OK commission rejects OG&E plan to recover $1 billion


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Corporation Commission rejected a plan Wednesday by the state's largest electric utility that would have resulted in customers' bills going up by more than 15 percent over the next five years.

Commissioners voted 2-1 to deny Oklahoma Gas & Electric's proposal to recover from consumers more than $1 billion in costs to comply with new environmental regulations and update one of its aging power plants.

"The basis of my decision was there was not enough information provided to make a determination about whether this was a good plan or a bad plan," said commissioner Todd Hiett, who along with Bob Anthony, voted for it.

Commissioner Dana Murphy had proposed a separate order approving part of the utility's plan.

OG&E spokesman Randy Swanson said company officials were "absolutely stunned."

"We believe we did present a very strong case, a very informative case, contrary to what was just indicated there," Swanson said. "We've got a mandate, not a request, but a mandate to reduce emissions, and we're going to move forward with that."

OG&E still is planning to present a separate proposal for a rate increase, and it's likely the company will include some of the environmental compliance and plant upgrades in that proposal.

OG&E, which has more than 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas, is looking to spend about $700 million to install new equipment to help reduce toxic emissions and convert some coal-fired units to natural gas. The changes are needed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury to comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules.

The company also wants to recover more than $300 million to upgrade its Mustang plant in western Oklahoma County.

Records show the average residential customer, with a monthly bill of about $108 a month, would have seen their bill gradually increased by about 15 percent by 2019.

Several groups that opposed the increase praised the commission's decision. Sierra Club attorney Laurie Williams said OG&E should have considered more alternative local energy sources, like wind, as part of its plan to reduce emissions.

"It's time to create a plan for the future that's good for Oklahomans — both our pocketbooks and our health," Williams said in a statement.

AARP Oklahoma's Director Sean Voskuhl called the decision a "big win for Oklahoma consumers."

"The commission sent a clear signal that consumers should not be forced to give utility companies an open checkbook to pay for potential future investment costs," Voskuhl said.

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