Regulators squabble over closing winter storm utility rate cases

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An attempt by Oklahoma Corporation Commission chair Dana Murphy to the cases regarding the 2021 winter storm costs for four utilities turned into heated exchanges with Commissioner Bob Anthony who accused her of a “coverup.”

During the Thursday morning meeting, Commissioner Anthony again raised charges that the Commission failed to hold public hearings on the efforts of ONG, OG&E, PSO and CenterPoint Energy to use the state’s winter securitization Act and pass storm costs along to their customers.

“I think they’re a coverup, an attempt to hide the ball,” charged Anthony in comments aimed at Murphy and her agenda items seeking a closing of the files on the storm costs passed along to ratepayers. He said the orders for the utilities were “subject to prudence reviews” before collection from consumers.

Murphy said the winter securitization approvals included reviews but Anthony disagreed.

“They should be reviewed before you slam the door and close the case,” he leveled. “When it says prudence review should be held, this is a requirement.”

“This is not a coverup on my part,” denied Murphy. “Compliance reports have been filed.”

“If the word ‘coverup’ bothers you, that’s what it is—hiding the ball,” said Anthony later in the heated discussion.

Anthony again raised claims that the Commission staff, under the direction of now General Administrator Brandy Wreath, had “hindered” and “stonewalled” his efforts to learn details of the winter securitization by the utilities. Wreath had informed Anthony some weeks ago that if he wanted details, he would have to file a public records request.

“I’ve been hindered. There’s stonewalling and irregular activities. I characterize them as trying to put the lid on something,” added Commissioner Anthony.

After a lengthy back-and-forth between the two commissioners, votes were taken in approval to close the files on the regulatory asset actions by the utilities.

Votes were 2 commissioners in favor, Murphy and Todd Hiett, while Anthony responded on one by stating, “dissenting opinion to filed” and “I will not participate. My signature will be blank,” on another.

It is not the first time that Commissioner Anthony has sought detailed expenditures of the winter storm costs by the utilities. He raised pointed questions in a November filing with the commission.

I believe that expenses of a public utility that are passed through to the public should be accessible to the public, and most certainly to a Corporation Commissioner with a legal duty “to determine whether such rates are just and reasonable” (O.A.C. § 165:50-5-7). Apparently some in this agency disagree. They should re-read the rules, the law and the Constitution,” he wrote.

The more diligent and aggressive efforts to prevent me from knowing what is really happening at this agency become, the stronger my suspicions become that there is more than just the usual “regulatory coziness” to hide,” added the commissioner in the filing.


Here is the video link to the Thursday morning meeting.