Several of these initiatives undertaken this past year help position us to deliver our long-term earnings growth target, and I will spend some time talking about them. The brevity of my 2011 review today does not reflect a lack of accomplishment or appreciation for the excellent work by our members in 2011 or rather the forward-looking nature of this call. As always, the commodity cycle moves through its paces and the operating environment continually changes around us. Some favorable some not. Requiring us to shift our tactics but not our long-term strategy. I am confident in this management team’s ability to manage our well-positioned portfolio of businesses to continue to produce earnings growth and value for shareholders.
At the utility, an important open items remains the rate case filed last summer. The hearings are complete and we are awaiting ALJ recommendation which we hope will be available in the coming days. As you know we requested a rate increase of $73 million predicated on by plant investment and operating expenses to maintain a high reliability and service standards our customers currently enjoy. The commission staff, attorney general’s office and others recommend a rate decrease. While the ALJ recommendation is not binding on the Oklahoma commissioners, we believe it does influence their decision making. An order is expected in March.
As you may know we have had some changes at the commission. We have a new Commissioner, Patrice Douglas, appointed by the Governor to replace Jeff Cloud, who resigned to pursue a career in private enterprise. This fall both Commissioner Douglas and Commissioner Anthony will stand for re-election.