Corporation Commissioner attacks reform bill—calls it micromanagement attempt

A “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  It’s what Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony calls a house bill introduced by Seminole Republican Rep. Zack Taylor. But Taylor is defending the measure and criticizes Commissioner Anthony.

Anthony has launched a broadside attack on HB 1556 which is called the Oklahoma Corporation Commission Reform Act, a bill originally introduced in 2019 by House speaker Charles McCall.

The bill won unanimous support in a Feb. 25 vote in the House Rules Committee which is chaired by Rep. Taylor.

“HB 1556 is unnecessary and would impose expensive delays upon OGE, PSO, ONG, oil/gas cases, businesses, ratepayers and others waiting for the Corporation Commissioners to get their work done,” argued Commissioner Anthony, vice-chairman of the regulatory body. He also suggested Taylor might have misled others on the committee.

“For the record, Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Zack Taylor distributed the HB1556 language without the prior knowledge or input of OCC Chairman Todd Hiett or Vice-Chairman Bob Anthony,” said the commissioner in a statement to OK Energy Today. “Any implication that two Commissioners supported it is false.”

Rep. Taylor, when questioned by OK Energy Today responded by stating he was “very disappointed” about Anthony’s comments, adding, “If the Commissioner doesn’t realize there is a problem within the commission, therein lies the problem.”

Anthony said he informed Rep. Taylor’s office of his opposition, gave his cell phone number and offered to attend the Committee meeting to explain his disagreement if called upon but no request to appear was made.

“Since when does the Legislature find it fitting to write job descriptions for state agencies, especially constitutional commissions headed by three statewide elected officials?” he asked.

Rep. Taylor reacted by stating, “Commissioner Anthony’s assertion that somehow he has been blocked out or prevented from speaking on this issue is false. He doesn’t have to be invited to a committee meeting. All committee meeting notices are posted prior to the meeting and are open to the public.”

Taylor’s bill would create the position of Director of Administration, replacing the Commission’s General Administrator. Under the bill, the Director would oversee and discuss with the commissioners “matters related to risk management of the commission, budgetary process, compliance, contracting of all professional services, monitor legislation affecting the Commission, oversee relations with other state agencies, ensure compliance of laws, submit reports and obtain input from the commissioners regarding issues affecting the Commission.”

“There is a disconnect and total lack of continuity at the Corporation Commission right now,” he told OK Energy Today. “After digging into the issue, all roads led to the general administrator position,” said the Representative.

Anthony suggests that Taylor might have a different motive for supporting and introducing the bill. Taylor is part-owner of RKR Exploration, Inc. of Seminole, a family-owned oil and gas operator.

During the Feb. 25 vote by the Rules Committee, Taylor explained he originally wanted to eliminate the position of Director of Administration but was advised against that.

“In doing some digging after, had some constituents ask questions–even some trouble in my own business, I figured out that—we need some adjustments,” he told others on the committee.

He did not elaborate what kind of “trouble” he might have had involving his company and state regulators.

“I have consulted with two of the three commissioners. I will be honest with you and say that one of the three commissioners is opposed to his bill,” he concluded before a vote was taken.

Commissioner Anthony says the bill would end up not only delaying regulatory action by the commission but would require Commissioners to go to “unnecessary meetings or being dragged into bureaucratic/administrative operations.” He said it would be “wasteful and illogical” diverting commissioners away from effectively and efficiently serving Oklahoma.

Commission Chairman Todd Hiett remains undecided on the bill, confirming he spoke briefly with Rep. Taylor about it.

“I doubt it goes anywhere I guess,” he told OK Energy Today. “It’s early in the legislative session and it’s hard to know what it’ll look like in the end.  Too early to tell. It’s a long way from law.”

Commissioner Dana Murphy has yet to decide whether she supports the measure.

“This bill is one of many that I am looking at closely.  As I am sure you are aware, this is a very busy time for the OCC and the legislature,” she told OK Energy Today.