OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday filed a list of recommended guaranteed ratepayer protections for customers if Public Service Co. of Oklahoma’s Wind Catcher Energy Connection project is granted preapproval by Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Although Hunter said he believes the project shouldn’t be approved, he said he wants to guarantee Oklahomans are protected if OCC approves it.
Hunter’s recommendations were supported in coordination with OCC’s public utility division. In addition to the recommendations, the filing asks PSO to enter into a voluntary agreement with affected landowners along the project’s route to outline a process for dispute resolution.
“We want to ensure the potential burden that comes with this project is not placed on the backs of hardworking Oklahomans,” Hunter said. “Once adopted, our recommendations will add necessary provisions to safeguard customers by holding them harmless from exorbitant fees and will give money back to customers if warranted, regardless of the project’s performance.”
Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a joint effort between Southwestern Electric Power Co. and PSO, and is a $4.5 billion project that involves building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile power line and two substations. SWEPCO will own 70 percent of the project, and PSO the other 30 percent.
The wind farm, to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle, will include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line will stretch from there to Tulsa, bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project investment is $1.36 billion.
“We share the AG’s interest in assuring customers will benefit. PSO and two customer groups representing many of our largest customers have already reached an agreement that provides, among other things, a guarantee our customers will save money from the project. Together, we’re asking for the commission’s approval of the project under the terms of that agreement,” PSO officials said Tuesday.
PSO is awaiting a decision from Oklahoma Corporation Commission for pre-approval of the company’s request to allow PSO to charge ratepayers to help fund the project and recover an anticipated expenditure of the $1.36 billion.
Hunter said he’s also calling on PSO to work with landowners across northern Oklahoma to ensure concerns are heard and addressed before the project moves forward.
The recommendation filings include topics of details for determining the net capacity factor guarantee; determining a hold harmless guarantee for customers; incremental off-system energy sales margins; Oklahoma regulatory provisions; other regulatory provisions; and O&M cost cap.
The full filing can be read at https://bit.ly/2jUiPVQ.
Hunter’s announcement comes on the heels of the Arkansas Public Service Commission approving Wind Catcher earlier this month. However in addition to awaiting OCC’s approval, Wind Catcher is awaiting approval from SWEPCO’s applications in Louisiana, Texas and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Wind Catcher has faced a number of obstacles since its inception, including an OCC administrative law judge filing a 136-page recommendation against preapproval of the project in February. On Feb. 23, PSO filed an exceptions report against the judge’s recommendation.
A number of leaders and others in Northwest Oklahoma have expressed support for the project, while other leaders and numerous landowners set to have their properties impacted by the power line have voiced concern and opposition. Some concerns voiced by those against it include concerns about health, noise and property value loss.
PSO also has started taking action against landowners against the project.
Several weeks ago, letters were sent by from a law firm representing PSO to about two dozen landowners who have refused access to their property for environmental surveys. According to those receiving the letters, PSO threatened to file an injunction if the landowners didn’t allow officials on their properties to do environmental surveys by May 4.