Parade of OGE supporters heard at $332 million rate hike hearing



The Oklahoma Corporation Commission held a rare public hearing this week, listening to public comments from those for and against the $332 million rate hike requested by Oklahoma Gas and Electric.

While some might have anticipated fiery criticism from customers, it turned into more of a Chamber of Commerce style event in support of the giant utililty.

Instead of listening to attorneys argue their cases in the matter, commissioners and Administrative Law Judge Carly Ortel spent two hours hearing from public comments made by bankers, chamber leaders, mayors, school administrators and developers, many who supported the request. As for organizations that oppose the hike, the judge will hear from them at the continued hearing on June 17 at 8:30 a.m.

Twenty-five people either made appearances before the three commissioners and the ALJ or spoke remotely. Only a few opposed the utility’s request, which if approved, would result in a $19 a month rate hike for residential customers of OG&E.

Tommy Kramer, Executive Director of the Durant Industrial Authority praised OG&E’s cooperation with the community and asked commissioners to support the rate case.

“It’s an important value and service provided by OG&E to Oklahoma and there is a need to invest money into the power grid.”

Dan Schiedel of the United Way of Enid said OG&E was a “great corporate sponsor” and the utility was always “responsive.”

Tommy Eaton, Parks and Public Facilities Director in Ada, spoke in support of the request.

“OGE has been very helpful in projects,” he told commissioners and the ALJ.

Another supporter was Kent Burris, superintendent of the Drumright Central Technology Center who explained some of his students are on paid internships at OGE.

“They’ve always been a great partner in training and invested in our lineman tech program.”

“OG&E has always been a leader in economic development,” professed Allen Case of the Woodward Industrial Foundation. “I can’t think of another company that is as selfless as OG&E.

David Smith, head of operations at the Hiland Dairy in Chandler said OGE’s “reliability” was important to the firm.

“OGE’s a valued partner for Hiland Dairy,” he said during the hearing.

Others spoke of the utility’s prompt response during severe weather including the 2023 tornado in Shawnee.

Jill McCoy of the town of Hillsdale where a tornado hit a few weeks ago said OGE’s quick action after the storm was a “positive experience”.

Nancy Sherman, the Mayor of Ardmore called OGE a “wonderful partner” with the city.

“They are with us in the best and worst of times. We need to continue to provide them with the resources they need to keep our utilities strong and stable.”

Kermit McKinney, the mayor of Marietta, a city devastated earlier in the month by a tornado supported the rate hike request.

“They’re interest in our community and we plan to grow and we’ll be needing the power to grow.”

Clint Hardison, Marketing Manager at the AmeriState Bank in Tishomingo was another supporter.

“I sympathize with the people not being able to pay their bills. But what the city’s involvement is—there’s no way not to increase their rates.”

But it wasn’t all roses as a near-Tulsa resident who lives in the eastern service area of OG&E  opposed the rate hike because of his experience last year following a severe wind storm that left him without power for more than a week. Speaking remotely from Philadelphia where he took time from a family vacation to voice his complaints, Jonathan Bowers described how OGE crews “broke my fence, broke my gate.”

Bowers described how crews cut vegetation as they made repairs and dragged it across his property and left it piled on the front lawn. He said in four years of living in the area, crews had never been there to taking care of the vegetation.

“They’re asking for more money for what they should have been doing all along—it leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” said Bowers. “It’s not a good time (for the request). Don’t focus on community service and instead focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Two other OGE customers spoke against the rate hike request including one man who said the amount is “out of balance.”

Still another opponent described the amount of the rate hike rquest as “harmful to people and their budgets.”

Of the majority who supported OG&E’s rate hike request, very little comment was made about the impact the additional monthly charge would have on residential customers. Instead, their praise and suuport focused on the utility’s cooperative relationships with the business community.