Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Electric Service Restructuring Study Needed?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Electric Service Restructuring Study Needed?

Article excerpt

After a five-year hiatus, new efforts to revive a study of restructuring Oklahoma's system of electric service are expected to begin this month.

But is it needed now?

Prior studies covering more than five years entailed thousands of hours of work, providing full files of facts, analyses and conflicting proposals. The resulting attempts at passing restructuring legislation became a shell game with divergent interests all trying to find out which shell the pea was under, and whose pea it was.

The new task force created by Senate Bill 734, which was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature last session and signed by Gov. Brad Henry, calls for an extensive review of all phases of electric power regulation from provider to consumer. The termination date for the panel is no later than Dec. 1, 2009, allowing adequate time for an ongoing study of a complex matter affecting every Oklahoman. By a majority vote the task force can end its work sooner.

Electric restructuring legislation was considered by the Oklahoma Legislature every year from 1996 to 2002 before the California deregulation fiasco that sent electricity availability plummeting and costs skyrocketing turned out the lights on it.

The first legislation was passed in 1997, creating procedures, policies and directives in the event actual restructuring was accomplished. That law is still on the books, but general restructuring is yet to be achieved.

Those earlier efforts were led by then-state Sen. Kevin Easley, a Tulsa Democrat who claimed deregulation was inevitable and wanted Oklahoma to be the first in the region to adopt it. Experts from around the country, but particularly from the failed Enron Corp. and California utility regulators flooded the state touting the plan.

Congressional and U.S. Senate leaders claimed federal legislation was imminent. Easley authored virtually all of the legislation while chairing or co-chairing task forces attempting to draft a satisfactory electric restructuring bill.

The last such task force's existence ended Jan. 1, 2003, following failure in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on the last day of the 2002 legislative session of a restructuring bill that was supported by some interests and opposed by others. …

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