Three Democratic state House members – Dollens, Munson, Walke – called for relief, infrastructure investment from OG&E
Published: December 1st, 2020
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Reps. Cyndi Munson, Mickey Dollens, and Collin Walke called for improved cooperation with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, a strategy moving forward, and a commitment to a new long-term investment in Oklahoma’s powerline infrastructure following the devastating ice storms that hit the state in late October.
The three Democratic representatives, in a November 9 release sent to The City Sentinel, CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, spoke to the concerns and experiences of numerous frustrated constituents.
At the time of their release, many in the city area still did not have power to their homes.
“As elected officials, it’s our job to ask tough questions and moral obligation to help constituents,” Dollens said in the release. “The past two weeks have been emotionally, financially, and academically devastating.”
While most Oklahoma City residents had power restored by the time of the release, the representatives had heard, the release said, from numerous constituents who still didn’t have power — including Rep. Munson.
As Munson said at the time (November 9), “As an OG&E customer who has been without electricity for 14 days, I have been living through what my constituents have. The outage has created a crisis — adding to the current pandemic we are living through — emotionally, psychologically, and financially.
“I have been displaced from my home and know the pain of throwing out a fridge full of food – and after two weeks, many of my constituents and I still do not know when this will end. I have appreciated the information I have been able to obtain from OG&E about the process for repairs, but all OG&E customers deserve clear, accurate, detailed, transparent, and timely communication during these disasters.”
The representatives called for additional and consistent communication from OG&E, including specific details about outages.
“We appreciate the hard work of OG&E and their staff and contractors, and we appreciate that OG&E is contending with a wide array of problems in each neighborhood, including having to navigate many issues at each home individually,” Walke said.
“At some point, however, a line of communication must be opened up and answers and solutions must be provided. Two weeks without power is not simply a matter of convenience in our city, it is a literal necessity.
“We are taking that first step and offering to assist OG&E in addressing these problems immediately. Our constituents, OG&E’s consumers, are in need, and we want to know how we can help now and into the future. It is not too soon to begin a dialogue about how to prevent mass outages in the future – this crisis was not unexpected nor was it a one-time incident.”
Beyond better communication, the lawmakers want OG&E to work with state and local government entities as well as local nonprofits to provide additional support to constituents and to create a plan that provides both short-term solutions like relief funding for food and housing, as well as long-term solutions like buried power lines.
“The issue in front of us now is how does OG&E plan to prepare and prevent these delays and outages in the future,” Dollens said. “The Legislature and Corporation Commission must study OG&E’s infrastructure and disaster mitigation over the past decade and compare that to other utility companies who service a similar population – and we must work together to prevent rate hikes to address the shortcomings.
“There is no reason we cannot take the lessons from this disaster and build an infrastructure that exceeds expectations,” Walke said. “We stand willing to do the work.”
Patrick B. McGuigan, founder of CapitolBeatOK.com, and publisher of The City Sentinel, an independent and locally-owned newspaper in Oklahoma City, saluted the trio of legislators for their timely release, saying: “Across the city, residents faced near-disaster during and at the end of the outages. In several instances, power was switched back on before downed high-voltage power lines had been cleared. Firefighters had to rush to save structures and prevent property loss and possible loss of life. They did so magnificently. Customers were frustrated because they had no practical way to report downed-lines, understanding in advance the risk they posed to homeowners and to homes or other property structures.
“As lifelong believer in reform of government’s regulatory strictures, I also believe that monopolies can and should serve customers better than was the case during the electrical and telecommunications power outages after the recent catastrophic winter storm. I commend Reps. Dollens, Munson and Walke for their pointed comments.
“As publisher, I pledge the support of The City Sentinel in advancing an accounting of system failures in the work of monopolies and quasi-monopolies. Their protected status should guide future investments in more reliable service and better communication to serve the hard-working taxpayers and residents of Oklahoma City.
McGuigan reflected, “Recent news stories and press releases were helpful in promoting an understanding of the challenges OG&E, its contractors and the teams from out-of-state faced as they did their work.”
He concluded, “If not for the lengthy and sadly frequent loss of both electricity and telecommunications access, I would have shared these reflections earlier. Nonetheless, I regret the delay in sharing these comments with readers and with the legislators. It’s never too late to begin to do better.”