SKRMETTA, AT&T TO HOST ANTI-TEXTING & DRIVING SIMULATOR DEMONSTRATION ON NORTHSHORE

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By: James Hartman

Texting and driving is extremely dangerous and can prove fatal. Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta has long advocated for individuals to avoid the practice and for drivers to take a pledge not to text and drive.

Today from 10:30 until 3:30, visitors to the AT&T store at 6001 Pinnacle Parkway in Covington can operate a simulator that demonstrates the severe dangers of texting and driving. Skrmetta offered the simulator yesterday at the AT&T store in Hammond and the opportunity was well attended.

The event today is free and all are welcome.

“Drivers in Tangipahoa Parish enjoyed this opportunity yesterday and left with their eyes opened to the very real dangers of texting while driving,” Skrmetta said. “The simulator is rarely available for public use, and I really encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. It truly is a powerful experience.

More information about the simulator and the dangers of texting while driving is available at ItCanWait.com.

Drivers called to join the ‘It Can Wait’ movement

Last week, the leadership of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Louisiana State Police and Louisiana Chiefs Association joined Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta for a press conference to encourage Louisianans to take the ‘It Can Wait Pledge’ to never text and drive.

“As wireless has become a more central part of all of our lives, we must ensure that we use the technology safely, which means never texting while driving,” said PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta. “All of us can make an impact on this problem by taking the pledge and sharing our commitment with our friends and family.  I urge every driver across the state to take the It Can Wait pledge today and help us end texting while driving.”

“Far too often, my officers see firsthand the devastating results of texting while driving,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “Changing behavior is hard to do, but we can if we work together to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving and make it socially unacceptable to do so.”

“We’ve seen how community action and shared commitments can change behavior behind the wheel,” said Michael Ranatza, Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. “From wearing seat belts to drinking and driving, we’ve seen how speaking up to our friends and family have made our roads safer.  I have no doubt we can do the same with texting and driving.”

“Only through a concerted effort by law enforcement and community will we be able to change the outlook drivers have regarding attentive driving,” said Fabian Blache, Jr., Executive Director of the Louisiana Chiefs Association. “We must ensure they know the statistics compiled as well as the penalties beyond an accident for failing to pay full attention while driving and avoid the use of distracting devices.”

Individuals can now sign up at ItCanWait.com to get resources that will help them share their commitment on social media and personalize the movement on the streets of their communities on key activation days. Aspiring to create a social stigma around this dangerous habit of texting while driving, Drive 4 Pledges Day will focus on getting individuals involved in taking the pledge to never text and drive while encouraging others in their community to do the same. These individuals will join AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US, Inc., Verizon and more than 200 other organizations by sharing their commitment not to text and drive while increasing awareness of the dangers.

On Sept. 19, Drive 4 Pledges Day, supporters of the movement were called to help spread the word to their families, friends and communities. Advocates are encouraged to do things like change their social profile photos and banner to It Can Wait graphics, and share their personal pledge stories using the hashtag #ItCanWait. Offline activations will include hosting pledge drives and handing posters in their schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. All materials such as social graphics and posters are available for download from ItCanWait.com.

In 2008, Louisiana was one of the first states in the country to ban texting while driving. On Aug. 1 of this year, a new law became effective banning the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while driving. Sheriffs and other public safety officials across Louisiana are working to ensure that drivers understand the laws of the state, use wireless devices safely and drive safely on the roads.

To make your driving and cell phone use experience a little safer, law enforcement suggests the following safety tips:

• Obey the law.  Don’t text or use social media while you’re behind the wheel.
• Before you get behind the wheel, get to know your phone’s features, such as speed dial and redial.  Use a hands free device when possible.
• Assess the traffic and dial sensibly.  Ask your passenger to dial for you, or make calls when you are not moving.
• Never read or write while the car is moving. If you must write a note or take down a phone number during a conversation, PULL OVER!
• Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, don’t stop in dangerous areas and keep your car doors locked.
• Position your phone within easy reach or let your voice mail answer rather than taking your eyes off the road to look for the phone.
• Let the person you are speaking to know you are driving.
• Do not engage in emotional conversations as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.
• Dial 911 to report an emergency-it’s free from your wireless phone.

