Bingman lays out stances on legislative issues affecting Corporation Commission


When it comes to some of the legislative issues dealing directly with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, how does the only candidate to file so far for the commission in 2024 feel about them?

OK Energy Today spoke at length with former State Senator and Secretary of State Brian Bingman about such issues as Right of First Refusal by utilities, exemptions for commissioners from the Oklahoma Public Meeting Act, mileage and per diem for commissioners and calls for audits of securitization bonds used by utilities to cover the 2021 winter storm costs.

Bingman is a candidate to succeed term-limited Commissioner Bob Anthony and is the only person to file for the office. Should Commissioners be granted exemptions from the State Public Meeting Law as proposed by Ardmore Rep. Tammy Townley whose HB2367 won approval in the House and is now in the Senate?

“I think some modifications probably are in order,” he answered while admitting he had yet to read the bill. “I know the commissioners feel like they have their hands tied.”

At the same time, he felt the “current rules are sufficient” and he didn’t want the commissioners to be like judges who gather behind closed doors to discuss their legal decisions before announcing them from the bench.

“The Commission has survived and done well, and if it doesn’t pass, that’s not the end of the world.”

Under HB2367, commissioners would be allowed to meet with staff and hold other kinds of meetings but not to take a vote. They would also be required to post their discussions on the commission website within 48 hours of huddling together.

The measure was strongly opposed by Commissioner Bob Anthony who said it nailed the lid shut on transparency and openness.

Mileage and per diem for Corporation Commissioners? It is proposed in SB1388, a bill authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin of Duncan.
“You know, they probably should,” answered Bingman who pointed out that other statewide elected officers get vehicles for their transportation around the state. Again, he admitted he had not read the measure.

Garvin’s bill, which won approval in a Senate committee but has yet to be voted on in the full Senate, would leave the mileage and per diem rates to be determined by separate agencies. The Senator explained in committee that she was asked by Corporation Commissioner Kim David to author the bill.

David is one of two corporation commissioners who lives in more remote rural areas of the state. She and Commission Chairman Todd Hiett have homes in eastern Oklahoma.

One controversial issue that sparked interim legislative studies last year was Right of First Refusal. Lawton Rep. Trey Caldwell introduced HB4097 which received support in the House and is now in a Senate Committee. It is known as the Oklahoma State Transmission and Accountability and Reliability Act or STAR Act.

“I’m all for competitive bidding,” responded Bingman who told OK Energy Today he had yet to read the bill.

“The utilities do a good job of the infrastructure. I want to make sure we have the best reliable energy—at the same time, the consumer pays for it. I want to make sure we get the best bang for our dollar to ensure that I think competitive bidding is very favorable to the consumer.”

Rep. Caldwell said it was not really a ROFR bill and he had the support of former Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud, now head of the Alliance for Secure Energy. The Alliance has also endorsed Bingman’s candidacy and recently funded flyers sent to Oklahoma voters. The flyers stated that they were paid for by the Alliance for Secure Energy.

Under the STAR Act, utilities wanting to construct major transmission lines would be required to conduct competitive bidding for the construction, but they would also own the project once construction is complete.

A final topic—securitization bonds used by Oklahoma’s major utilities to cover the natural gas costs of the 2021 Winter Storm Uri. The bonds resulted in increased costs for consumers for up to 28 years.

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony has been critical of the bond costs and called for in-depth audits. He opposed a one-page audit presented by the two other commissioners and made another official filing this week expressing his views. It resulted in an email response from Corporation Commission spokesman Trey Davis, as quoted in The Oklahoman, who accused Anthony of “mischaracterizing the report.”

Does Bingman think there should be a more detailed audit of the bond costs borne by consumers?

“The end result (of the storm) is we’re sitting there with a big bill to pay and it fell straight through to the ratepayer,” he said.

“So I would support audits of all the transactions that transpired to make sure there’s no malfeasance, collusion whatever on prices,” added Bingman.

“I think Oklahomans want to make sure they’re paying their fair share…it’s a touchy situation. But shedding a light on that? I have no issue at all—because we’re the ones having to pay for it.”

This is Bingman’s second attempt as a candidate for the Corporation Commission. He filed in 2017 and lost the 2018 Republican primary to Anthony. Since Anthony is term limited, he cannot run again this year and so far, Bingman is the only candidate for the commission. He resigned last fall as Secretary of State to become a candidate and immediately drew endorsements from Gov. Kevin Stitt and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell as well as Commissioners Todd Hiett and Kim David.

His latest campaign report on file with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission shows that at the end of 2023, he had $257,282 remaining in his campaign fund. The report showed that he had received $279,023 in cash and in-kind contributions and expended $21,613.