Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners must now decide if they want to follow the recommendation of an Administrative Law Judge to approve a 20-year plan of PSO to spread its $688 million in February storm costs out to ratepayers.
ALJ Dustin Murer, in a statement after a day-long hearing on Wednesday called it one of the “most difficult of my career” in offering his recommendation.
“The winter weather event was an awful event that affected Oklahomans, even me. I take no pleasure in making this recommendation.”
But he went ahead and urged Commissioners to adopt the securitization or bonding package that would result in ratepayers being hit with another $4.05 a month on top of a recently approved PSO rate hike, meaning ratepayers will be hit with a nearly $9 to $10 more a month.
PSO’s securitization request resulted in a stipulated agreement reached by the Oklahoma Attorney General, the Public Utility Division of the Commission, Walmart Inc., and the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers, organizations that supported the move.
However, the AARP did not sign the Joint Stipulation.
Matthew A. Horeled, Vice President of Regulatory and Finance for PSO testified during the day about the company’s desire to use the securitization process that became law last year after being approved by the Oklahoma legislature.
Horeled said under questioning that approval by the commission would result in fair, just and reasonable rates for the customers and they “will benefit from substantial cost savings through securitization.”
Of the $688 million plan, $675.2 million was considered to be “extreme purchase costs” experienced by PSO. Another $7.8 million were qualified costs along with $5 million in carrying cost.
Corporation Commissioners listened and took part during the hearing. Commission chairwoman Dana Murphy admitted she had concerns about the cost.
“It’s almost $9 to $10 more a month. Ten dollars more a month makes me question such a long time. I have a little bit of concern,” she said.
“We’re concerned about the customers,” added Commissioner Bob Anthony who wondered aloud, “If this is such a great thing, why haven’t we been doing this for a hundred years?”
Commissioners did not vote Wednesday on the ALJ’s recommendation and it is expected to be presented to the regulators in an approaching meeting.