“Individuals sharing the message with friends and family within their social networks and in their communities can extend the impact of the movement beyond what any group of companies alone can do,” said Sonia Perez, President of AT&T Louisiana. “We hope the public will join in sharing this important message with those they care for and in Drive 4 Pledges to save lives and continue to reinforce a simple message: It Can Wait…no text is worth a life.”

In fact, a ConnectSafely.org1 survey found that individuals who speak up can have a profound impact, particularly on teens.

• 78 percent of teen drivers say they’re likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it’s wrong or stupid.
• 90 percent say they’d stop if a friend in the car asked them to.
• 93 percent would stop if a parent in the car asked them to.
• 44 percent say that they would be thankful if a passenger complained about their texting while driving.

The It Can Wait movement is making a difference. One-in-three people who’ve seen the texting while driving message say they’ve changed their driving habits2, the campaign has inspired more than 2.5 million pledges never to text and drive and the recently launched “From One Second To The Next” documentary  has received more than 2 million views since Aug. 8. To take the pledge and get more information, visit www.ItCanWait.com.

Save texting for after drive

When driving around the state, I cannot help but notice the number of my fellow drivers texting behind the wheel of their vehicles.

As chairman of the Public Service Commission, I take my commitment to protecting our communities very seriously. As the father of two young children, I want to know that drivers in our state are doing everything possible to keep our roads safe.

In an effort to decrease the number of texting-while-driving accidents, I urge everyone to make a personal commitment to themselves and their loved ones to not text and drive when they are behind the wheel.

Far too often, car crashes happen because drivers were texting while driving. I have made it a personal priority to educate as many people as I can about the dangers of texting while driving so that we can work together to make our roadways just a little bit safer.

However, the number of drivers who text and drive continues to grow across our nation. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that nearly one in three drivers texts or sends emails while driving, a habit that places them at a substantially higher risk of being involved in a vehicle crash.

This is a serious social epidemic that must be addressed and it is vital that we spread the word and personally commit to making texting while driving a thing of the past.

According to a survey conducted by ConnectSafely.org, 90 percent of respondents said they would stop texting while driving if a friend asked them to do so, which is why it is so important that we each share the dangers of texting while driving with our loved ones.

I encourage you to take the “It Can Wait” pledge to never text and drive, an effort by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile U.S., Verizon and 200 other organizations that have joined this initiative. We must have a united, committed and concerted effort from everyone to be successful in saving lives and preventing injuries from text-related accidents.

Here in Louisiana, I am partnering with sheriffs around the state to educate local residents about this issue. Last spring, my fellow commissioners on the Louisiana Public Service Commission voted unanimously to support a resolution urging Louisiana drivers to never text and drive.

This fall, as you are driving your kids to soccer practice or heading to Tiger Stadium on a Saturday, I hope you will join me in pledging to never text and drive.

It may be inconvenient but we should all make the effort to remember that no text is worth jeopardizing your safety or putting those around you in danger.

Eric Skrmetta
chairman
Louisiana Public Service Commission

 

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SKRMETTA: Energy Efficiency – When A Fee Is A Tax Is A Slush Fund

I am a strong proponent of energy efficiency. I acted for my family. I insulated my home, bought insulated windows, efficient appliances and did what was possible to reduce my monthly utility bills.

What I don’t like to do is to saddle the public with a government program that adds an additional cost every month for ratepayers to take their money away and spend it on what I think will be a net sum zero effect program. There is a right way to promote energy efficiency, and this new program isn’t it.

One of the many responsibilities of the Louisiana Public Service Commission is to provide oversight for the public to make sure the ratepayers’ money is being spent properly by the various utilities that receive the funds. On Wednesday, August 21, 2013, the commission veered from that task.

While energy efficiency (EE) is a useful tool in the effort to save electricity, the EE plan the commission has as current law seemingly provides for no oversight of how ratepayer funds are spent by “green” companies that will receive the new ratepayer charges via payment from the utilities. So it seems that those funds can be spent in any way that the third party administrators like – and at the moment there is no way to make sure the funds are being spent in a legitimate fashion. Not since the “slush-fund” days of the 70’s and 80’s has Louisiana seen such brazen manipulation of the public’s money.

