The Pryor Times

August 10, 2013

The real price of selling GRDA

Managing Editor
Kathy Parker

— The governor’s minion was quite upset with me for saying she wants to sell GRDA.

But if Gov. Mary Fallin does not want to sell the Grand River Dam Authority to private investors, why does she keep pushing that direction?

First, she ordered the state auditor to do a full performance audit of GRDA to see if selling it would be the “best option for the state.”

The auditor basically found that selling was not the best option. And by the way - GRDA had to pay for the audit.

State Auditor Gary Jones told me “it’s more than just getting a chunk of money for the state.”

But for-profit electric outfits would sure be interested in acquiring GRDA - and its customers. Turns out, these for-profit electricity companies have contributed in excess of $610,000 to Fallin’s election campaigns.

It may be time to pay the fiddler.

In fact, the governor issued an executive order to organize a task force to see if selling GRDA indeed is the best option for the state. Apparently, since she didn’t get the answer she wanted from her own state auditor, she’s getting a bunch together who will come up with the answer she does want.

That is a stacked deck. She has already tapped people from OG&E and PSO to be on the task force. We hear no one will be on the task force who is a GRDA customer.

So let me lay this out: GRDA operates as a business, but since it is a state agency, it is not allowed to make a profit. It was set up to operate like the Tennessee Valley Authority. The reason for this structure is to keep the cost of wholesale power low, thereby keeping electricity bills down. But as a conservation and reclamation district, GRDA does much more than produce low-cost electricity. It is the principal agency overseeing natural resource management in northeast Oklahoma, including Grand and Hudson lakes.

As a state agency, GRDA is tax-exempt.

It has worked well since 1935 and communities across the state have enjoyed low-cost electric power as a result.

It’s true that Fallin could sell GRDA’s electric generation for a chunk of money to put in the state coffers.

It’s true that electricity would no longer be tax-exempt and taxes are state revenue.

But everyone who runs a municipality in Mayes County will tell you that it’s also true that sale would double, maybe even triple, electric bills.

There is no going back. Once the state electric company is gone, the low price will also be gone and there is no putting that genie back in the bottle.

It might look good for Fallin in the short term - a big sum put in the state coffers - but in the long run, buying power from for-profit companies would cost much more over time than the sale brought.

Of course, Gov. Fallin won’t be around for that part. By the time the effects of privatizing GRDA actually took hold, her reign would be long behind her. Just like the national debt, it would be up to future generations to bear the cost burden created by the selling of GRDA.

Our local legislators were not consulted about the audit or the task force. Fallin is taking a page from Obama’s playbook. If the legislators won’t agree, just do whatever you please with executive order.

She is not the queen of Oklahoma, she is the governor. As such, she serves at the pleasure of the voters. She needs to care about those voters, but sadly, most people in power positions seem only to care about the money.