OK Corp. Commissioner claims utility hike is $1 billion more than promised

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma residents will start seeing added charges show up on their utility bills. Rate hikes from the 2021 winter storm started taking effect. One Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner said the cost for ratepayers was far more than planned, at the tune of $1 billion.

Commissioner Bob Anthony sent a letter to KFOR this week saying the rate increases will be very expensive. He said in the letter it was “the worst special-interest and insider rip-off of Oklahoma ratepayers I’ve seen in the last 30 years.”

Commissioner Anthony also called the rate hikes “tragic” and “sickening.”

He said the winter storm bond deal with utility companies, OG&E, ONG, Summit, and PSO, will cost $1 billion more than promised with OG&E and ONG accounting for more than $800 million in extra interest costs.

Utility companies said the reason for the increased rate was to recoup losses during the devastating winter storm that hit across Oklahoma and much of the country.

Jim Randall, state volunteer president with Oklahoma AARP, said the hikes will be significant.

“One increase might be considered reasonable,” said Randall. “But we’re talking about multiple increase and rate increase requests in a 12-month period since 2021.”

The added costs have caused Ethel and James Broiles’ bills to go up by a whopping $200 a month.

“Do I pay my utility bills? Do I eat less?” said Ethel. “What do I do about my medications? Because most of us seniors are on some form of medications and that becomes an issue as well.”

They would be tough decisions for any family to make but Randall said halting the hikes would be an easy one if commissioners just said no.

“The only way it ends is for three members who serve on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to say this is ending,” said Randall. “We have said it’s time to stop. We’ve said enough is enough. We’ve asked the corporation commission to cease granting increases.”

KFOR reached out to OG&E and ONG for comment on the recent strong words from Commissioner Anthony.

OG&E released this statement:

“The Oklahoma Legislature enacted securitization legislation to protect hardworking Oklahoma families from the immediate and sustained costs of Winter Storm Uri. The legislation authorizing securitization was not something OG&E sought, but it is helping mitigate the impact of costs from Uri for our customers. While securitization opponents fought in court and delayed the process, interest rates rose dramatically which is ultimately why customers are now paying a higher price, according to expert testimony given at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. At every level, the securitization process has been found to be a legal and prudent mechanism. It’s unfortunate then the motives of commissioners, legislators, and the governor continue to be questioned.”

ONG released this statement to KFOR:

“We know that Oklahomans have faced significant challenges over the last couple of years and continue to see increases in all of their bills. While market conditions have changed and interest rates have been higher since filing for securitization in 2021, our company remains confident in securitization as an approach that will still help minimize the monthly impact on our customers’ bills. 

Initial calculations, based on interest rates at the time of the filing, would have allowed for customer impacts to be approximately $5/month for Option A and $8/month for Option B. As we have all experienced, the market environment has changed considerably, resulting in higher interest rates. These fees are now $6.33 for Residential Option A and $10.04 for Residential Option B.   

It is important to know that we did not profit from the sale of gas during the storm, nor did we profit from securitization. As noted above, securitization minimizes the customers’ monthly impact of the extraordinary costs due to Winter Storm Uri, while providing savings for our customers over traditional financing, even with current interest rates.

As always, we encourage our customers to reach out if they have questions or need help with their bills. We’ve set up oklahomanaturalgas.com/securitization for more information about this process and for customers to find assistance opportunities.”

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