Possible stumbling block to Cushing hydrogen plant removed by regulators


Oklahoma regulators have agreed to allow Summit Utilities to avoid competitive bidding requirements and build and operate a hydrogen blending plant in Cushing. It paves the way toward construction of the operation.

By a 2-1 vote this week, Corporation Commissioners voted to deny a recommendation of the agency’s Public Utilities Division to dismiss Summit’s original request, claiming the commission lacked jurisdiction.

Commissioners Todd Hiett and Bob Anthony supported Summit’s request while Commissioner Kim David voted against it. David explained, in a dissenting opinion, she agreed with the PUD and an Administrative Law Judge that allowing Summit Utilities its request would amount to “preapproval of future expenditure.”

Commissioner David also stated she believes the relief for Summit violates a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling entitled “Sierra Club v. Corporation Commission. The case involved a decision by the Commissioners to allow pre-approval of environmental scrubbers to be installed on Oklahoma Gas and Electric electric plants. The court ruled against the Commission following a challenge by the Sierra Club and reversed the agency’s decision.

Commissioner David, in her dissenting opinion indicated her opposition had apparently nothing to do with the plant proposed by Summit.

“I am a firm believe in the future of hydrogen as a fuel source for transportation and as an option to secure our electric and gas power grid,” adding that regardless of the outcome of the case, she applauded Summimt for pursuing the project.

At one point in a previous hearing before commissioners, Summit suggested that without the waiver of competitive bidding requirements, the plant might not be built.

In Summit’s application, it wanted approval without required competitive bidding to buy its own hydrogen gas. The company asked for an allowance to purchase up to $930,000 in hydrogen gas a year from itself after the plant becomes 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.