OCC Weighing Interim Rates for ONG

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) is deciding whether to order interim rates, which could lead to a reduction for customers of Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG), which would create what the LDC calls "a rate case within a rate case."

Oklahoma's attorney general, OCC staff and others are recommending interim rates take effect during an ongoing ONG rate case. ONG contends the work required to develop interim rates would only retard progress of the ongoing rate case, which also could provide savings to customers. The issue of whether interim rates should be considered is to go before two administrative law judges following testimony from OCC staff, ONG reply, and staff rebuttal.

The ONG rate case was opened last year when OCC staff said conditions at the utility had changed since its last rate case, which ended in 1995, and a reexamination of rates was in order. Last month, ONG asked the commission for a rate reduction in conjunction with a proposal to sever some functions of the company and make them deregulated. Attorney General Drew Edmondson and others balked at that proposal. The AG said ONG ".seeks to improperly expand and complicate this proceeding aimed at adjusting rates to Oklahoma consumers, while collaterally attacking the Commission's rulings in the recently completed upstream unbundling proceeding."

ONG is currently challenging in state supreme court an OCC order specifying upstream unbundling of its system, saying, among other things, that it delves too deeply into management of the company.

Of interim rates, ONG spokesman Don Sherry said, "Fundamentally, we don't think it's necessary. We would be looking at a situation that fundamentally would be a rate case within a rate case." Of last the company's proposal last month to combine rate reductions with upstream unbundling he said, "We think it is a reasonable and rational plan, and we would like to see it accomplished."

Joe Fisher, Houston

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