Campbell Says Utilities Should Share Cost Of Storm Recovery With Customers

METAIRIE – For-profit electric utilities serving Louisiana should expect demands to share in the cost of recovering from damaging hurricanes and storms in the future, said Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of North Louisiana.

“I’m sick of the free ride you get,” Campbell told Entergy executives Wednesday, shortly before the LPSC voted 4-1 to charge Entergy’s one million customers $3.2 billion for five storms in 2020 and 2021.

The bill for hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida and winter storm Uri will be $10 a month for the average Entergy residential customer and last for 15 years.

While casting the ‘no’ vote on Wednesday’s Entergy case, Campbell issued an order to LPSC staff calling for an investigation of how the Commission handles storm recovery.  He questioned the fairness of applying damage costs to areas not affected by storms, and whether investor-owned utilities like Entergy, CLECO and SWEPCO should share in the payment of damages.     

“Your stockholders are not putting up a dime,” Campbell said, directing his comments to Entergy, CLECO and SWEPCO representatives at the PSC meeting held in Metairie. 

“You say you have never done it that way?  There is no rule against it,” Campbell said.            “You can do it.  You just don’t want to.”

Since 2008 the LPSC has added multi-year line-item surcharges to Entergy bills to repay the utility for damages from hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac.  Entergy’s request for storm recovery on the LPSC agenda at Metairie Wednesday was its largest to date, covering five named storms.

The company will return to the LPSC later this year to request repayment for an additional $1.4 billion in damages from Ida.  CLECO and SWEPCO have also filed requests with the Commission for repayment of damages from 2020 and 2021 storms.

At the Metairie meeting Campbell said Entergy recently raised its compensation of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Leo Denault from $10 million a year to $16 million and issued $1.5 billion in dividends to investors.

“Of all the people on your power lines, most do not receive stock dividends,” Campbell said.  “We have some of the poorest people in America, and they don’t worry about dividends; they worry about paying their electric bill.”

Entergy’s territory goes from the Arkansas line to the Gulf of Mexico and includes Monroe, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles.  Average residential customers using 1,250 kilowatt-hours a month can expect the Laura-Delta-Zeta-Uri-Ida storm surcharge to be $10 per month and run for 15 years.

Campbell said paying for storm recovery is a critical issue in Louisiana with climate change causing more frequent and damaging storms.

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