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OK Retail Unbundling Postponed Until Mid-2001

OK Retail Unbundling Postponed Until Mid-2001

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) has delayed the start date for retail gas unbundling in the state from Oct. 1, 1999 to June 1, 2001. Retail unbundling affects gas utilities serving more than 25,000 customers. The commission order delaying unbundling also allows groups wanting to propose competitive purchase programs at earlier dates to submit their proposals for commission consideration.

OCC Chairman Ed Apple said he agrees with hearing testimony that significant tax and municipal franchise issues should be addressed prior to restructuring the gas service industry. "I think these issues could take two years or more to resolve. We would be premature in setting this year (1999) as a target date for starting retail competition."

Commissioner Bob Anthony said forced delays in implementing gas industry restructuring at the wholesale level caused the change in starting time for retail competition.

The commission revised its gas rules in 1998 to begin separating integrated gas systems into individual services at the wholesale level. Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. (ONG) appealed several issues to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, staying the effectiveness of the order. The Supreme Court has not ruled on the appeal.

"Oklahoma Natural Gas has caused this delay. We are also disappointed that the Supreme Court did not dismiss the ONG appeal of an interim order which would have benefited consumers during last year's heating season," Anthony said.

"I want consumers to have a choice about who provides their natural gas as soon as possible, but wholesale competition must come first. More importantly, consumers need to have time to prepare for the coming change. This revised schedule takes that into account," said Commissioner Denise Bode.

Anthony said most of the savings will occur from upstream restructuring and competitive bidding for gas procurement. "These savings have to be in place before they can be passed through to the retail customers."

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