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OCC hear arguments about PSO recovering costs for Wind Catcher Energy Connection

OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma Corporation Commission heard arguments on Monday afternoon on whether or not to allow Public Service Co. to recover costs related to its Wind Catcher Energy Connection.

Stan Whiteford, a spokesman for PSO, said the utility company has reached a negotiation with six other parties including Walmart and the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers which are now in support of the $4.5 billion project.

The project includes a wind farm in the panhandle of Oklahoma which will be connected to a grid in Tulsa with a roughly 360-mile power line.

In order to gain their support, Whiteford said PSO, which has 550,000 accounts across Oklahoma, had to make guarantees that the Wind Catcher project will create benefits.

"We are out having been on the record saying Wind Catcher is going to save our customers 2 billion dollars over the course of the life of the project but beyond that, there are also dollars that go to the state in increased tax revenues, ad valorem taxes, the jobs that are created during construction and the small amount of jobs that remain after construction," Whiteford explained.

However, PSO is asking the OCC to pre-approve a process that would allow the company to recover $1.36 billion spent.

"Rates will go up to allow us to recover the cost of the project, but the energy will be so less expensive that those savings will be greater than those costs so for customers it’s a net win," he said. "We are asking that to go into effect at the same time that the lower rates and the lower prices that would go along with wind catcher would take effect."

The Oklahoma chapter for the group "Americans For Prosperity" (AFP) has opposed this project, describing it as an unnecessary "high risk".

"The point is that left to its own devices, the market would not provide the necessary capital for this project to go forward," grassroots director Adam Maxey said. "We're now out in to extreme hypothetical's on what rates would be versus what they're going to be through a cost recovery."

In a past statement, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he did not believe the Wind Catcher project met the requirements for a pre-approval and that cost recovery should be denied by OCC.

The hearing at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission began at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Corporation officials say it will continue on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.