On the surface, it would appear the Thursday morning special meeting of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission would be routine, normal and certainly nothing out of the ordinary.
Far from it. Buried in the agenda under the innocuous-appearing 24-hour signing agenda are items that could end up costing taxpayers and consumers a lot of money. Lots of money. Billions.
The agenda items cover fuel adjustment clause requests by OG&E, PSO and ONG that total nearly $6 billion in costs that the consumers will end up paying.
Nothing in the published agenda would indicate such costly requests will be considered and likely voted upon by the 3 commissioners.
The regulators are being asked to proclaim that the fuel adjustment requests are “fair, just, reasonable and prudent.”
Commissioners voted in February to explore using an outside expert to examine the un-securitized 2021 winter storm fuel cost recovery charges of Oklahoma Natural Gas, Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Public Service Company of Oklahoma, a move reported by OK Energy Today.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved Tuesday a measure to look into the process under which an outside expert would be hired to examine un-securitized 2021 fuel cost recovery charges of Oklahoma Natural Gas, Oklahoma Gas and Electric, and Public Service Company of Oklahoma.
While the approval was made, Commission Chairman Todd Hiett defended the recommendations of the commission’s Public Utility Division.
“I have full confidence in the work done by the Public Utility Division staff in its audit and prudency review of the costs at issue in these cases to ensure the laws applying to the fuel cost recovery were followed, he said in a released statement.
Within a week, Commissioners Hiett and Kim David publicly acknowledged they had asked Attorney General Gentner Drummond to investigate possible natural gas price manipulation that might have occurred during the 2021 Winter Storm.
In a released statement, Hiett explained he asked Drummond after Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach filed suit against a firm that had also supplied natural gas to Oklahoma utilities. Hiett did not state why he had not asked for such a probe before Drummond took office early this year.
Commissioner Kim David also revealed she had sent a communication to the Attorney General requesting such a probe into price manipulation and “violation of the federal Commodity Exchange Act by natural gas marketers.”
“” Should you determine that wrongdoing occurred, it is my hope that any overpayments can be returned to Oklahoma ratepayers in compliance with the February 2021 Regulated Utility Consumer Protection Act,” she wrote.
The lone Corporation Commissioner who has fought the extreme winter storm costs being passed along to consumers is Bob Anthony and he raised questions about the agenda and the fuel cost requests.
“Why any OCC Commissioner would even put these proposed 2021 Fuel Cost and Prudence Review “Final Orders” on the Commission agenda at this point in time, let alone consider approving them en masse as part of the 24-hour Signing Agenda, is totally baffling to me.”
In his April 3, 2023 filing for the record, Commissioner Anthony stated the record of facts and evidence to supporting a finding of “prudency” is woefully in adequate in each of the three cases.
“To declare these 2021 fuel costs “prudent” at this point in time would be improper, irresponsible, negligent and a slap in the face to the hardworking ratepayers of Oklahoma who will ultimately pay for them,” he wrote.
(his complete filing is available here: https://public.occ.ok.gov/WebLink/DocView.aspx?id=13547340&cr=1)