Governor Mary Fallin today announced that she is suspending a taskforce designed to study the operations of the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). Fallin said that while she still supports the mission of the taskforce, its work might unintentionally and negatively affect the GRDA's future bond ratings.
The GRDA board is expected to vote as early as this Wednesday on the creation of a new natural gas-fired power plant. The project, estimated to cost $300 million, would be paid for by bonds let through the GRDA.
GRDA board members previously delayed voting on the new power plant at Fallin's request. In July, the governor asked board members to take more time to review the issue and to wait on the recommendations of an independent study. They did so, and Fallin says she is now satisfied that GRDA leadership has done their due diligence and is able to make an informed decision.
Fallin said her decision regarding the taskforce was made after hearing concerns from GRDA leadership about unintended consequences related to bonds.
"When I was elected to office, I promised voters that one of my first priorities would be to take a close look at our government agencies and make sure they were functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible," Fallin said. "The GRDA is an important agency that is doing some great work in Northeastern Oklahoma. It's providing affordable power to a large community that creates jobs and grows our economy. But like every area of government, we know there are improvements to be made. As the state's chief executive, it's my responsibility to make sure that all of our state agencies are using their resources in a way that maximizes their benefit to all Oklahomans. That's why I routinely request audits and studies of various agencies, and that's why I assembled a taskforce to study the GRDA and provide recommendations about potential improvements.
"It's also my duty as governor to listen to our agency-heads and board members and to take their advice seriously. One of the things I consistently heard about the taskforce studying the GRDA is the timing is wrong. If the GRDA does decide to move forward to build a new natural gas plant, it will need to fund that project with bonds. As GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan has told me, bond rating agencies will likely react negatively to the uncertainty created by an ongoing performance review like the one conducted by this taskforce. That, in turn, could negatively impact GRDA's bond rating, dramatically increasing the total cost of a new power plant and ultimately raising utility rates for Oklahomans. That is not an outcome that any of us support.
"For that reason, I am suspending the idea of a GRDA taskforce and performance review for the immediate future. I will, however, continue to work with GRDA leadership to pursue greater efficiencies in their agency and throughout state government. "