Simply put, a new charge on consumers’ bills (at the moment no more than $6.00 per month for residential users and no more than $75 per month for non-residential users) will soon be added. (In addition, Industrial users, who consume more than 50% of the electricity in this state, have better lobbyists than residential and commercial users and are thereby excluded from this program.)

The muddying of the water in this matter is the false presentation of this program as a “voluntary” program for utilities. What is left out of the explanation is that while the program is voluntary, the utilities are guaranteed the right to recoup all costs of the program. And even that is not accurate, or even truthful, as utilities will recover the cost of the program, about $30 million dollars over a 4 year period, AND return on equity – in layman’s terms, profit. Worst of all is the fact that the value of any electricity that utilities end up saving, by not producing it or consuming it, gets to be recovered by the utilities as well. Call it the sale of phantom electricity.

So they get to sell electricity they don’t make and get to charge the ratepayer to recover those costs. You are going to pay utilities not to produce electricity so the green industry can get paid to develop this program.

The goal of any energy efficiency program is to reduce electricity consumption by the public to save the public money on their bills. This EE program has a zero effect on that goal as the utilities can recover the value of the electricity they fail to sell. Costs will not go down, in fact, as profit is included, costs to consumers will actually rise. This program only seems to cause a money transfer.

The truth is, this program is a method of funding non-regulated third party companies, and not for profit groups, who could otherwise not earn that capital on their own without public subsidies. An example is these folks are buying a new car and you the public are now paying the monthly note. I guess these green groups just have better lobbyists than the public, but not so good as the industrial community.

Three commissioners voted for the program, I voted against it. But it’s now the law. I will monitor it. And I will work to do the following:

1. Have the cost to the consumer, of the energy efficiency program, listed as a line item on your monthly bill so you can see what’s spent. I believe that the cost will not be capped and you will be able to witness the program costs grow.

2. I will push for the commission to develop a method of accountability and full audit authority over third party administrators and companies who receive ratepayers’ funds for their purposes. They want your money, they have to be accountable to the commission.

3. In addition, another fee for renewable energy is buried in the current rates and I will push for transparency on that item as well and list it as a line item. It cost more than was originally estimated and the public needs to know. Those costs are not capped and you should be able to witness the program costs grow.

4. I will request the commission take additional action to create an agency of the Commission, similar to the corporation that oversees telephone services for the hearing impaired, to explore financially self-sustained, market economics based, programs that will allow folks to have the benefits of energy efficiency but at no cost to the ratepayers. This program was ready to start in March when the commission flipped its vote and voided the free market approach to energy efficiency and moved to the public subsidized method.

The public has a right to know where their money goes, to what purpose and if it was spent properly. I want to ensure we have truth and transparency in every action the commission, and government, takes. I will fight to keep government from enacting rules that fleece the public. Unfortunately the public was one vote short of correcting this problem. So now that the decision has been made, I commit to being personally vigilant to ensure the public is treated as fairly as possible under the current energy efficiency program.

– See more at: http://thehayride.com/2013/08/skrmetta-energy-efficiency-when-a-fee-is-a-tax-is-a-slush-fund/#sthash.rnPGEvo5.dpuf

SKRMETTA URGES CAUTION, DUE DILIGENCE FOR SOLAR CONSUMERS

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R-Dist. 1) said heightened publicity about  solar and other alternative forms of energy is a positive step for Louisiana’s consumers, but said those interested in installing such systems at their homes should gather important information before proceeding with purchases.

“In recent months, there have been numerous news articles and broadcast stories about the benefits of solar energy, and I’m happy to see consumers exploring alternative energy options,” Skrmetta said.  “I’d like to recommend that consumers contact their existing electric service providers before proceeding to ensure they’re eligible to participate in valuable programs that ensure solar energy is truly cost-saving for them.”

Skrmetta said under existing regulations, some energy providers may not be eligible to participate in programs that benefit consumers who install solar systems.

