Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony followed up his blistering admonition of the agency for not doing its financial obligations of the 2021 winter storm costs with a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma legislature about his concerns.
He told the legislature that the “Regulated Utilities Consumer Protection Act” it passed in April 2021 “was really a bail-out of the utilities that resulted in the worst fleecing of Oklahoma public utility ratepayers in the last three decades.”
He also offered his explanation of the failure of the Corporation Commission regarding fuel costs and what he defined as obstruction, cover-up and lies to lawmakers about the additional $2 billion in charges to ratepayers for the storm costs.
Anthony offered his complete filing on the issue that was discussed in some length during a special meeting on Monday. It was during the meeting where the discussion was designed to focus on legislation offering “performance-based rates” for utilities that Anthony questioned the credibility of both his agency and the legislature to act in the best interests of Oklahoma ratepayers.
“The way this agency handled the last “Consumer Protection Act” cost Oklahoma ratepayers a billion dollars more than Commissioner Hiett said it would, and two billion dollars more than the utilities said was even owed for that 2021 Winter Storm,” stated the Commissioner.
“We need to stop the obstruction and cover-up and do our duty to find the truth about what went horribly wrong with the last one before we start offering our ‘advice’ on any more utility regulation legislation. “
Anthony charged that while the Kansas Attorney General is prosecuting companies for natural gas market manipulation and the Commissioners of the land Office negotiate a reduction in natural gas bills for several state agencies, the Corporation Commission won’t do some basic due diligence.
“This agency’s credibility is in the tank, and until we stop stonewalling and whitewashing and do our job, we have no business telling anyone else how to do theirs.” Anthony said in the courtroom Monday.
Citing the extra $2 billion dollar price tag of the legislature’s last so-called “Protection Act” concerning public utilities — the “Regulated Utilities Consumer Protection Act” passed in 2021 to allow Oklahoma utilities to issue billions in ratepayer-backed bonds to spread out the costs of the Feb. 2021 Winter storm — Anthony said that earlier legislation “was really a bail-out of the utilities that resulted in the worst fleecing of Oklahoma public utility ratepayers in the last three decades.”
He said it also “hamstrung Oklahoma’s investigation into the same natural gas market manipulation that the Kansas Attorney General is now prosecuting.”
Anthony decried the ongoing “stonewalling, whitewashing and cover-up” being used to hide the truth about “who all schemed and lied to lawmakers to promote that bogus ‘Protection’ legislation and exactly who profited.” He specifically referenced emails he says show that “estimated average natural gas bill amounts provided to lawmakers were deliberately and massively inflated.”
He said, “The public deserves to see how this rotten sausage was made … and to know the truth about the results.” Anthony believes this includes “which insiders involved with the legislation and/or securitization processes were eventually personally enriched following their participation” and “if Oklahoma’s natural gas markets were unlawfully manipulated during the February 2021 Winter Storm.”
Anthony explicitly called out his fellow Corporation Commissioners for their unconcern and inaction in the face of Oklahoma’s highest-in-the-history-of-the-nation 2021 natural gas prices.
“Instead of the declarations of impotence my fellow commissioners are using to avoid asking uncomfortable questions to some of this state’s leading corporate citizens, the Corporation Commission should hire qualified independent experts empowered with this agency’s full review authority to find the true sources of the extreme fuel costs and examine the terms of the procurement contracts and their prudence in the context of appropriate market rates and industry best practices.”
Anthony cited numerous constitutional and statutory references he says not only authorize but require the OCC to investigate these multi-billion-dollar issues — including market manipulation — and condemned both his agency’s and the utilities’ failure to comply with his repeated requests for related documents, records and information.”Before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission presumes to have any credibility whatsoever to advise the Legislature about regulating monopoly electric power companies, this agency should restore its credibility by demonstrating transparency and a willingness to do our constitutional duty instead of perpetuating denial, deceit, regulatory failures, wrongdoing and an ongoing cover-up.” Anthony said.
Commissioner Anthony’s filing on this matter can be found here.
For further in-depth coverage of the special meeting, click here for Non-Doc
Source: Press release