OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One group has called on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to halt utility rate hikes. The commission responded to the major request, by AARP. State director for AARP Oklahoma, Sean Voskuhl, said he sent letters last week to every commissioner asking for a moratorium on rate increases.
Commissioner Dana Murphy responded to the letter Tuesday with one of her own. In it she said she was also concerned about the challenges Oklahomans face with rising prices but only provided ways to trim utility costs, since she does not have the power to halt rate hikes.
Voskuhl said he spent most of his days trying to find ways to trim costs for older Oklahomans and has heard from 9,000 people across the state tired of rising utility costs.
“Their message is loud and clear,” said Voskuhl. “We have had town halls and we’ve encouraged people to email and write the commissioners, call the commissioners. That’s how we level the playing field with utility companies.”
He said watching the avalanche of rate increases has impacted customers, especially those on a fixed income.
Now OG&E customers have another added cost looming. It’s called “securitization rates” and customers will see an average added cost of $3.34 per month. The rates were a way for companies to recoup losses during the February 2021 winter storm. In the months following the storm, the state legislature signed off on a new law called Consumer Protection Act, which would create bonds for utility companies to recoup their losses during the storm. It was originally estimated to cost customers around $2.12 a month for 28 years. Now, that cost has nearly doubled. This “securitization rate” has been added for OG&E customers and soon will be added to the bill of ONG, Summit, and PSO consumers.
ONG’s rate is expected to be twice as much as OG&E’s average rate.
Commissioner Bob Anthony was the lone commissioner to vote against these rates. He has published a dissenting opinion on the rates three times. He said in his last option that “the corporation commission already had the ability to spread out those costs over time without tacking on hundreds of millions of dollars in extra fees.”
Commissioner Anthony said he intended to ask tough questions about these added rates during Thursday’s corporation commission meeting. He has questions about why the rates are more expensive than expected. Meanwhile, Voskuhl said the more people speak up, the more power the people will have when it comes to stopping rate hikes.
“We’re really in a crisis mode,” said Voskuhl. “It just seems like it’s never-ending back-to-back rate increases that are just hitting at a really bad time for so many Oklahomans.”