Oklahoma City has made one last pitch to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to overturn a Corporation Commission decision that allows no collection of municipal franchise fees normally collected by utilities that received Winter Securitization bonding support.
In a recent filing, the city again argued that last year’s decision for Winter Event Securitization resulted in two utilities with Oklahoma City franchise agreements, “interpreting the order to mean they do not owe the franchise fees they promised to pay the city—.”
The Corporation Commission argues it did not have jurisdiction to determine the validity of franchise fees. However, Oklahoma City contends the order allowed collection of franchise fees approved of by the Commission but not of those that the Commission disapproves of.
With the aid of additional attorneys from the law firm, A New Energy, which was created by former Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, Oklahoma City also argued the Corporation Commission implemented an “extremely truncated, minimal-notice process” used to enter the order in July of 2022.
“So, in a case involving millions of dollars in municipal taxes and franchise fees, the OCC gave no actual notice to municipalities of what was at stake and concluded the whole matter in a mere 11 business days—,” stated the city in its last filing.
Oklahoma City contends the utilities owe the franchise fees directly to the municipalities, instead of the customers owing them, as for sales tax.
The filing told the Supreme Court the Commission’s order did not directly forbid the utilities from paying the franchise fees owed but merely said “Don’t bill customers for them.”
“So, utilities could still pay the franchise fees if they wished to do so, but the Order has given them the appearance of an “out” from paying franchise fees, which means that all municipalities, including the City, must sue the utilities in collection cases statewide to attempt to recover the franchise fees.”
Oklahoma City also contends the cancellation of sales tax collections by utility vendors from utility consumers “is unconstitutional and in direct violation of City sales tax laws.”
Oklahoma City Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan and two others with the city filed the latest appeal along with four attorneys from A New Energy law firm. The four include Jim Roth, the founder of the firm in 2009 who also was a Director at Phillips Murrah in Oklahoma City and the Dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
Eric Davis, Lindsey Pever, and Niles Stuck of A New Energy also helped with the filing.
The web site for A New Energy describes it as a full-service legal, regulatory, and policy consulting firm helping clients navigate the intricacies of law, policy, and the regulatory scheme in Oklahoma, the SPP region and beyond.