Settlement reached in utility case; rates for customers could drop

OKLAHOMA CITY - Parties involved in an ongoing OG&E rate case have reached a rate reduction settlement, officials announced Wednesday.

According to Attorney General Mike Hunter, the $64 million settlement with OG&E will result in lower utility bills for customers starting July if ultimately approved by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

AG Hunter said, initially, OG&E requested for rates to be increased while his office called for a $99 million decrease.

"For OG&E to agree to this deal is monumental. It illustrates why the company is one of our state's best corporate citizens," Hunter said. "Parties involved in the case were the Attorney General's Office, Public Utility Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, OG&E and the OG&E shareholders association."

The settlement figure is in addition to expected savings from a federal corporate income cut. In December, Hunter filed motions regarding file of Oklahoma's leading utility companies, including OG&E after an overhaul on federal income taxes was signed into law.

With the new settlement announced Wednesday and savings from the federal income tax cut, the AG's office said standard residential customers of OG&E will see an average reduction of $18.71 on their bills in July. Average savings for the months following will be around $4.44.

Sean Voskuhl, state director of AARP Oklahoma, said the monthly savings would not be insignificant for Oklahoma's elderly population.

"A few weeks ago, we talked to thousands of AARP members across the state who are struggling with high costs of electric rates but also balancing that with the high cost of prescription drugs, the other utilities, rent," Voskuhl said.

Non-residential customers, such as businesses and agencies, are expected to save about $32 million.

Before it goes into effect, a majority of the three-member Corporation Commission must approve the settlement agreement.

"There’s a hearing on the merit schedule before an administrative law judge on the 15th. The administrative law judge then makes a recommendation to the commissioners then, after that, it is set before the commission," said Public Utility Division director Brandy Wreath. "What the parties has done in this case is that it be heard on an expedited manner. The procedural schedule that was approved earlier had a required date for public comment, which is always received in these cases, and that was scheduled for June 27th."

Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the OCC, said Wednesday they could not comment on the settlement pending the outcome of the commissioners' review.

OG&E said, under this settlement, they are able to recover the company's investment in its new Mustang Energy Center.

"We're pleased the various parties led by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff recognize through this agreement the real value and strategic importance of the Mustang Energy Center to our customers, communities and state in the decades ahead," said OG&E spokesman Brian Alford. "It is important to note the agreement also supports regional energy grid reliability and resiliency while ensuring Oklahoma customers receive the benefit of tax savings that resulted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017."