AARP Oklahoma issued official statements regarding Oklahoma Corporation Commission administrative law judges’ recent recommendations on Public Service of Oklahoma (PSO) and Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s (OG&E) recent requests to raise utility costs. AARP Oklahoma believes the recommendations will negatively impact PSO and OG&E customers and put further financial pressure on older Oklahomans on fixed incomes. Recent polling indicates older Oklahomans share in those concerns.
AARP Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl made the following statement regarding the PSO recommendation:
“On Friday, an administrative law judge issued a recommendation to Oklahoma's elected corporation commissioners concerning PSO's $172 million rate increase request. After careful review of the filing, AARP Oklahoma determined the recommendation fails PSO customers on every account.
PSO is not only seeking this rate request, but they are also seeking another increase of $650 million for expenses from the February 2021 winter weather. Additionally, at $20, PSO charges Oklahomans the highest fixed customer charge of any of its related entities in other states. AARP took issue in the hearing with the charge given that it is assessed even before you flip on a switch and could be lowered to help offset rising energy costs.
The recommendation did not address these issues and instead shifted more costs to residential customers and away from large industrial users. While this would be unacceptable at any time, the fact that the administrative law judge did this at a time when utility costs are surging is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of older Oklahomans on fixed incomes.
Fortunately, Oklahoma's three elected corporation commissioners have an opportunity to right this wrong. With the cost to heat homes expected to double this winter, and frankly, the cost of everything skyrocketing, the corporation commissioners must use their authority to review rates and fixed customer charges and determine a path forward to help lower PSO customer rates. Oklahoma's corporation commissioners must do what is right and not grant PSO back-to-back rate increases.”
An administrative law judge also recommended OG&E’s request to pass along $739 million in fuel costs from the February 2021 winter weather be approved by the Corporation Commission. Regarding the administrative law judge’s actions in the OG&E case, AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl made the following statement:
“AARP Oklahoma is extremely disappointed the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's administrative law judge recommended residential customers and small businesses bear the full brunt of excessive winter weather costs brought on by OG&E's mismanagement of resources in February 2021.
We are equally disappointed that instead of focusing solely on mitigating cost increases to the residential customer, the administrative law judge instead allowed large industrial natural gas consumers to receive a sweetheart deal, pushing even more costs on Oklahoma's seniors, families and small businesses.
Oklahoma's elected corporation commissioners must step in and not saddle OG&E's residential and small business customers with a decades-long rate increase. Too many seniors on fixed incomes, already facing higher natural gas prices this winter, are depending on them. AARP Oklahoma will continue to fight to get OG&E's customers a fair deal and for OG&E to be held accountable for their mistakes in this process.”
According to a recent AARP survey of Oklahomans 45 years old and older, utility rates are a constant concern.
- 41% of older Oklahomans said a utility bill increase would be a major problem.
- Only 25% of older Oklahomans think state elected officials are doing enough to keep utilities affordable.
- 71% of older Oklahomans support regulators requiring utility companies to share in the costs of the February 2021 winter storms.
“The survey results are clear. Older Oklahomans expect their elected officials to make the utility companies use some of their profits to offset the cost of winter weather and look for ways to make utilities more affordable,” Voskuhl said. “Older Oklahomans are facing immense financial pressure brought on by skyrocketing costs. We urge Oklahoma’s elected Corporation Commissioners to step in and right this wrong.”