Much has changed in the regulatory world since 1988 when Bob Anthony was first elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Industries have evolved. Technology has transformed. The agency now oversees many more and broader issues.
“Despite unbelievable changes, some things don’t change,” Anthony said. “What is still needed is a commissioner committed to the public interest who believes in honesty and integrity and openness, auditing and ethics.”
The country’s longest-serving utility commissioner, Anthony on Thursday was sworn in for his fifth term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Anthony said the average length of service for a utility commissioner in the country is 3.5 years.
Keeping up with the constantly changing regulatory and technological issues requires intense study.
“There are components of what we do that are as challenging as getting a master’s degree,” said Anthony, who holds graduate degrees from the London School of Economics, Yale and Harvard.
Technology has changed both the companies the commission regulates and the commission itself.
“Mostly they’ve been benefits,” Anthony said. “To have digital communication from the office to our field personnel is critical. They can stop motor vehicles on the highway or catch them at a weigh station, and we can almost instantly call up their complete record and see if they have their insurance and registration. In the old days, you’d have to see if you could go down the highway to a pay phone and see if someone in the office could open up the file.”
In 1988, the Corporation Commission didn’t even have a fax machine, Anthony said.
Since Anthony started at the commission, programs have been added to monitor, maintain and clean underground fuel storage tanks and restore abandoned well sites. The commission also now oversees rebate programs for compressed natural gas conversions, and regulates quickly changing oil and natural gas drilling techniques.
Anthony’s experience has helped shape commission decisions and regulations, Commissioner Dana Murphy said.
“Commissioner Anthony’s historical commission knowledge can often be a useful component in developing modern solutions and decisions on issues we currently face,” Murphy said.
In recent years, Anthony has served on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Petroleum Counsel. He has been invited to speak throughout the country, particularly about regulating horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
“People are looking at Oklahoma,” state Energy Secretary Mike Ming said. “They’re looking at our low unemployment and economic development. They’re looking at a lot of the things we do and are calling them best practices. Commissioner Anthony has given a lot of exposure to the state for how we have worked with and regulated the industry.”