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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has approved a payment plan for customers of Public Service Company of Oklahoma.

When arctic temperatures wreaked havoc on the region in February of 2021, utility companies had to purchase natural gas at an inflated cost in order to prevent outages during the winter blast.

The Public Service Company of Oklahoma spent $675 million and is now working to recoup those funds.

This week, the OCC approved a plan that would allow PSO to recover the funds over two decades.

“This debt was incurred during the winter storm for natural gas purchases to maintain electric generation and protect life and property. Now the cost must be paid,” Commissioner Todd Hiett said. “It is painful for all of us to bear the additional costs from the storm, but loss of heat leading to home damage and possibly loss of life is what would have resulted if these audited purchases had not been made.”

The plan means customers will see their bills increase by about $4 a month for the next 20 years.

The company must apply any other proceeds it receives from the storm directly to consumers’ bills to lower customers’ fuel charge. The order also requires PSO to take steps to improve its fuel supply plans to prevent something like that from happening again.

“State law allows regulated utilities to recover their fuel costs, at no profit, through a separate monthly charge on the bill.  But simply passing through the $675 million of the Commission-audited PSO fuel costs from the February 2021 winter storm as is normally done would have resulted in an estimated charge of $476 in one month for the average residential PSO customer. Securitization spreads the cost out over 20 years, reducing the monthly charge to $4.06.

As with the earlier fuel cost/securitization cases from last February’s storm, this is a very difficult decision reached only after months of sworn testimony, careful review of the evidence and audits performed by the Commission’s Public Utility Division.

It is vitally important that every step possible be taken to reduce the chances of a repeat of the natural gas market turmoil last February. It is a market that is outside the authority of the OCC. Federal authorities and the Oklahoma Attorney General are investigating that market, and the OCC will continue to work with regulated utilities on steps that could be taken to improve their fuel supply planning.”

Commission Chairman Dana Murphy

In January, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a plan for Oklahoma Natural Gas to recoup costs incurred during the February 2021 winter storm, but also voted down imposing a fee on ONG customers who switch from their natural gas service to a different fuel source.