OK Attorney General Accuses OCC of Ex Parte Discussions with ONG
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson last week accused
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners of having improper discussions
with ONG during recent settlement negotiations and has asked each
commissioner to recuse him/herself from the proceedings if such
discussions indeed happened. None of the three commissioners agreed
to do so.
The OCC last week resumed a hearing on the negotiated settlement
between the commission and Oneok Inc. and its subsidiaries Oklahoma
Natural Gas (ONG) and Kansas Gas Service (KGS) on rates, unbundling
and competitive bidding.
Larry Lago, an aide to Commissioner Bob Anthony, said the OCC's
counsel advised commissioners meetings were not inappropriate
because they took place in a legislative setting, not a judicial
one in which they would be ex parte and not permitted.
The settlement agreement between the OCC and Oneok consolidates
two ongoing rate cases. It provides for an interim rate reduction
for Oklahoma customers of ONG and KGS of $5 million on an annual
basis effective with the first billing cycle in September. A final
order establishing permanent rates is expected next spring.
In addition to the rate reduction for Oklahoma customers and a
timetable for the unbundling process, Oneok agreed to dismiss its
Oklahoma Supreme Court appeal of the commission's unbundling orders
and rules after orders in the consolidated rate case become final.
The Oneok challenge to the commission order has been the hold-up
delaying upstream unbundling.
Settlement terms call for new effective dates for ONG's
competitive bidding for gas supplies and transmission service
beginning Nov. 1, 1999 and November 1, 2000, respectively.
Also contained in the agreement are procedures and timetables
for setting permanent rates and the identification and designation
of Oneok assets for gas transmission, distribution, gathering and
storage and the process as outlined under OCC rules for obtaining
the deregulation of gathering and storage assets.
Joe Fisher, Houston
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