OCC Orders Major Utilities To Transfer New Tax Savings To Ratepayers
OKLAHOMA CITY - Most Oklahomans can expect to start seeing a lower utility bill in the mail later this year. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted Tuesday to transfer about $150 million a year in new corporate tax cuts to the customer.
Power and gas corporations across the state started seeing lower tax rates Jan. 1, so one commissioner wants your bill to be lowered immediately. The other two commissioners disagreed and won the vote.
Five of the state’s largest utility companies are seeing the largest tax breaks under the new federal law. They are OG&E, PSO, AOG, ONG and Centerpoint Energy.
Commissioner Bob Anthony wanted to ratepayers to see results right away.
“We know what the corporate tax rate cut is,” he said. “It went from 35-percent to 21-percent, and ratepayers ought to immediately get lower rates. They don’t need promises of refunds maybe someday later.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter agreed, imploring the commission in a set of motions to take action to benefit the consumers.
Anthony added, “This, by the way, is an opportunity for fixed income people and low income people to get a benefit from the new tax law, and the benefit should come in the form of reduced utility rates now.”
Commissioners Dana Murphy and Todd Heitt overruled Anthony’s desires, voting instead to give the five companies four months, or until their next rate case, whichever comes first, to calculate actual savings before distributing the excess money to their customers.
Murphy says this decision does apply to the excess money you are paying on your bill right now, and you will get that money back with interest at a later date.
Deputy Attorney General Dara Derryberry applauded the commission for doing the right thing.
“The savings that are due to customers will be set aside, they’ll be tracked and will eventually be returned to customers,” she said.
Anthony is still concerned that the companies will try to raise costs elsewhere. His fellow commissioners promised to enforce the cuts when the rate cases come up.
PSO has a rate case open currently, and commissioners say they will take this new decision into account during the proceedings. OG&E is also in the process of filing its rate case. Centerpoint and ONG have rate cases scheduled for March 15. AOG is the only company in this decision that does not have a scheduled rate case at this time, meaning they may have to file a separate case in four months to reduce their Oklahoma customers’ costs.
The lowered rates will be retroactive from Jan. 9, so when your bill is lowered you will also see a refund with interest. How that refund will come to you is yet to be determined.