OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For longtime Oklahoman, Stacia Rector, news of a nearly double digit rate hike that could be coming from the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OG&E) is troubling.
“For people who are on fixed income that could cause some problem because you already have your budget set as to what’s going to come out of your income so that you can pay your bills and then have some left over ,” Rector said.
In an email to customers, OG&E said it would ask the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to approve a rate hike of 8.4%.
For the average residential customer, that’s nearly 10 extra dollars a month, and it’s a concern for many Oklahomans.
“This is on the heels of Oklahoma residential customers paying for billions of dollars of winter storm costs,” said AARP State Director Sean Voskhul, referring to the state’s efforts to recoup the extraordinary costs from the February 2021 winter storm.
“I think it just really shows a lack of understanding or arrogance and at a time when aging east has record profits and people are struggling, especially older Oklahomans, with skyrocketing costs on prescription drugs, food, [and] other utilities,” he added.
In a statement to KFOR, OG&E company officials said the requested rate increase “addresses its continued efforts to execute its Grid Enhancement Plan,” a five-year plan that was established in 2020 to emphasize replacing and upgrading aging infrastructure.
In that same statement, officials also said the expected the increased investments to “continue” to improve the customer experience by reducing the number and duration of outages, while also modernizing the system.
Voskhul said AARP Oklahoma would continue advocating for Oklahomans over 50, while working to prevent the rate increases from happening.
“We’ll be alerting our members to call an email, and it’s really up to our three statewide elected officials to make the final say [to get] your voice heard,” he added, referring to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) also weighed in Friday in response to the proposed OG&E rate increase with a statement to KFOR:
“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Mission is to ‘balance the rights and needs of citizens with the utilities’, read the statement. Recently, it seems that the utilities have run roughshod over the citizens with no balance from the OCC. Every year for at least the last 14, OG&E has paid out handsome dividends—some of which could have been used to pay for the infrastructure updates that they claim to have been making since 2012. Those upgrades did not save consumers from paying, at times, 1000% increases in the cost of energy in February 2021 when gas pipes froze.”VOICE
Ms. Rector, who has resided in her home since 1954, said she plans to wait to see what happens with the rate increase, while adding she will rely on her faith, to see her through.
“It should be something that they deal with themselves and not the customers have to deal with it at all,” she announced. “Either way it goes, God is in charge.”
Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission declined to address the potential rate increase.
Customers will have the opportunity to have their voices heard on the issue at a public hearing on May 26th.
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.