Anthony Celebrates 10 Years at Corporation Commission

The Journal Record - January 11, 1999

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR)-- Corporation Commission Bob Anthony may have won the FBI's highest award for his part in a sting operation as the result of a bribery case.

He may have played an important role in deregulating the state's utility industry.

But among Anthony's proudest achievements during his 10 years on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is establishing the two largest toll-free calling areas in America. Anthony celebrated his 10th anniversary with the commission Saturday.

Anthony was elected in 1988 to fill a seat vacated by retiring commissioner Norman [sic] Eagleton. He beat political odds to become only the second Republican to serve as a Corporation Commissioner and the first Republican since 1934, when E.R. Hughes retired from the Commission after serving two terms.

Toll-free calling zones around Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton and Enid were adopted in 1991 and later expanded. The areas have given more than half of the state's population toll-free telephone service to and from a recognized metropolitan area and provided for a telecommunications network that encourages economic growth within these major economic markets, Anthony said.

"In addition, we have adopted statewide modern telephone equipment and technology standards that have benefits in distance learning, telemedicine and economic development, especially in rural areas, and a 1992 rate order resulted in Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. making the largest refund and rate reduction in state history," he said.

The 1992 commission order required Southwestern Bell to refund more than $148 million, reduce its Oklahoma rates $92.7 million and invest $84 million in upgrades of its Oklahoma network.

Also among the commission's achievements during Anthony's tenure are adoption of the strongest ethics policy of any state agency and rules changes that created new oil and gas exploration incentives, streamlined the processing of oil and gas applications and improved collection of fines for violation of pollution prevention rules.

He also noted that instead of a decade of more utility rate increases, "gas, electric and telephone customers have actually seen occasional rate reductions and even a few refunds in recent years."

In an effort to correct abuses by regulated utilities, Anthony assisted an FBI bribery scheme investigation from 1989 to 1994. The probe resulted in bribery convictions and prison terms for a former Corporation Commission chairman, Bob Hopkins, and a former commission general counsel, William L. Anderson.

"Certain utility officials exercised their Fifth Amendment privilege, and all the facts of the investigation are still not available to the public," Anthony said.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a 1994 suit filed by Southwestern Bell that claimed bias by Anthony on the basis of his assistance in the FBI investigation.

In 1995, the FBI recognized Anthony with its highest award given to a citizen "who at great personal sacrifice has unselfishly served his community and the nation." It was presented by FBI Director Louis J. Freeh.

Anthony said he is pleased that the Corporation Commission has "adopted a set of modern and progressive rules to bring customer choice and competition to gas utility service," including safeguards to prevent utility companies form [sic] charging rate payers for their investments in plant and equipment to serve in a regulated environment.

He also noted federal deregulation of intrastate motor carriers, which prevents states from setting rates and restricting routs for most instate freight transport has occurred "without the disruption that opponents had predicted."

Anthony said the future usefulness of the Corporation Commission will depend on a commitment to ask questions, invite public participation, maintain high ethical standards and help improve the business climate in Oklahoma. "The agency must continue to embrace new technology, assist the oil and gas industry, commit itself to protecting fresh water and help develop the protections of competition and consumer choice instead of a rigid form of utility regulation," he said.

© 1999 The Journal Record

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Bob Anthony - Corporation Commission

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