“I’m working with LPSC staff and colleagues to devise a solution to this problem so more consumers can take advantage of cost-saving, alternative-energy programs, and I support the exploration of these initiatives and their viability for both providers and consumers.  I’d hate to see homeowners invest heavily in solar energy equipment only to discover the effort and investment are not beneficial for them.”

More information about Skrmetta and the LPSC is available online at www.ericskrmetta.com, and constituents can also follow and communicate with Skrmetta on his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

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Media contact: James Hartman, james@jameshartman.net or 504.458.4600

SKRMETTA: COMMISSION TO SEEK CHANGES IN REGULATION AUTHORITY FOR MOVERS

The arrest of a moving company owner and several of its employees for extortion and unauthorized use of a movable underscores the need for the Public Service Commission to have greater authority in regulating the moving and storage industry, Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R-Dist. 1) said today.

Last week, Mandeville Police arrested the owner and employees of Mr. Move, a Jefferson Parish-based moving company.  The Police acted following an investigation launched by Skrmetta’s office after the commissioner received several complaints about the company raising its rates after picking up customers’ belongings and refusing to release customers’ property unless the higher rates were paid.

Under existing law, moving companies have the latitude to raise rates up to 15 percent before triggering regulatory action, and PSC investigators cannot effect criminal arrests.

“I’m going to ask my fellow commissioners to join me in tightening the regulations on moving companies and will seek changes – including legislation, if necessary – to give our investigators more authority in working with local law enforcement.”

The investigation into Mr. Move began in early June when a customer contacted Skrmetta’s office to report her frustrations with the company.  The PSC investigator assigned to Skrmetta’s office, a former deputy sheriff, recognized the case as meeting criteria for a criminal charge and contacted Mandeville Police.

“I’m confident this customer is not the only one who has had trouble with poor performing moving and storage companies that may have committed similar actions,” Skrmetta said.  “I encourage anyone who has had such experiences to contact my office and local law enforcement.”

To report problems with a moving company or utility, contact Skrmetta’s office in Mandeville at (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930, or call his toll-free number, (800) 228-9368.

More information about Skrmetta and the LPSC is available online at www.ericskrmetta.com, and constituents can also follow and communicate with Skrmetta on his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ST. BERNARD PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St. Bernard Parish on Thursday, May 30, from 5-6 p.m. at the St. Bernard Parish Council Chambers, 8201 W. Judge Perez Dr., in Chalmette.

This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of St. Bernard Parish to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area.  Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with a utility company are encouraged to attend.   Skrmetta and his staff will be on-hand to answer questions.

Skrmetta holds monthly Town Hall meetings, rotating throughout the parishes he represents in District 1.

For more information please call Skrmetta’s office in Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930, or call his toll-free number, (800) 228-9368.  More information about Skrmetta and the LPSC is available online at www.ericskrmetta.com, and constituents can also follow and communicate with Skrmetta on his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION PASSES RESOLUTION AGAINST TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

The Louisiana Public Service Commission this morning passed a resolution proclaiming April to be “No Texting While Driving Month” in Louisiana.

The resolution, authored by LPSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta (R-Dist. 1), passed unanimously.

Citing data from a study conducted last month by ResearchNow, the resolution says that 49 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving and, of those, 43 percent report the behavior to be a habit.  Additionally, the resolution cites a Virginia Tech study indicating that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash.

“Texting while driving is already illegal in Louisiana, but it’s difficult for police to enforce and many drivers simply ignore the law – and the dangers,” Skrmetta said.  “Our resolution today doesn’t just show our support for the law, but is meant to encourage drivers to be aware of the danger.  Just like laws regarding speeding and disobeying traffic signals, the prohibition on texting while driving was written in the interest of public safety.”

While many smart phone devices now offer voice-to-text features, which might reduce the risk, there is no reason to risk your safety or the safety of those around you, Skrmetta said.

“No message is worth your life,” the Commissioner said.  “If it’s that important, have the conversation by phone or wait until you’re stationary.  The Public Service Commission wants you and your families to remain safe.  There’s nothing else as important as that.”

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SUSPENDS FINES ON JAIL TELEPHONE PROVIDERS PENDING REVIEW

The Louisiana Public Service Commission today suspended fines and fees imposed on providers of telephone services in parish jails around the state while the Commission reviews the rules and rates.

