Oklahoma Corporation Commission denies interim rate increase for OG&E
Commissioners said Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. must stand by its earlier pledge not to implement interim rates in a rate case that started last July. The utility put a $24 million interim rate increase into effect Saturday.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission rejected a $24 million interim rate increase requested by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. Thursday, saying the electric utility should stand by its earlier pledge not to implement interim rates.
In a unanimous decision, the three-person regulatory panel agreed with AARP that an OG&E attorney voluntarily waived the utility's right to pursue interim rates at a hearing in January.
“It's a win for customers and their bills,” said Deborah Thompson, an attorney who represented AARP in its motion objecting to the increase.
OG&E filed for a $73.25 million rate increase in July. Under state law, a utility is allowed to implement interim rates if a case takes longer than 180 days to resolve. In Thursday's order, commissioners left open the possibility of OG&E implementing interim rates if the rate case continues to drag on.
“We're upholding the waiver right now, but there is a time in which it will become unreasonable to do so,” Commissioner Patrice Douglas said after the hearing. “I don't want utilities to feel forced to implement higher rates immediately and not be willing to consider the needs of consumers. The only reason we had any authority at all is because there was a waiver made on the record. The legislation says they can (implement interim rates) and they don't have to get commission approval.”
OG&E began implementing higher interim rates on Saturday. Spokesman Brian Alford said any customers who paid their bills at the higher rate will receive refunds. Most customers had not yet received a June bill with the higher rates.
“We appreciate the commission acknowledging that a lot of time has passed and we'll be looking at our options on interim rates,” Alford said.
Melodie Garneau with Voices Organized in Civic Engagement Action Fund, a group of churches and civic groups, said she was happy with the commission's decision to deny the interim rate increase. Members of the group broke out in applause when Thursday's order was announced.
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