Oklahoma utilities say ice storm was expensive

Thursday, February 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Two of Oklahoma's largest electric utilities say they have no plans to seek a rate increase to recoup costs related to last week's ice storm in spite of plans by Oklahoma's largest electric utility to seek a rate hike.

OG&E Energy, parent company of Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., said Tuesday it will likely request a rate increase from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for ice storm damage costs of at least $100 million.

OG&E said the Jan. 30 ice storm was the costliest in the company's 100-year history, bringing down about 250 miles of transmission lines across northwest Oklahoma and knocking out power to about 195,000 customers.

American Electric Power-PSO, which serves about 500,000 customers statewide, likely will have at least ``several million'' in outlays related to the storm, company spokesman Ed Bettinger said.

``I'm guessing it'll be a couple of weeks or more before we have a ballpark figure established on the cost,'' Bettinger said. ``At this point we do not have plans to ask for any cost recovery on this, but that could change.''

At the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, where about 10 utilities out of 65 small city and rural co-ops have been hit hard, officials can turn to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for relief.

The cooperatives could be reimbursed for 75 percent of the costs that FEMA approves. Total repair costs could reach up to $70 million, said executive director Harold Hale.

Hale said the co-op also may be eligible for some state funds, since Gov. Frank Keating has declared some counties disaster areas.

A problem all electric utilities face is cleaning up an estimated 28,000 utility poles that snapped under the heavy ice. The poles, treated with chemicals like arsenic, cannot be burned under environmental rules.

Hale said the co-op association is working with the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency on disposal options.

The Corporation Commission is working on a prior OG&E request for a $22 million rate hike, which the utility has said will go mainly for improved security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. OG&E proposed the increase two days before the ice storm.