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AARP fights proposed $164 million utility rate hike | Govt-and-politics

OKLAHOMA CITY — An advocacy organization is asking the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to deny a $164 million rate hike requested by OG&E.

The Oklahoma chapter of the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, held a news conference to announce that it had sent the Corporation Commission 7,000 postcards and petitions from those who oppose the proposed rate hike.

AARP Oklahoma President Jim Randall said residents are watching every penny they spend because prices continue to rise.

“There is no doubt Oklahomans, especially those on fixed incomes, will have to make difficult decisions,” Randall said.

Some will have to choose among food, medical care and “ridiculous” utility costs, Randall said.

He called on the three members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to stop the hike.

“The $164 million rate increase is ill-timed,” said Sean Voskhul, AARP Oklahoma state director. “Quite frankly, it feels like déjà vu as we are talking about another rate hike by OG&E.”

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OG&E’s largest customer base is the Oklahoma City area, but it also provides service in Sapulpa, Glenpool, Bixby and parts of Jenks, as well as other parts of the state.

Voskhul said OG&E recorded significant profits but still is requesting another back-to-back rate increase.

Voskhul said AARP not only is elevating the voices of its members who are concerned about the rate hike but is an intervenor in the rate case with OG&E.

The organization’s attorney, Deborah Thompson, said the state should be looking at an $18 million rate decrease, instead.

“A big chunk of the request relates to an additional $60 million more per year in requested profit on top of the cost of operating the system,” she said.

Another major issue is that OG&E is asking to raise its fixed customer charge from $13 to $23, she said.

“This is a payment you make regardless of how much electricity you use,” she explained.

The proposed rate increase is in addition to the $10 a month rate increase the Corporation Commission approved in December to cover the cost of the February 2021 winter weather event, she said.

“The base rate review is separate from the securitization request that has been approved by the Commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court to recover direct fuel and purchased power costs from the February 2021 Winter Weather Event,” according to a statement from OG&E.

“OG&E’s request addresses its continued efforts to execute its Grid Enhancement Plan,” the company said in the statement. “Established in 2020, the proposed five-year plan involves replacing and upgrading aging infrastructure and installing smarter and more automated technology platforms and communications systems.

“Together, these investments will improve the customer experience by reducing the number and duration of outages, while also modernizing the system. Also included in the review are technology infrastructure and weather hardening investments, and other transmission and generation improvements.”

If approved, residential rates will increase about $9.98 a month, effective as early as July, according to the company.

The hearings will start June 14, Voskuhl said.

There is an opportunity for public comment before the commission on Thursday, he said.

Voskuhl said the Corporation Commission could accept, reject or modify the rate increase after an administrative law judge issues an opinion.

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com


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