House Passes Overhaul of Obama-Era Transmission Policy

Ponca City Now - March 1, 2024 6:11 am

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives  passed legislation to implement free market principles and assert states’ rights in high-voltage transmission construction and ownership.

Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton, authored House Bill 4097, which would give Oklahoma the right to decide how critical transmission infrastructure located within the state would be owned and maintained.

“I sat through hundreds of hours of meetings to help Oklahomans who are living on a fixed income or struggling to make ends meet,” Caldwell said. “We all know how unpredictable utility bills are, and our constituents are paying more and more every month. Legislators should jump at every opportunity to lower customer costs, especially one that creates the optimal balance of free market principles and states’ rights.”

HB4097 expands the pool of potential qualified transmission developers who could enter the competitive bidding process, resulting in lower building costs that are ultimately passed onto consumers.

“Under this new policy, the state would oversee the competitive process and associated rate recovery, clawing back oversight from the federal government,” Caldwell said. “Stakeholders overwhelmingly said they have more success advocating for ratepayers at the OCC than in Washington, D.C. Returning the authority to the elected Oklahoma Corporation Commission ensures Oklahomans have a voice.”

HB4097 eliminates a patchwork grid of accountability by closing regulatory loopholes created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that allow unregulated entities to own transmission in our state with no accountability or oversight. The state would maintain greater accountability over critical transmission infrastructure costs and safeguard reliability by requiring the state’s local electric companies to continue to answer to the elected Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“The Obama Administration forced this policy change on Oklahomans, and utility prices have been rising ever since,” Caldwell said. “By cutting federal government red tape, we can increase competition on the front end, which will naturally reduce the rising rates we are experiencing.”

Caldwell said this policy is a first-of-its-kind in the nation for competitive transmission, but it follows a similar generation model that already exists. The measure, which is not retroactive, would take effect Nov. 1, 2024.

HB4097 passed the House 65 – 29 and is now available for consideration in the Senate, where it is carried by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle

 

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