Residents call for change with OG&E after ice storm, state reps. say conversations have started

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Residents have called for change in regard to OG&E after some were without power for multiple weeks after late October’s ice storm.

No set plans are in place right now according to State Rep. Mickey Dollens, but he said they have been talking to OG&E. OG&E has also said they are open to the conversations.

“Right now, all options are on the table,” Dollens said.

The discussions have been underway since more than 475,000 Oklahomans were left without power after the late October ice storm wreaked havoc on the state. Dollens said his block where he lives was without power for about two weeks.

“I would love to compare how OG&E has mitigated this disaster compared to other utilities in the state,” Dollens said.

Other OG&E customers like Douglas Holsted said he is also feeling frustrated.

“Management are not making the decisions that need to be made to protect the rate payers over time and don’t have an adequate plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Holsted said.

OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said the company uses reviews after storms to gauge their response and look at what they can do better next time.

“From that we learn and we continue to get better,” Alford said.

However, after this last storm, there have been growing calls for change.

“Let’s get a plan,” Holsted said.

According to the Oklahoma Corporations Commission, approximately 450 complaints have been filed against OG&E since the ice storm. Among them, questions of why the lines are not buried. Lawmakers are looking into whether that’s a possibility.

“Find out exactly if it’s a lack of infrastructure or if it’s a lack of tree mitigation around the power lines, or maybe it’s both,” Dollens said.

You can see OG&E’s full stance on the burying of power lines on the company’s website.

Some notables in the document state that it would cost roughly $435,000 per mile to bury the lines. It would cost $30.5 billion to bury all existing above ground distribution lines. However, OG&E did apply for a different plan with the corporation commission in September. The plan involves new technology, pole upgrades and a proposed rate hike for customers. All of it comes with an $810 million price tag.

“That will bring not only technology but additional system hardening to help improve reliability and resiliency going forward,” Alford said.

The commission has only approved a portion of that funding right now. According to the proposed five-year plan, their rates would increase gradually up to seven percent, equaling out to an average of roughly $7 per month or $84 per year.

Dollens and Holsted said if burying the lines were an option, with as expensive as it is, they want to consider starting in areas most affected by storms by burying the lines there. Then, looking at other places.

“They need to do something about it,” Holsted said.

“I talked with some lineman from Iowa who confirmed that our infrastructure was outdated, old, needed updated,” Dollens said.

“It’s important to bring everyone to the table, keep all options on the table and then plan accordingly going forward,” Dollens said. “I think it’s important to invest in the infrastructure now so people especially in my district in South Oklahoma City are not going two and a half weeks without power.”

However, for now, the conversations are only being had in their early stages.

“It’s important to bring everyone to the table, keep all options on the table and then plan accordingly going forward,” Dollens said.

“That’s something that we can continue to have conversations about,” Alford said.

Holsted and Dollens praised the work of the linemen out during and after the storms, trying to restore power. They both said they just wanted to see changes in the corporate level.

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