Tuesday’s announcement by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond to hold accountable those who profited “untowardly” from the 2021 Winter Storm Uri through historic high natural gas prices brought different responses from two of the state’s three Corporation Commissioners.
Commissioner Bob Anthony appreciated the AG’s willingness to perhaps prosecute the market manipulators, but he also said it came two years too late.
“…because the Oklahoma Corporation Commission refused to do its duty and protect ratepayers from fraud and market manipulation.”
Anthony has long contended the commission had the Constitutional authority to carry out its own investigation, but Commissioners Todd Hiett and Kim David felt otherwise and voted so.
“Worse, the OCC attempted to protect the wrongdoers by approving an unnecessary multi-billion-dollar utility bailout called “securitization,” by obstructing my attempts to investigate fraud, market manipulation and other wrongdoing, and by covering up the mounting evidence of illegal conduct when it twice (by 2-1 votes) declared everything about the February 2021 Winter Storm costs “prudent” without lawfully investigating them,” he said in a statement following the announcement by the Attorney General.
Anthony went on to suggest the consequences of a delay by the AG’s office “may prove very costly to the Attorney General’s pursuit of justice on behalf of ratepayers, especially if he is unable to clawback the $2.1 billion in utility bailout securitization interest and expenses that would never have been incurred if the fraud and market manipulation had been properly investigated by the OCC two years ago.”
The commissioner said the costs are closer to $4.8 billion.
“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission should immediately try to vacate its April approval vote in those 2021 Fuel Cost and Prudence Review cases for OG&E, ONG and PSO. Further, Commissioners Hiett, David and Murphy should apologize to the ratepayers of Oklahoma every time the parties the Attorney General accuses of wrongdoing try to use the OCC’s absurdly broad ‘prudent’ declarations to defend themselves.”
Commissioner David stated otherwise in reaction to the Attorney General’s announcement, noting she asked Drummond in January to investigate the market manipulation.
“I appreciate today’s announcement by the Attorney General concluding that market manipulation most likely occurred by certain natural gas marketers during Winter Storm Uri to artificially increase the price of natural gas. Additionally, I am thankful for confirmation that no wrong-doing was done by the Corporation Commission, Oklahoma’s regulated utilities, or the producers of oil and gas.”
David said she knew all along of the wrongdoing and the Attorney General only confirmed that the “OCC lacks the authority to investigate these marketers” and his office was handling the matter.
Commission Chairman Todd Hiett echoed David’s comments.
“I have always held with the prevailing legal opinion that the Attorney General and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are the only parties with the legal authority to conduct such an investigation and prosecution,” he said in a statement released by his office.