The unexplained costs of how Oklahoma’s major utilities used a new law to extend 2021 Winter Storm Uri costs are still bothering Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony.
Yes, that winter storm. Uri. The one that keeps on giving and giving. He raised questions in 2022 when PSO, OGE, and ONG used securitization and wondered aloud about the true costs to consumers.
He is raising the questions again, doing so this week in a filing regarding Public Service Company of Oklahoma and its request for a rate hike.
“What is holding up resolution of this case?” wrote Anthony in the filing on case No. PUD 2022-000093.
The Commissioner complained how 8 months after he asked the utilities for their communications with officials and representatives of the Corporation Commission’s staff, he is still waiting. His request at the time focused on “who was paid how much for what, regarding any expense related to securitization or the 2021 Winter Storm that was, directly or indirectly, passed through to customers.”
Anthony made the same request in September of 2022 and followed up with another filing in February of 2023. He contends there were inconsistencies, omissions and outright contradictions regarding the actual issuance costs for each utility’s bond sale. He claimed there were “significant and substantial discrepancies” between certain banks and law firms” but did not identify them.
“Specifically, I questioned how the underwriters came to be paid significantly more than the amounts for which they agreed to perform the work submitted in their RFP responses,” wrote Anthony.
In his filing this week, the commissioner claimed the issuance costs passed through to ratepayers “totaled some $41 million” and to date, he had not been offered any evidence that they were ever audited by anyone.
As for PSO’s case, Anthony charged the underwriters in the bond issuance were paid $250,000 more than they bid to do the work and $900,000 more than the lowest bid received from a qualified underwrite. (see page 3 of his filing)
“I calculate this single overpayment alone will cost PSO’s ratepayers some $2.2 million,” alleged Anthony in the filing.
He contends that actual securitization expenses for the three major utilities came in $1 billion higher than had been estimated, and it did not prompt the Corporation Commission to conduct an immediate audit.
Anthony concluded in his filing that unmet requirements, incomplete information and unanswered requests resulted in a record of the case that is too deficient for him to support a final order in the PSO rate case.