Plan presented to ease burden of utility costs following winter storms
Mike Seals - April 12, 2021 10:32 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – How will Oklahoma pay for that artic blast in February? Today, legislators and government officials laid out a plan they say will ease the burden on rate payers to pay off the $4.5 billion bill.
Legislators and government officials have promised to protect the average rate payer from huge bills since the weather-induced energy crisis in February.
There is now a plan, but ultimately the tab will be picked up by the average Oklahoman.
“Our utility system is not built for that type of weather. The bill is coming due and we are taking steps to ease the burden of paying it back,” said Senator James Leewright.
The Republican from Bristow is leading the legislative charge to find a way to pay off the estimated $4.5 billion that state utility companies owe after February’s storms.
“These charges are not going away but this is a way through extraordinary relief to bring that per customer impact down,” said Brandy Wreath of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
State officials say the state set up plan will use bonds to lengthen the amount of time Oklahoman have to pay back the cost of the energy.
Without help, officials say Oklahomans whose natural gas bill averages $100 a month could pay as close to $2000 a month for the next 8 months. But with the financing plan, they estimate the new bill would be closer to $150 a month.
For how long, officials say they don’t know.
“They didn’t prepare and they paid way too much for their resources and now they want us to pay a billion dollars to cover their assets and that’s not fair,” said Mustang resident Steve Costin.
Costin says he is on a fixed income thanks to disability. He says the increased cost will hurt.
“They just expect me to pull it out of my assets that I don’t have to give,” said Costin.
“We think this is the best possible outcome in a bad situation,” said State Secretary of Energy Kenneth Wagner.
Officials say if this legislation passes, it will apply to the regulated companies like OG&E and ONG but will be available to smaller municipalities too, some of which say their February power bills exceed their standard entire annual budgets.
“After weeks of work, it’s the best option for rate payers, our economy and it’s the best options for Oklahoma,” said Leewright.
The plan could also be used by some school districts and rural hospitals.
These bills will need to go through the legislature and be signed by the Governor to go into effect.