After two recesses on Friday, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners held a 7-minute meeting in which they approved a rate hike case for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, a case described as a “nightmare” by one regulator and a “dereliction of duty” by another.
The delays were the result of a new final order proposed by commissioners on PSO’s $155 millon rate hike request that underwent 3-days of review and challenges before an administrative law judge last May. PSO spent time Thursday night late and early Friday morning putting a pencil to the adjusted figures as proposed and drawn up largely by Commission Chairman Todd Hiett.
Under the order, PSO customers will eventually see a drop in their bills beginning in January, despite the average rate hike of $5.35 a month. An estimated decline for the average residential customer will be $11.73 a month.
Commissioner Kim David said she was satisfied with the way it came out, but admitted it wasn’t easy.
“My first rate case was a nightmare,” she commented during the brief meeting. “Customers will eventually see a rate decrease and I’m happy about that.”
The PSO was David’s first rate case since she joined the Commission in January.
Commissioner Hiett explained the rate hike will amount to $5.35 for PSO cusotmers but they will also eventually see a $17 a month downward adjustment on their fuel costs.
“It is an actual lowering of bills, which is very unusual,” he added before the Commission voted 2-1 to support the rate case. The actual drop will be $17.08 for an average residential customer. But there will be the increase of $5.35
The Commission’s order approved an overall rate increase that is approximately $139.3 million dollars less than PSO’s original request. PSO initially sought a $294,497,000 rate increase. The Commission’s order resulted in a $131,208,000 rate increase.
The final order provides PSO with an overall 2.4% retail increase for all customer classes.
Commissioner Bob Anthony opposed the approval, again raising the issue in a six-page dissenting opinion, that his two fellow commissioners were guilty of “dereliction of duty” for failing to audit PSO’s 2021 Winter Storm bonds.
Anthony maintains that the state law which allowed the use of ratepayer-backed bonds to spread out winter storm costs for OG&E, ONG and PSO requires audits of the bonds and their expenses. In his filed opinion, the commissioner declared that no such audit has been conducted.
Anthony concluded that PSO customers “should be outraged that 2.5 years after the February 2021 Winter Storm, the state agency responsible for overseeing the charges on their monthly utility bills still can’t tell them specifically ‘Who got paid how much for what?’ or how much it will all ultimately cost them.”
He again questioned the $10.5 million in Bond Issuance Costs PSO reported were incurred to issue its nearly $700 miillion of 2021 Winter Storm Bonds.
Anthony said answers to the multi-million dollar question remain incomplete and he could not support the latest rate hike request.