Chairman files bill giving state two more years to implement deregulation

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The chairman of the House energy committee has filed a proposition that would give Oklahoma until 2004 to implement electric deregulation, two years longer than is currently mandated.

Rep. Larry Rice, D-Pryor, said he filed House Bill 1922 Thursday. It would extend the deadline for implementing electric deregulation from July 1, 2002, to Jan. 1, 2004.

Sen. Kevin Easley, author of a Senate bill to implement deregulation, said he wasn't prepared to say electric restructuring needed to be moved back.

Deregulation is designed to allow consumers to choose among several power providers, but California's deregulation has resulted in high prices and company-imposed brownouts.

Past attempts to pass deregulation in Oklahoma have failed, and California's example has scared many away from any attempts to do so this session.

The House Energy and Utility Regulation Committee will consider Rice's bill Tuesday. Rice said he did not anticipate any problem getting it sent to the House floor.

"But you never know," he said.

Rep. Larry Ferguson, chairman of the Republican Caucus' electric deregulation committee, said he thinks caucus members favor delaying implementation of deregulation "until at least January 2004."

"With all that's gone on in California and some other places, I think people are very suspicious of deregulation."

He said Oklahoma has some of the lowest electric rates in the nation and "the chances of deregulation bringing lower rates are kind of slim to none.

"If they could just hold the rates where they were it would be remarkable," Ferguson said.

Easley said the California example overshadows some deregulation success in other states.

"But I feel like that's only because the success stories related to some of the other 20 states has not gotten out. It's easier to talk about the one failure than it is the 22 or 23 successes, starting with Pennsylvania and moving on down to Arizona."

He said the California situation was the product of not enough power plants being built, not one caused by deregulation.

He said Oklahoma would not face the power shortages seen in California.

Oklahoma has 9,000 megawatts of generating plants under construction, "and we only have 13,000 megawatts that we use on our worst peaking day," Easley said.