OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) customers concerned that they may not be able to afford back-to-back rate increases from the public utility gathered Thursday at the Jim Thorpe Building for a scheduled meeting of the Oklahoma Corporation, based on OG&E’s request for a rate increase.
“We’re a small congregation and we would not be able to survive a rate hike that they’re proposing. It would totally devastate our budget. It would impact this homeless youth shelter. So, I’m here today to speak out against that. I’m also here as a pastor, a person of faith, to speak up for the least of these,” said Rev. Kayla Bonewell, a pastor for Church of the Open Arms and Cathedral of Hope as well as an advocate with VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement), coalition of congregations, nonprofits, worker associations, and schools that have come together out of a deep sense of mission and concern about the pressures families face in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Currently, OG&E is seeking an annual increase of around $163.5 million to recover increased business costs and electric infrastructure investments.
The proposed increase would raise the average customer’s bill by about $10 a month, according to officials.
Many more Oklahomans are upset about the possibility that they will pay more for electricity sent thousands of postcards to the Corporation Commission earlier in the week.
At Thursday’s hearing, some folks were not able to speak because of an issue with a zoom link, and others who were able to get a word in were adamant that those increased costs would be much more than Oklahomans could handle.
Bonewell joined at least two dozen people in the court hearing Thursday, along with more than 80 more online for a public comment hearing asking OCC Commissioners to reject that proposed rate increase of at least ten dollars a month for customers.
That hike would come on top of customers are already paying to make up for havoc from winter storms back in 2021.
Opponents said the public utility is already profitable, while everyday Oklahomans are sinking under rapidly rising prices, in all areas.
“These types of increases at a time when we’re entering a 40 year inflationary high will be a tremendous strain on their already difficult budgets that they have to manage,” said Sabra Tucker, also an advocate with VOICE as well as the Executive Director Oklahoma Retired Educators Association.
“Who will not be hurt by this rate increase? The members of the corporation commission will not be hurt by it. The executives of OG&E will not be hurt by it,” said Lynn Green during the meeting.
Green is a retired Oklahoma Public Schools teacher and said the rapidly rising prices would break the bank for many struggling Oklahomans.
“[We’re] cushioned somewhat because we receive a pension for our years of teaching, so we’ve got a little margin” he said.
“[But] many people do not have this going for them,” he added. “Some of them are retirees and they will be forced to choose between paying the light bill and paying for prescriptions. I’m almost certain of it.”
OG&E released a statement to KFOR, that said in part:
OG&E rates were last approved in September 2019 with no change to base rates. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approves adjustments to OG&E’s rates after a thorough review and in strict accordance with Oklahoma law. OG&E’s last increase to base rates was 2017 with limited impact to residential customer monthly bills.
Speaking with KFOR Thursday, Sabra Tucker said the rate increases would affect Oklahomans of all ages for years to come.
“My family has been in Oklahoma for five generations,” she said, adding that her grandkids would be paying the rate increases well into their adult years.
“It impacts Oklahomans of every age.”
The case is now set to go before an administrative judge of the OCC in additional hearings, beginning June 14.