 

Last year, the Commission imposed caps on what fees and rates prison and jail telephone service providers may charge.  Several companies appealed penalties that were imposed, saying they were penalized retroactively and that LPSC staff had approved their surcharges on inmate users.

Moved by Commissioner Lambert Boissiere and seconded by Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta, the motion to suspend those penalties on those companies pending a review, passed 3-2.  Commissioners Clyde Holloway and Foster Campbell voted against it.

“The system isn’t right and it needs to be corrected,” Skrmetta said.  “We have to move towards a unified contract system.  But these companies, by Commissioner Boissiere’s motion, are not being given an excuse.  If it’s shown these companies owe these fees, they’re going to have to pay them through rebate or credit.   They (the fees) are only legal if they can prove they had the requisite response from staff to show they were approved.   We are not going to allow companies to retain fees that are not legal, but we’ll deal with that after staff brings us a recommendation.”

Companies that provide phone service in prison facilities had been charging very high rates and fees, with a portion of rates paid to local sheriffs to fund jail operations.  Campbell took on the issue last Fall and convinced a majority of commissioners to reduce the cap on those rates and fees.  Companies have said the loss of revenue will require them to lay off employees, particularly since they had only 30 days to adapt.

“Although this policy has a significant economic impact on both service providers and local sheriffs, I agree the issue needs to be addressed fairly and even-handedly,” Skrmetta said after the meeting.  “That notwithstanding, however, these companies claiming they had LPSC staff authorization should have those claims reviewed before they are required to pay penalties.”

SKRMETTA BEGINS PROCESS FOR ‘DO NOT TEXT’ LIST

Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta (R-Dist. 1) has instructed Commission staff to develop guidelines for implementing a statewide “Do Not Text” list for consumers.

The concept will be modeled after the LPSC’s “Do Not Call” list, which allows consumers to prohibit telemarketers from making unsolicited calls to their homes, offices or cell phones.

“In recent years, many of us have turned to text-messaging for easy and rapid communication,” Skrmetta said.  “As with almost all new technologies, marketers and advertisers have adapted their methods to employ new innovations.  The results have included thousands of unwanted text messages to the cell phones of people with no interest in the products or services being marketed.  Some cellular consumers do not have unlimited text messaging plans, and receiving these messages costs them money.  It’s more than a nuisance – although it is definitely that; rather, it is a means of sending unwanted solicitations and advertising to consumers who have to pay for it themselves.”

Public Service Commission staff will bring a draft Do Not Text policy to the full Commission in the coming months.

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN METAIRIE

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Jefferson Parish on Monday, March 18, from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Jefferson Parish Library, 2350 Old Metairie Road, in Metairie.

Skrmetta holds monthly meetings in the various parishes he represents on the Public Service Commission to hear directly from constituents about utility issues they are facing in their communities.  Citizens of Jefferson Parish who wish to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area are encouraged to attend.  Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.

For more information or to contact Skrmetta at any time, citizens can call one of the District 1 offices: Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930 or the toll free number, (800) 228-9368.  Consumers can also reach Skrmetta through his website, www.ericskrmetta.com, or find his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

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Skrmetta to Hold Town Hall meeting in Franklinton

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Washington Parish on Thursday, Feb. 21, from 5-6 p.m. at the Washington Parish Courthouse, Parish Council Chambers located at 900 Washington St., Franklinton.

This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of Washington Parish to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area. Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with a utility company are encouraged to attend. Skrmetta and his staff will be on-hand to answer questions.

For more information or to contact Skrmetta at any time, citizens can call his offices in Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930, or via (800) 228-9368. Skrmetta can also be reached through www.ericskrmetta.com and on his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC”

Skrmetta holds monthly public meetings, rotating among the parishes in Public Service Commission District 1.

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ST. HELENA PARISH MONDAY

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St. Helena Parish on Monday, Nov. 26, from 5-6 p.m. at the St Helena Parish Police Jury Chambers located at 17911 Hwy 43, in Greensburg.

Each month, Skrmetta holds a town hall meeting in one of the parishes he represents on the LPSC. Citizens with concerns about utility-related issues are invited to attend. Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.

