OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One former Republican lawmaker joined a group of progressives to call for more accountability after Oklahomans footed the bill to pay for the 2021 winter storm.

 “It is the government’s job to make them protect us,” said Nick Singer, Oklahoma Progressive Now’s Executive Director. “It is not our job to be piggy banks for profiteering corporations.”

A press conference was held today with the progressive group calling for an investigation into the Securitization Law and how it was established.

“To me, this is a $4 billion screw up kind of by them. They either didn’t hedge, didn’t weatherized, they didn’t do their job,” said Singer, referring to OG&E.

OG&E responded to the press conference highlighting their accomplishments from the 2021 winter storm.

“Because OG&E was able to procure fuel for our power plants during the storm, we kept the heat and lights on for our customers and helped supply power to the SPP grid. This meant Oklahoma was able to avoid the fate of states like Texas that experienced sustained blackouts for upwards of two weeks due to power generation and grid failure, extremely high electric bills in the tens of thousands of dollars for residents and significant loss of life,” said Christi Woodworth, Vice President of Marketing and Communication at OG&E, in part of a statement.

“The price the company pays for fuel to generate electricity is the price our customers pay on their bills. We will continue to work on behalf of our customers to secure the lowest cost fuel available and deliver reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost,” said Woodworth.

It wasn’t only the progressive group calling for accountability.

Former Republican lawmaker, Mike Reynolds, said Todd Hiett should be removed from the Corporation Commission.

Hiett is a commissioner, and Reynolds said that Oklahomans were the one that got stuck paying the bill.

“I would point out that the people who aren’t publicly traded, the corporations that aren’t publicly traded, ate the cost,” said Reynolds.

The Corporation Commission responded to the press conference highlighting the entities they have control over.  

“The Commission only has jurisdiction over regulated utilities. Those utilities are not involved in selling natural gas in the unregulated marketplace, which saw huge increases during winter storm Uri in 2021. Regulated utilities have to buy fuel from that marketplace to provide service. Under state law, the utilities can pass through to the consumer those fuel costs at no profit. The OCC did and does perform audits to be sure no profits were made by regulated utilities on those ‘pass-throughs.’” 

“The Commission has no jurisdiction over the companies that drastically increased the selling price of natural gas, nor does it have any authority over the marketplace in which the transactions occur. 

“The Commission welcomes investigations by any agency with authority into what happened in the natural gas market and the role played by the unregulated sellers. At last word, an investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was ongoing.” said Matt Skinner, OCC PIO. 

Last December the Corporation Commission approved a plan to add two dollars per month for the next 28 years, so OG&E can pay back $760 million to suppliers.  

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the plan was constitutional, but criticized Attorney General John O’Connor.  

“The utility consumer that the Attorney General should be representing have effectively been left without representation. Their access to counsel lies with the Attorney General. Yet he has failed them,” said Justice Douglas Combs.  

In AG O’Connor’s full statement, he addresses his rationale.  

“Under Oklahoma law, the utilities are entitled to be reimbursed for buying fuel at whatever price they pay for the fuel. During Storm URI, the price of natural gas rose from $2.50 per unit to over $1,100 per unit. By law, we ratepayers are stuck with that cost increase. 

“In this case, the fuel costs were so high that utilities would have been forced to either immediately collect from ratepayers or take out loans from commercial lenders. The costs of the loans, including interest the utilities pay, are charged to us ratepayers. 

“Facing the prospect of outrageous utility bills, my office urged that it was much less expensive to issue bonds than to borrow from the banks. This ‘securitization’ (issuing bonds) was not allowed by law at the time. My office wrote the law to allow securitization, which saved ratepayers over $1 billion. After securitization passed through the legislature and was signed by the Governor into law, my advocacy for the ratepayers went further. I found utility expenses to disallow and lowered all the carrying costs while the bonds were being finalized. This saved the ratepayers even more money.  

“The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority issued securitization bonds for OG&E, PSO, and ONG in the total amount of $2.81 billion. 

“In addition to paying reduced utility bills, ratepayers will save by paying interest at the lower securitization rate, which is significantly less than the rates utility companies can typically charge. To avoid the effects of future extraordinary winter weather events, our laws should be revised to incentivize the utilities to buy more gas when the prices are low and to store more gas for another storm like URI.” 

Securitization is the ability to spread fuel costs out over a longer period of time.

Last December the Corporation Commission approved a plan to add two dollars per month for the next 28 years, so OG&E can pay back $760 million to suppliers.