OKC’s fight with regulators over franchise fees and storm bonds awaits a court decision


Not quite two years after Oklahoma City challenged Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners over a franchise fee decision involving millions of dollars, the matter rests with the State Supreme Court.

There is no indication when the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices might render a decision. They’ve had the case for the past five months.

The City filed suit in September 2022 following a move by regulators a month earlier that was tied to the controversial billions of dollars in bonds allowed for utilities from the 2021 Winter Storm Uri. Yes, those bonds. The ones still embroiled in controversy.

As OK Energy Today reported in September 2022, the city responded with a lawsuit when the Commissioners voted 2-1 against requiring utilities to collect franchise fees for hundreds of municipalities. The suit contended the decision was unconstitutional and represented an “invasion of the exclusive right of electors residing in Oklahoma City to negotiate and approve franchise agreements with utilities and to receive franchise fees from utility franchisees.”

Oklahoma City leaders, including Mayor David Holt, have yet to offer public comments about their legal action.

Following a series of back-and-forth filings by the Corporation Commission and the City, the case (No. CU-120707) was assigned to the State Supreme Court Dec. 8, 2023. And that’s where it sits as of this week. The last filing in the matter stated “Assigned to Supreme Court.”

What’s at stake are millions of dollars in uncollected franchise fees normally paid by utilities to municipalities in return for the use of public rights-of-way. In 2022, those fees accounted for nearly $40 million or 8.7% of Oklahoma City’s FY21 General Fund operating revenue budget.

Oklahoma City’s two biggest utility sources for such franchise fees in FY 2021 were Oklahoma Gas & Electric ($19.7 million) and Cox Communications ($5.7 million).