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Stillwater's First News with Bill Van Ness

FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:

Effective immediately, City of Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce has rescinded his emergency declaration due to improved local conditions and greatly relaxed federal guidelines for vaccinated Americans.

With the emergency declaration lifted, Stillwater’s face covering ordinance expires as of 3 p.m., Friday, May 14.

“This is an exciting step in the nation’s fight against the pandemic,” Joyce said. “It demonstrates the power and benefit of the vaccine. Without a doubt, the vaccine is making a real difference and I encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated.”

As of May 10, 41.2% of Payne County residents have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to all adults, the FDA and CDC have authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for young people ages 12 and up.

To facilitate vaccinations, the CDC has created vaccinefinder.org. It is a free, online service to find locations that offer vaccinations. The site allows clinics, pharmacies, and health departments to provide accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services and availability.                 

As of May 12, Payne County had 17 active COVID-19 cases, a significant decrease from the 132 active cases the week of April 21. As of May 10, Payne County had 0.7 cases per 100,000 people which places the county in the Green COVID-19 Risk Level. Green is the lowest level.

“The CDC continues to recommend face masks for all non-vaccinated people in most cases,” Joyce said. “In addition, local businesses, schools and other entities may also continue to require face masks. We ask Stillwater residents to follow the CDC guidelines and respect the requirements of local businesses and others.”

Stillwater Police Department will continue to respond to trespassing complaints for businesses or other entities who chose to require masks.

On May 13, the CDC announced that individuals who have received the vaccine may stop wearing masks and are no longer required to social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings. Those who have not been vaccinated for the coronavirus are advised to continue to wear masks and social distance.

The CDC guidelines continue to recommend masks and social distancing for vaccinated individuals in a variety of situations, including air, bus and other public transportation; visiting doctors’ offices, hospitals or long-term care facilities; and visiting prisons and jails. Learn more on the CDC's website.

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FROM OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY:

Oklahoma State University has dropped its campus-wide mask mandate with the exception of its buses and certain areas of University Health Services.

The university made the announcement Friday, following Thursday’s new guidelines from the CDC that masks should no longer be required for people who are fully vaccinated.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oklahoma State University has been committed to following the guidance and directives of the CDC and local and state health officials. In response to CDC guidance released yesterday, and again in consultation with local and state health officials, OSU will no longer require the mandated use of masks or social distancing on campus or at any OSU sponsored activity,” the school’s release reads. “Although mask mandates for campus will no longer be in effect, community members may continue to voluntarily wear masks based on their own needs.”

OSU previously removed social distancing requirements and seating limitations at sporting events.

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FROM THE CITY OF STILLWATER:

The state and Oklahoma power providers are continuing to assess the impact from February’s extreme cold weather and how costs will be recovered from customers statewide.

In addition to various steps power providers are considering, the Oklahoma legislature is discussing bills that would establish bonding that could help address the issue. Media reports have quoted possible payment amounts and plans, but it is important to remember that no final decisions have been made for Stillwater. This update provides the latest details.

There are two parts of the electricity equation: the cost of natural gas and the cost of electricity, both of course, affected by the extreme February run-up in the cost of natural gas.

1. The cost of natural gas to generate electricity that Stillwater produced and was consumed through the Southwest Power Pool:
Stillwater does not provide natural gas service to customers, but natural gas is a major source for generating electricity. Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) provides electricity to Stillwater and was hit with record high prices for natural gas. The price for a dekatherm (a unit of energy) of natural gas went from approximately $2.85 a dekatherm (dth) to $428.00 for six straight days.

During the extraordinary winter event, the Stillwater Energy Center was called upon to run 24 hours a day for approximately 10 days to support the electricity needs of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which manages the electric grid and the wholesale power market for the central United States. Stillwater was directed by GRDA, which is the City’s market participant in the SPP, to “run at all costs.”

As a result, the City of Stillwater’s natural gas bill to produce electricity for the SPP for February was approximately $15.7 million. Its annual budget for natural gas is typically around $1.6 million a year.

However, the City’s contract with GRDA states that it will purchase all of the energy produced from the Stillwater Energy Center. That energy payment offsets the cost of natural gas as well as pays for variable operations and maintenance cost. In April, GRDA made a “make whole” payment of approximately $4.2 million, which when combined with the energy payment previously made in March for February’s energy production, covered the City’s costs.

Financial impact? NO. Because of the GRDA “make whole” payment there is no financial impact on Stillwater Electric Utility customers related to natural gas purchases.

2. The cost of the electricity that Stillwater purchased and provided to its customers:
All electricity producers and providers in the Southwest Power Pool, including GRDA, are determining the best way to be paid for the high cost of energy purchased during the event. GRDA has stated it plans to amortize the cost over multiple years to soften the impact to customers.

The GRDA administers a current Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) schedule that allows it to recover costs over 12 months for variations in fuel cost and market revenue, among other costs. Earlier this month, the GRDA board approved a new PCA that allows for recovery of costs for a period of longer than 12 months.

GRDA also announced the earliest the first billing under the new PCA structure will occur is August 5, but may occur later depending on when the Southwest Power Pool makes a final determination regarding any “make whole” payments.

Financial impact? YES. The City will know what it owes GRDA for its electricity for the February event and the plans for payment 30-60 days in advance. It will then pass those details along to its customers.

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