2007 a challenging year

OKLAHOMA - -- The year 2007 treated electrical utilities and their customers coldly.

For both, the year basically started and ended the same - significant ice storms wrecked electrical lines and customers' homes. In between, electricity providers were handed a setback by Oklahoma's Corporation Commission when it ruled against the companies' proposal to build a coal-fired power plant at Red Rock.

Meanwhile, motorists paid more at the pump. The last time prices for a gallon of unleaded gas in Oklahoma cost less than at least $2 was the final week of January 2007.

An ice storm struck southeastern Oklahoma in January 2007, leaving more than 125,000 customers without power.

Outages took more than a week to repair for some. Then in December, another ice storm struck, this time leaving more than 640,000 customers without power. Some still were without electricity just recently as they waited for their electrical service entrances on their homes to be repaired so power could be restored. An effort by state officials to get a disaster declaration to help homeowners with those repairs from the earlier storm failed.

In the latter storm, though, they worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a program where cities could hire electricians to make the repairs on private homes, paying the workers $500 for each job they completed.

Through Dec. 26, Tulsa's program had restored power to 2,856 homes and had work orders for repairs at 533 more. Oklahoma City's program started at about the same time.

A number of applicants could not be obtained from that city on December 31. State officials say the program, the first of its kind, likely will become a fixture in federal response plans for future storms.

To most, it appeared arguments in the case before Oklahoma's Corporation Commission to build a new power plant near Red Rock revolved around whether it should be fueled by coal or by natural gas. On one side were Oklahoma's electric providers - Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority - while environmentalists and Chesapeake Energy Corp. were on the other.

But governmental red tape decided this case, and it didn't go the way the utilities hoped it would. At least one commissioner decided the companies had not effectively demonstrated the additional power was needed. Also, the commission had not developed formal rules to pre-approve electrical generation plants even though a law requiring pre-approval ha been around since 2005. The $1.87 billion, 950-megawatt plant would have been the largest construction project in state history.

A consortium of power producers had proposed the 950-megawatt plant that would burn coal shipped to Red Rock from Wyoming. Electrical utility spokesmen predicted the decision would create higher electrical rates for customers.

Consumers didn't see low gas prices during 2007, and they paid more for it that year than they did in 2006. During 2007, they paid an average of about $2.70 a gallon for regular unleaded gas. In 2006, they paid an average of about $2.40 a gallon for regular unleaded gas.


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