AARP Hops Into The Oklahoma Natural Gas Price Hike Debate
For months a drama has played out in the Oklahoma governing system concerning local energy companies' profits, a lingering fallout from last February's historic winter storm. Amid warnings about rising costs of gas, companies failed to prepare, and now they're petitioning the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to hike prices even higher for the next almost-30 years.
Oklahoma's largest and oldest energy company, OG&E (Oklahoma Gas & Electric) services utilities to some 2.5 million people. Most of those living in central Oklahoma in and around OKC, but also service parts of Arkansas too. Due to the wild price hiking of natural gas during the February blizzard that froze the plains states and gulf coast, OG&E says they took on an approximate $750 million in excess fuel in providing enough energy to keep the lights and heat on to residents.
While Texas residents were faced with unregulated bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, it doesn't work that way here in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission sets the standard amount and limits the gouge companies are allowed to pass along to the consumer. In order to turn that debt into profit, OG&E is requesting permission to place an additional $2.12 charge on every utility bill for the next 28 years.
This has not been a popular decision at all for those expected to pay for an incident that was fairly warned in the trade leading up to the moment prices soared for providers.
While the war of words has pretty much taken place in the news media and on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, AARP has entered the ring to back the consumers they also feel aren't responsible for the failures of another publically traded conglomerate company. OG&E took a Wall Street risk on fuel prices and lost, and now they want consumers to make up the difference.
AARP Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl said:
"So we've got hundreds of millions of dollars in costs that customers will be asked to absorb if we don't ask a lot of questions and make sure these costs are reasonable. We are fighting to ensure OG&E takes financial responsibility for its actions leading up to and through the weather event. OG&E knew this weather event was likely."
Obviously, the sentiment that the taxpayers are once again bailing out the risky losses of a billion-dollar corporate giant is still running deep thirteen years after it happened nationally.
Alternatively, OG&E is painting themselves to look as good as possible on this matter also. Issuing the following statement in return.
We understand recovering the costs of the February winter weather event in a single bill would have an extreme impact on Oklahoma families, including seniors. That is why OG&E is working with state leaders, Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff and other stakeholders to spread fuel costs over time, which will result in a much lower and more predictable monthly rate.
As OG&E does not profit from fuel costs, the company seeks only to recover the direct cost of fuel for the February winter weather event. Our number one priority is to provide reliable, affordable electric service to all customers and severe winter weather can have a significant impact on older adults and those who utilize life-saving equipment at home. We are committed to providing dependable service to them and all OG&E customers.
Time will tell what will happen in this Oklahoma natural gas saga, and it's important to know that while we don't have OG&E utility service here in Southwest Oklahoma, this matter will undoubtedly affect us down the chain of providers eventually. If one gets approval, they'll all get approval. The threat of additional fees added into a national report that the cost of natural gas is set to rise this Winter somehow due to Covid, the outlook may be bleak for all Oklahomans.
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