State leaders said they’re committed to ensuring Oklahomans aren't stuck with massive utility bills following last week's historic cold temperatures that plunged the state's energy system into panic.
“It was freezing off pipelines. It was freezing off processing plants,” Oklahoma Corporation Commission director of public utilities Brandy Wreath said. “These are things that typically do not happen in Oklahoma and we were never expected to be prepared for because this type of event had not occurred.”
Some Oklahoma communities have warned residents to brace for massive increases.
“This is not acceptable to the House of Representatives to have skyrocketing utility rates,” Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said. He noted a favorable state budget report approved last week signaling lawmakers may set aside state funds to help soften the blow to utility customers.
State leaders laid out three goals. First: Getting the energy bills down by routing out price gouging and other impropriety.
“There is supply and demand and that certainly part of this phenomenon, but there is evidence there was market manipulation in cases,” state attorney general Mike Hunter said.
Second: The leaders will seek out state and federal financial assistance to lower the cost.
“I'm going to be traveling to Washington D.C. tomorrow and Wednesday, meeting with our federal delegation, making sure Oklahomans have every resource available,” Governor Kevin Stitt said.
Finally, once the financial burden passed to customers is lowered, the state’s largest utility companies have agreed to spread out the cost over several months.
“Those cost that are ultimately passed along won't be passed along immediately,” state energy secretary Ken Wagner said.
Officials declined to speculate on just how high bills could get. However, the preliminary overall assessment is large.
“We do know that it's going to reach into the billions of dollars,” Wreath said. “It was multiples of months’ worth of spend in just a few days. This was a very significant event.”