Corporation Commissioners want to hear more about Summit Utilities’ planned hydrogen plant


Summit Utilities, the company that recently revealed plans to build a green hydrogen production plant in Cushing, just dodged a bullet at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Summit challenged a Commission Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation as well as opposition from the Commission’s Public Utility Division to allow the firm to proceed without competitive bidding to acquire its own hydrogen gas that would eventually be produced at the plant.

Summit’s argument was simple—there is no hydrogen gas presently available for purchase in Oklahoma.

“We’re looking down the road when the plant’s built,” explained attorney J. Dillon Curren told the commissioners in a recent oral arguments hearing. He said the plant will be the first of its kind in Oklahoma and one of only a few in the U.S. It would produce “green” hydrogen fuel from the electrolysis of water.

“We don’t want to build the plant until we know that competitive bidding won’t be a stumbling block. Why build the plant, when there’s no other source if we know that we won’t be able to pass along even a dollar that we cannot competitive bid?”

In its filings with the commission, Summit explained it was asking allowance to buy up to $930,000 in hydrogen gas year from itself once the plant became operational.

The Public Utilities Division argued the Commissioners should rule against Summit Utilities because one of its rules (Rule 45) required competitive bidding. PUD supported Administrative Law Judge Kenneth B. Behrens who had recommended the commissioners dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

The PUD maintained the request by Summit Utilities amounted to asking for preapproval of future expenditures and that the Corporation Commission lacked the authority to approve future expenditures.

PUD Deputy Dounsel Justin Cullen told commissioners the case was “outside your jurisdiction.”

“The relief requested in this case, my client thinks, is beyond your jurisdiction to act.”

Summit contended its request was not for preapproval of future expenditures “but instead a request for a future process to acquire hydrogen.” The company also stated the $930,000 was simply a cap on the amount of hydrogen it could buy from itself within a year and “not a preapproval for it to purchase any specific amount of hydrogen.”

At the conclusion of a lengthy hearing, Commissioners did not take a vote but indicated they supported an order in support of the company and against the ALJ and PUD.

Commission chairman Todd Hiett said he was ready to rule and considered it a “case of no good deed goes unpunished.” He said he was ready to deny the motion to dismiss Summit’s request.

“I support that,” chimed in Commissioner Bob Anthony. Hiett asked for an order to be prepared.

At the outset of the hearing, commissioners expressed eagerness to learn more about the proposed hydrogen plant.

“I want to hear about it,” remarked Commissioner Anthony as he recalled how Oklahoma had worked with the states of Arkansas and Louisiana in applying for federal funds to create a hydrogen hub.

“If you adopt the ALJ’s recommendaton, you won’t have an opportunity to hear more,” said attorney Curren in reply. He went on to inform commissioners he felt the ALJ’s recommendation was “misconstrued” and based on a “misunderstanding on what Summit wants.”

Summit, a company with 625,000 customers in six states and operator of more than 23,400 miles of pipeline wants to take advantage of the pipeline system that enters Cushing, a site known as the Cushing Hub.