Oklahoma City’s fight over franchise fees still in Supreme Court


The Oklahoma Supreme Court fight between Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission over franchise fees related to moves by utilities to adopt securitization following the 2021 Winter Storm Uri is into its second year.

It was August of 2022 when Oklahoma City challenged the move by regulators in which utilities would no longer have to collect franchise fees in cities and towns where they offer services.

“The resulting Order prevents Utilities from billing customers for franchise fees, municipal fees or taxes,” argued Oklahoma City in one of its earliest filings in the case still before the State Supreme Court.

The franchise fees, typically, involve payments by a utility to a city or county for the use of their rights-of-way for electricity, natural gas,telephone, video/cable, waste hauler and water utilities.

The case has yet to actually go before justices and in the most recent filings, Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Municipal League are fighting efforts by the Corporation Commssion to have the challenge dismissed.

In response to the lawsuit, the Corporation Commisson argued it has the authority and acted “within its jurisdiction” and in a recent filing explained its action approving the request of the agency’s Public Utilities Division “was appropriate, consistent with applicable law and orders, and should be upheld to avoid an unreasonable or harmful effect on ratepayers.”

The Oklahoma Municipal League, in a Nov. 7 response, took another view, arguing the Commission “misconstrues” the Act that allowed the securitization used by utilities to help spread storm costs over several years.

The League argued the final order from the Corporation Commission “was issued on a flawed basis and the Commission lacked the authority to issue such an order.” It also maintains that the utilities did not seek the order, but rather the Commission’s Public Utilities Division.

“In conclusion, the Motion to Dismiss should not be granted because this issue should have never come before the Corporation Commission,” stated the Municipal League.