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Okla. governor orders task force to review utilities regulator

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Okla. governor orders task force to review utilities regulator

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered a review of the state agency charged with regulating utilities and several other industries, after a bill that would have served the same purpose stalled during the state's legislative session. Fallin issued an executive order Aug. 7 creating a group tasked with providing recommendations aimed at streamlining and improving operations at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, or OCC.

House Bill 1377, which was passed by the state House in March, directed the creation of a 14-member task force to review whether the OCC is "properly structured to efficiently operate in the twenty-first century" by looking at the agency's performance, structure, stated mission, funding and staffing. The bill was supported by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce because the OCC regulates a large chunk of business in the state, some of which, such as steamboat regulation, is outdated. The OCC has also faced scrutiny for delays in making regulatory filings.

The bill, however, failed to make it through the legislative process before lawmakers adjourned May 26.

In June, Oklahoma Deputy Secretary of Environment Tyler Powell said Fallin was likely to issue an executive order similar to the bill.

Companies regulated by the three-member commission include electric utilities Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co. Inc., and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of OGE Energy Corp., along with some electric cooperatives and natural gas utilities, including CenterPoint Energy Inc. and Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., a division of ONE Gas Inc.

According to the executive order, the task force will be made up of the state attorney general, a corporation commissioner appointed by the OCC, a senator appointed by the president pro tempore and a state representative appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives. It will be chaired by the Fallin's secretary of energy and environment.

The group will work with the OCC, stakeholders and consumers to examine the "appropriateness and necessity" of the agency's current duties, current workload levels and the time needed to process workload and individual cases, and the structural makeup of the OCC. The agency's overall funding levels will also be assessed, as well as funding within individual programs.

Public engagement sessions may be held before the final report is submitted, which is to be no later than mid-November 2018, according to the order.

The OCC "provides invaluable services to protect Oklahomans and regulates a wide swath of our economy," Fallin said in a statement. She added that the time has come to review the agency's mission and to make sure it has the "necessary tools and resources to fulfill it."