AARP warns utilities—expect a fight over rate hike requests


AARP Oklahoma made it clear this week, it will not stop fighting the rate hikes of utilities in the state. OG&E and PSO can expect a battle before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl told members during a Thursday Facebook presentation, it’s like a “whack-a-mole” fight.

“We’ve been fighting unfair utility rate hikes for several years now,” he said. “It never ends.”

He and Joy McGill, Associate State Director of the organization identified major rate hike requests by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Company of Oklahoma.

“The amount is staggering,” said McGill in referring to the $332 million OGE rate hike request which, if approved by Corporation Commissioners, would amount to a nearly 13% increase in monthly bills. It would also add nearly $20 more a month to an average residential electric bill.

The request by PSO was for a $218 million rate hike which would increase an average residential customer’s bill by another 7% or $10 more a month.

“It’s been year after year, and it all adds up,” remarked Voskuhl, adding, “our work’s not done.”

The two AARP leaders encouraged their members to fill out postcards telling their stories of how the rate increase will affect them.

Hearings for the two utlities begin in June.

On another front, both discussed efforts in the legislature to pass a Right of First Refusal bill which would allow utilities to construct major transmission lines without competitive bidding. The measure in question, HB4097, was reintroduced to the legislature after it was defeated last year.

“It would essentially raise rates,” said McGill, who called it an anti-competition bill. She said it appears the measure might have died in committee after winning House approval, “but you never know what comes up” until the legislature adjourns sine die.