Public Service Co. of Oklahoma Requests Extra Time for $75M Rate Refund

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO)  – a subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP) that serves more than half a million customers statewide – has asked regulators for extra time to deliver $75 million in rate refunds (Cause No. PUD 201500208), claiming it needs an extension in order to reconfigure its billing software.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) will hear arguments on November 29 on the utility’s motion to modify parts of a $14 million rate increase it approved earlier this month (Order  No. 657877). The utility originally had filed for a rate increase of $130 million in July 2015, according to a November 18 report in The Oklahoman.

PSO has been charging customers $75 million in higher interim rates since January, the local news outlet said – something utilities are allowed to do if a rate case doesn’t have a final order within 180 days. Interim rates are subject to refund, with interest.

The November 10 OCC order, resulting from a 2-1 vote of the commissioners, mandated that the utility should submit its updated rate tariffs to the commission’s public utility division within five business days. The utility said its review of the order found it couldn’t meet that deadline.

“PSO is proceeding with implementation of parts of the order, including discontinuing interim rates and beginning refunds with our December billing cycle,” utility spokesperson Tiffini Jackson said in an email to The Oklahoman. “To be clear, PSO did not seek a delay in issuing customer refunds and refunds are not being delayed; but we are requesting modification and clarification of some of the technical and logistical terms of the order.”

The order said the rate refund should appear as a credit under a separate line item on customers’ monthly bills and be refunded in equal monthly installments through October 2017.

However, PSO said in its request for modification, “[The utility is] unable to comply with the order requirement to add a line item on the bill by November 29 due to the length of time required to implement the bill change.  PSO requests the commission to modify the order by stating that, “The interim rate refund line item shall be added on the bill as soon as possible, but no later than February 1, 2017.”

“We’re still working to determine the actual average amount of refund for customers,” Jackson said in the email to the local news outlet. “Refunds beginning in December will continue until the full refund amount is credited back to customers.”

The senior citizen advocacy group, AARP Oklahoma, one of several parties that intervened in the rate case, said it was still studying PSO’s motion on the requested changes.

“AARP will strongly oppose any tactic that may be used to delay the refunds ordered by the commission, and we want customers to be informed of the amount of the refund they are receiving on their bills,” Sean Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma’s state director, told The Oklahoman. “Other areas of the motion raise concerns as well and are contrary to determinations made by the commission in this case.”

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