Critical questions of utilities’ fuel costs raised again by Corporation Commissioner Anthony

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Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony is raising more questions about the 2021 fuel costs of Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG), Oklahoma Gas & Electric, and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO).

While he has yet to get the support of fellow commissioners Todd  Hiett and Kim David in his challenge of the costs, Anthony made a new filing in the 2021 ONG, OG&E and PSO Fuel Cost and Prudence Review cases. Anthony questioned millions in what he calls “cost discrepancies,” in the $186 million extra in (non-fuel, non-interest) Securitization Expenses charged to ratepayers for using ratepayer-backed bonds to spread out the February 2021 Winter Storm fuel costs.

Among some $41 million in “Bond Issuance Costs,” Anthony says it appears millions either were not properly authorized by the Deputy Treasurer or improperly exceeded the payee’s original bid amount.

“By my math, it seems one underwriter was paid $1.6 million more than the bid amount it agreed to work for!” Anthony writes.

Because the Securitization Expenses were first authorized by the Commission in what Anthony has called “blank check” Bond Financing Orders from 2021 and 2022 that did not give any specific amounts for these expenses (orders he voted against), Anthony says the expenses have never been officially examined by the Commission, even though they are already being passed through to ratepayers.

“Sadly, despite months of effort, it seems neither I myself nor the public is any closer to knowing the truth about specifically ‘who got paid how much for what’ among these $186 million in Securitization Expenses.” Anthony writes.  In recent months, he has repeatedly denounced ongoing obstruction of his efforts to find the fact and the truth.

In the newest filing, Anthony calls for “a thorough review of all Securitization Expenses … utilizing the help of the State Treasurer’s Office, the ODFA, and/or outside experts and auditors if required” so that the Commission can have complete and accurate information from which to determine if the utilities’ 2021 fuel costs were “fair, just and reasonable expenses… prudently incurred” as the law requires.

Tone deaf: Anthony hits redial on old utility case

Anthony pointed out that “in these cases all calendar year 2021 fuel procurement processes and costs, including fuel costs incurred during the February 2021 Winter Storm, shall receive a full and thorough Prudence Review in compliance with Commission Rules and the governing statutes.”

As has been widely reported, Oklahoma’s utilities paid the most in the nation for natural gas during the February 2021 Winter Storm.

“Nothing in these review cases has been excluded from the full authority of this Commission.” Anthony wrote.

The latest filing can be found here.