Should north La. foot storm restoration costs?

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Foster Campbell says it’s unfair

Times Staff
Louisiana Public Service (LPSC) Commissioner Foster Campbell of Bossier City has an issue with the way customers in North Louisiana are being treated by utility companies when it comes to storm damage costs.
If you look at the details on your utility bill you’ll notice a charge for “storm restoration.” That charge is the same for every customer regardless of where you live and Campbell doesn’t believe that’s fair.
Most of the storm damages are caused by hurricanes occurring in South Louisiana. He doesn’t believe Entergy customers in Bienville Parish (for example) should have their bill increased for South Louisiana repairs. He argues that since the most damage is in South Louisiana, then South Louisiana customers should pay a higher rate then the ones in North Louisiana.
Entergy is not the only utility to go to the customer to pay for repairs. He said others go to the LPSC seeking relief.
Campbell explained the system now in place allows utilities to ask for storm damage relief. He said the company will come up with a number and then the LPSC team does their evaluation. The two then come to an agreement on how much the relief should be for the utility. The LPSC then seeks bonds in the amount agreed upon and the money goes directly to the utility. The bonds are then paid back over time, usually at a very low interest rate, by adding a monthly fee to the utility customer’s bill.
Campbell said he doesn’t have a problem with companies making a profit. In fact, under the rate structure the LPSC has agreed to with Entergy, there is a guaranteed rate of return of 9 plus percent to Entergy.
He does have a problem, however, with the customers paying for all the storm damages. He said under the current setup, the utility company isn’t putting up a dime.

This article published in the July 9-10, 2022, print edition.

“I want them to have some skin in the game,” Campbell said. “Right now they don’t.”
Earlier this year the LPSC voted 4-1 to allow rate payers to foot the $3.2 billion bill for storm damages occurring in 2020 and 2021. He was the lone vote in opposition.
“It’s time for the LPSC and the utilities to come up with a fairer way to pay these bills,” Campbell stressed. The challenge though is that Campbell is basically the only north Louisiana commissioner. Mike Thompson from District 4 takes in Grant and LaSalle parishes as part of his district, while the other three are strictly South Louisiana districts.
Campbell added, “They just gave their CEO a million dollar pay raise and paid $1.2 million in dividends to shareholders.”
He argued they obviously have the money so why should customers cover the entire cost of the repairs.
Campbell believes the old way of doing things in no longer appropriate or fair.
He pointed out residents of the Delta in Northeast Louisiana are among the most economically challenged in the nation. They are having a hard enough time just getting by. On top of that they didn’t have severe storm damage so why should they pay the same assessed amount on their utility bill that someone in the hardest hit area pays, he questioned.
By law, The Louisiana Public Service Commission is a constitutionally established regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest by assuring safe, reliable and reasonably priced services are provided by the public utilities and common carriers subject to its jurisdiction. The LPSC is made up of five commissioners, each elected from one of the five congressional districts of the state.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Commission is the Executive Secretary who is appointed by the Commissioners. The Executive Secretary is accountable to the elected Commissioners and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Commission. The Commission Staff consists of administrative law judges, attorneys, auditors, utility specialists and consumer specialists, as well as other support staff, who assist with the Commission’s regulatory mission and day-to-day operations.