The Board of Directors of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC) at its monthly meeting in Baton Rouge asserted the right of self-governance and self-determination for each of the organization’s eight member cooperatives.
The statement came in response to recent actions taken by the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), which regulates the state’s electric utilities, water treatment facilities and other services.
The Commission at its open session on March 20 in Baton Rouge adopted several rules pertaining to board election procedures, board compensation, member notices, term limits and other items.
ALEC CEO Jeff Arnold commented that while the state’s electric cooperatives have been regulated by the LPSC for many years, the co-ops remain private, not-for-profit, independent organizations that are owned and controlled by their members.
Arnold said the cooperatives were formed in the 1930s as part of a state and national movement to bring electricity to rural homes, farms and communities. He said the cooperatives were established under a specific set of statutes adopted and sanctioned by the Louisiana Legislature that still apply today.
“We’re not really sure exactly what the Commission has passed, but we reserve the right to conduct ourselves as the private, independent businesses that we are,” Arnold said. “The Commission’s responsibilities don’t include micromanaging the entities they regulate. We share the common goal of looking out for the best interests of the ratepayers, and we feel our time-honored model of free, open and fair elections and our member-focused system of self-governance have worked for 80 years and continue to lead to outstanding service and affordable rates.”
The cooperatives, he said, are discussing their options about how to respond to the Commission’s decisions.
Arnold said that according to the Energy Information Administration, rates for Louisiana’s electric cooperative members are among the lowest in the country while customer satisfaction ratings for Louisiana’s electric cooperatives exceed the state and national averages among all electric service providers.
He said all board elections are carried out according to the bylaws approved by the membership and that directors are elected through a voting process that is duly announced, conducted, monitored and audited by an independent firm. Information about board elections, as well as other co-op news, is disseminated to every member through each cooperative’s newpaper delivered to each mailbox through the U.S. Postal Service, as well as through each cooperative’s website, email notices and other channels.
Arnold also responded to the public comment of one Commissioner who characterized the cooperatives as “shady.”
“I feel that was unfair and off-base,” Arnold said. “Again, our organizations are owned, led and controlled by our member/owners, so to suggest that there’s anything intentionally ‘shady’ about our cooperatives is a slight to our member/owners, our management and our employees who live and work all across this state to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity and are good at what they do.”