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Oklahoma residents get ready to circulate petition to overturn solar and wind bill

Oklahoma residents unhappy with a recently passed state law that would allow electric utilities to set up a new customer class for solar and small wind turbine users want to gather signatures to repeal the law.
by Paul Monies Published: July 8, 2014

Two Oklahoma residents unhappy with a new state law on rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines are getting ready to circulate a petition aimed at repealing the law through a state question on November’s ballot.

Stillwater resident Jonathan Pollnow and Oklahoma City resident Bob Waldrop want voters to reject Senate Bill 1456, signed into law in April by Gov. Mary Fallin. The law allows regulated electric utilities to set up a new customer class with higher base rates for users of rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines.

If Pollnow and Waldrop can gather at least 51,739 signatures of registered voters, State Question 772 will appear on the November ballot. Backers of a referendum petition must get at least 5 percent of the total number of votes for governor in the last election cycle.

Pollnow said he read about SB 1456 in the newspaper as it made its way through the Legislature. He began discussing the bill with others who thought it was unfair.

“Everybody I talked to, regardless of their political orientation, had a distaste for the law,” said Pollnow, who recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in plant and soil sciences. “I decided since nobody else was doing anything about it, I figured I’d give it a shot. I may be wrong in my opinion, but I still think it should be a decision that should be put to the voters.”

Pollnow said he suspects there may have been some naivete among legislators, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. SB 1456 passed 41-0 in the Senate and 83-5 in the House.

“It was either that, or just the way it was sold,” Pollnow said. “Basically, they’re legislating their way out of a business problem. If they can’t adapt, they need to go away.”

Oklahoma’s two largest electric utilities supported SB 1456, which sets up a process at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to establish a new customer class and higher base charge for distributed generation users. The law doesn’t apply to emergency backup generators or customers who install solar panels or small wind turbines before Nov. 1, when it goes into effect.

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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