymon.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission started the hearing at 1:30 p.m. and ended around 5:30 p.m. The  hearing will resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Fate, PSO’s Vice President of Regulatory and Finance will be back on the stand.

He is the focus of questions by those opposing the project. Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office is one of them. Fate had testified previously in January and in May.

At the heart of many questions was PSO’s guarantee of cost savings for its customers.

“In my 35 years,  I’ve never seen as comprehensive a guarantee as this one,” said Fate. “There is a great deal of protection and it’s a sign of our confidence in the project.”

He told the commission the guarantees include protection from a tariff increase on steel and said there is a hard cap on costs—no exceptions.

But during the course of the hearing, commissioners took time to hear from those for and against the massive project.

One property owner fighting the project’s massive transmission  lines said he didn’t oppose wind power but was against “this line that could hurt people, lead to  electrocutions and cause people to get cancer.”

A spokesman for the 20-county Southwest Alliance, an economic area covering I-35 to the west and I-40 to the south favored the project. He cited the need for jobs in the largely rural area of the state.

Others complained of “the hurrice nature of the process.” But a Southeast Oklahoma City Manager praised PSO for what he called its “visionary step” in guaranteed savings in the future.

PSO has run into more opposition in recent weeks for the project. Its attempt to construct massive transmission lines against Osage County was rejected by the Osage Nation. Then the company’s plan to relocate the proposed lines through Bixby faced opposition from the city council and residents. Last week, PSO agreed to withdraw plans to locate through Bixby.

The project is not just for Oklahoma. The giant wind farm, proposed to be the largest in the U.S. will  provide electricity for customers in Arkansas and Louisiana.