OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – AARP leadership and volunteers gathered Tuesday to send thousands of postcards to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, pleading for a proposed $164 million dollar rate hike to be denied.
“We hope the commissioners will listen to the voices that have been shared. We’ve been really overwhelmed by the response we receive with nearly 7,000 postcards and petitions that will be delivered to the corporation commissioner,” said Sean W. Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma State Director.
“We just see the rate hikes, the rate hikes, the rate hikes,” said longtime volunteer Ethel Broiles, adding that she’d like to see the money spent where it’s really needed.
For the average residential customer, the cost will come out to be nearly an extra $10 a month, or nearly $120 per year, in addition to at least $2 extra to compensate for costs incurred during the winter storms in 2021.
“We would like to see them put some of that money where they’re at, where they’re saying they’re going to need it,” added Broiles. “And for people who are on fixed incomes…we would like to see a break so that we could breathe a little bit. But it’s not happening.”
AARP representatives told KFOR Tuesday they believe costs for customers should be decreasing, rather than going up.
“When we look at the data and the information, it shows that really we should be looking at about an $18 million [dollar] rate increase,” said Deborah Thompson, utility lawyer for the AARP.
“A big chunk of the request relates to an additional 60 million more per year in requested profit on top of the cost to operating the system,” she added.
“The utilities are asking for formula rates, meaning every year they can come in and raise their rates a little by little over time without a full accounting and review of the cost to operate the system,” she added.
In a statement to KFOR, Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission declined to address the potential rate increase, citing the pending hearing:
“This is related to a pending case still ongoing at the Commission so we would not be able to provide any comments related to the petition. I can say there is testimony in the case from many parties that has been filed for consideration and cross examination before the ALJ. The hearing has yet to begin for evaluation of evidence and cross examination. Please let me know if there are any case related scheduling details on which we could be of assistance.“
Brandy Wreath | Director and OUSF Administrator
Public Utility Division and Consumer Services | Oklahoma Corporation Commission
Oklahoma Corporation Commission Legislative Liaison
Customers will have the opportunity to have their voices heard on the issue at a hearing to include public comments on May 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Opponents to the rate increase are urging citizens to contact the Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners and let them know how they feel about another utility increase.
AARP members like Ethel told KFOR that in the end, concern comes down to the cost coming out of a customer’s pocket.
“Do I pay for electricity (this month) or do I get groceries?” she said, describing the difficult decisions that AARP members living on fixed incomes often face making. “I would say in the age range of 65 to 75, [there are] quite a few that live in fear [ of rising costs]. They will not speak up… I will.”