When is a ROFR not a ROFR? House Committee approves it


After months of negotiations including closed-door sessions with opponents and proponents who stood their ground on a ROFR law in Oklahoma, a State house Committee on Thursday voted to support a measure that the lead legislator said wasn’t a ROFR bill.

But it’s apparent the ROFR fight is still being waged at the capitol

ROFR or Right of First Refusal, a measure that opponents say results in higher electrical rates for consumers, would allow utilities to avoid competitive bidding for major transmission line projects. Proponents disagree and say the claims of higher consumer rates are not true.

Lawton Rep. Trey Caldwell, the legislator who led the negotiations for the past 14 months, told members of the House Utilities Committee the proposed amendment would remove control from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and put it in the hands of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“It’s avoiding the downfalls of the traditional ROFR and will have more competition on the front end,” he contended in explaining the latest version of the ROFR measure.

“This is not a ROFR bill,” he said. “Some say it will stifle competition but that’s absolutely false.”

“We’re still injecting competition on the front end,” he further explained. “It’s never been the intent to stifle competition in the state of Oklahoma. It’s merely to protect our ratepayers via the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and also try to apply downward pressure on the rising cost” of electricity in the state.

When questioned by Rep. Mickey Dollens whether such a bill would guarantee there won’t be a rate increase, Caldwell was quick to answer, “No, I can’t.’

He later vowed, “I won’t do anything to hurt ratepayers of Oklahoma.”

But Rep. Dollens, a Democrat, said it’s a matter of the state’s majority utilities, who have a “legal monopoly in the state,” now wanting the power to build transmission lines without bidding. He said it cuts out the competition.

“I’ve been very skeptical and wary of these bills because I felt it’s in the best interest of the ratepayers,” he told OK Energy Today following the vote.

Dollens, who is the House Minority Whip said he intends to fight the measure and seek the support of more members of his caucus.

Pushed by Committee chairman Mike Dobrinski about whether the measure is supported by Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners, Rep. Caldwell said he had spoken to one commissioner.

“She supports it,” he said, referring to the only “she” on the commission, Kim David. He also said the Attorney General’s office is neutral on the matter, but it “didn’t see any concerns with this bill.”

Dobrinski said the bill would “bring back control to Oklahoma–looks like a win-win for Oklahoma.”

While the measure won approval with only two opponents, Reps. Mickey Dollens and Jeff Boatman, it remains contentious among consumer groups.

A representative for one group that opposes ROFR has called Caldwell’s bill a backdoor approach to ROFR, allowing utilities to avoid competitive bidding for transmission projects but allowing them to continue operating the transmission lines. It appears Caldwell’s bill would allow competitive bidding for construction, but not for operation of the lines.

Proponents argued during legislative and Corporation Commission studies last year that out-of-state firms that won such competitive bidding would not be as responsive to maintenance and repairs of such major lines.

The Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity notified its members of the committee meeting, stating, “Better known as #ROFR, these bills have led to skyrocketing utility rates across the U.S. AFP Oklahoma remains opposed to this scheme and will include votes on ROFR in our 2024 scorecard.”

The group’s Executive Director, John Tidwell said AFP Oklahoma remains committed to opposing any plans that will result in higher utility rates for hard-working Oklahomans.

” We appreciate the diligence and hard work done by the Oklahoma House on this issue, but we do not believe that these efforts will result in lower utility rates. That should always be the goal,” he said in response to an inquiry by OK Energy Today.

“Expanding the electric generation footprint which may result in lower rates should continue to be a priority and not efforts to allow government sanction monopolies to further the burden on hard-working families.”
Representatives who voted for the measure in committee were:

Bashore           Blancett          Caldwell (T)      Dobrinski

    Ford              Hilbert           Hill              O’Donnell

    Patzkowsky        Staires