Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hiett Expectations: Challenges Await Newest Member of OCC

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hiett Expectations: Challenges Await Newest Member of OCC

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Corporation Commission member Todd Hiett staked his campaign on fighting federal overreach, but there may not be much the agency can do to combat national laws. The utility regulatory agency will oversee one of its largest rate cases in a decade. It could cause electricity rates to increase by 20 percent. Yet Hiett's experience and personality will help the agency manage challenges of federal clean air rules, said Bill Hume, energy and natural resources attorney at Phillips Murrah.

The newest member of the agency's three-member panel discussed how he is preparing for complicated issues the OCC will handle. His time spent as a state representative and background with finance are both beneficial, Hume said. Kendall Parrish, attorney at Comingdeer and Associates, agreed.

The agency has a backlog of about 300 telecommunications cases. Parrish, who represents telecom companies before the OCC, said he hopes Hiett can help the agency resolve those cases quickly. Hiett's experience at the Capitol gives him a perspective of the pressure on staff when there are dozens or hundreds of cases that need resolution, Parrish said.

Sooner State utilities are already facing costly upgrades to power plants as a result of the federal Clean Air Act's Regional Haze provision. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is tightening standards to that air pollution law, including reducing greenhouse gas pollution allowed from coal-fired power plants.

Hiett said he spent months prior to taking the oath poring over the intricacies of the Oklahoma Gas & Electric case. He said he drew on what he learned about finance as a director of SpiritBank to study the financial underpinnings of OG&E's case.

The utility requested that the agency preapprove nearly $1 billion in recovery costs to upgrade facilities that don't meet federal air pollution statutes. …

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