Oklahoma corporation commissioners expressed their frustration Monday with the length of a pending rate case for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. that started last July.
The three-person panel declined to issue a decision in a related action over a $24 million interim rate increase that took effect Saturday for OG&E customers. Commissioners took that matter under advisement after Administrative Law Judge Jacqueline T. Miller recommended the utility not be granted an interim rate increase because company attorneys said they wouldn't impose interim rates during a hearing in January.
In the meantime, interim rates will stay in place but are refundable to customers if the commission later decides they are too high.
Commissioners agreed with Miller that OG&E waived its right to implement interim rates. But they said they were sympathetic with the company's explanation that its January waiver didn't anticipate the case would still be ongoing by June.
“Regrettably, we didn't have to be in this place if things had moved forward in a more timely basis,” said Dana Murphy, commission chairwoman.
A utility can implement interim rates if a rate case isn't resolved within 180 days. OG&E filed for a $73.25 million rate increase in July. Miller heard testimony in the case in December and January. She issued her recommendations to commissioners last week in a 305-page report.
Commissioner Patrice Douglas said she didn't want to create a precedent where utilities would automatically file for interim rate increases if cases aren't resolved within the 180-day limit.
“What I'm really worried about here is that bad facts make bad law,” Douglas said. “I don't want to see on the 181st day of every rate case that comes in, OG&E in order to protect its rights, goes ahead and implements rates that hurt our consumers.”