Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony might have finally gotten his wish—that someone with authority would investigate how the state’s major utilities won approval for billions of dollars in Winter Storm Uri costs to be transferred to ratepayers rather than borne by the companies.
The Oklahoman reported early Wednesay that Attorney General Gentner Drummond subpoenaed the entire staff of the Corporation Commission as he opened a probe into the handling of the controversial bond securitization efforts.
The subpoena was delivered this week to the Commission seeking “all communications of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s commissioners and their staff, and employees of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, who were involved, directly or indirectly with Winter Storm Uri cost recovery.”
The subpoena covers the period from Feb. 1, 2022 to March 31, 2022.
Just last week, Drummond asked Commissioner Anthony to silence his criticism and allegations regarding communications between Commission staff and the State Treasurer’s office at the time of the proceedings stemming from the 2021 winter storm. In what could be described as a “put up or shut up” request, Drummond sent a letter to Anthony, who responded by explaining he had already given such documentation to Drummond when he was a candidate and later to two of his Assistant Attorneys General.
It could raise the suggestion that Drummond either ignored Anthony’s original delivery of the documentation or forgot about it, and whether the Assistant Attorneys General didn’t give much credence to the commissioner’s claims.
Commissioner Anthony has maintained that the bond securitization act, created by the state legislature within a few months after the storm resulted in massive and historic high natural gas prices, was a scheme to help utilities who passed along the costs to their customers.
Anthony attempted to learn more about communications between staffers and others outside the agency regarding the winter securitization. He even submitted a public documents request of the Commission but Brandy Wreath, the Public Utilities Division Director at the time, ordered staffers not to comply.
Anthony argued that the Commission should investigate under the powers of the Constitution. The two other commissioners, Todd Hiett and Kim David disagreed.
It was in March when David, who joined the commission in January, sent a letter to the Attorney General who was already probing allegations of market manipulation that led to the historic high natural gas prices during the 2021 winter storm.
““I believe that you should conduct a similar investigation. 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 stated in the letter.
Commissioner David argued the Commission had no legal authority to conduct its own probe, but Commissioner Anthony pointed to the state constitution, claiming the agency had the authority.
Hiett, chairman of the Commission issued a statement welcoming the subpoena.
“I have long said that that the Attorney General is the proper authority to investigate the actions of the unregulated markets that left the consumer, utilities, and state officials grappling with record high natural gas costs from Uri. I am gratified he is taking this matter very seriously, and the OCC will do all it can to help,” Hiett said.
Drummond had no public response until this week when the subpoena was issued. As The Oklahoman reported, Drummond’s subpoena stated that it was in ” the public interest that an investigation should be made to ascertain whether an unlawful restraint of trade or other unlawful activity took place related to natural gas commodities/trading purchases related to Winter Storm Uri.”
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