For more information or to contact Skrmetta about any utility-related issues at any time, consumers can call one of his District 1 offices: Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930, or the toll-free number, (800) 228-9368. Skrmetta can also be reached via his website, www.ericskrmetta.com and on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

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Media contact: James Hartman, james@jameshartman.net or 504.458.4600

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN NEW ORLEANS

For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Orleans Parish on Monday, Oct. 29, from 5 – 6 p.m. at the Latter Branch Library located at 5120 St. Charles Avenue.

This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of Orleans Parish that reside within the District 1 boundaries of the LPSC to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area. Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with a utility company that is not owned by the City of New Orleans are encouraged to attend. Commissioner Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Skrmetta holds monthly public meetings in the parishes he represents on the LPSC, the state’s regulatory body for utility companies. His district includes a portion of Orleans Parish; precincts and neighborhoods included in his district are described below.

Commissioner Skrmetta represents the following precincts in Orleans Parish:

3-19, 3-20, 4-6, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9, 4-10, 4-10A, 4-11, 4-14, 4-14A, 4-15, 4-16, 4-16A, 4-17, 4-17A, 4-18, 4-18A, 4-19, 4-20, 4-20A, 4-21, 4-21A, 4-22, 4-23, 5-12, 5-13, 5-14, 5-15, 5-16, 5-17, 5-18, 7-32, 7-33A, 7-37, 7-37A, 7-38A, 7-39, 7-40, 7-41, 7-42, 9-45A, 14-1, 14-2, 14-3, 14-4, 14-5, 14-6, 14-7, 14-8, 14-9, 14-10, 14-11, 14-12, 14-13A, 14-14, 14-15, 14-16, 14-17, 14-18A, 14-19, 14-20, 14-21, 14-22, 16-1, 16-1A, 17-1, 17-17, 17-18, 17-18A, 17-18B, 17-19, 17-19A, 17-20, and 17-21.

The general descriptions of the above named precincts include:

– The Jefferson/Orleans line from the lake to just beyond City Park Avenue to Bayou St. John, Filmore to the London Avenue Canal and back to the lake.

– Uptown area of from the Jefferson/Orleans line, the Riverbend area and north to Freret, down Carrollton to Dominican then down to the river. The district also includes Lowerline to Jefferson Avenue, bounded by the river and Fontainebleau.

For more information or to see if your address is within Commissioner Skrmetta’s district, please contact one of Skrmetta’s District 1 offices by calling 800-228-9368.

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For additional information on Eric Skrmetta and the Public Service Commission, visit EricSkrmetta.com or find him at www.Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.

Media contact: James Hartman, james@jameshartman.net or 504.458.4600

Statement of Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta regarding the Obama Administration’s policies and the impact on energy prices

Despite court cases in which judges have ruled the Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its statutory authority in attempting to regulate cross-state emissions, President Obama’s Administration is hell-bent on artificially altering the economics of energy production and consumption.

With policies that have overburdened the coal industry, many mines and coal production facilities have closed or are in danger of doing so. Many consumers don’t realize that coal is a primary fuel used in the production of electricity and, moreover, that current consumption rates would allow coal to meet energy needs for – literally – several centuries. Notwithstanding the potential value of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, there is no legitimate reason to reduce our reliance on or use of coal as an electricity-producing fuel.

It’s about to get a lot worse.

Because of EPA industry killing regulations, electricity prices are poised to increase as much as 20 times current costs in some states in just a few years. A recent energy auction by PJM Interconnection, which regulates the power grids in 13 states and the District of Columbia, saw prices rise from $16 per megawatt to $136 per megawatt. In northern Ohio, energy prices are expected to rise to $357 per megawatt – a x 20 factor increase.

This is irresponsible energy and fiscal policy, it is completely economically untenable for American consumers. Imagine your own electric bill increasing by these outrageous artificial prices. Imagine the ripple effect on prices of other things you consume: If grocery stores are paying much higher prices to light and refrigerate their facilities, those costs will be passed along to you. If you are paying much higher prices to light and heat your own home, what other budget items will you cut from your family’s spending? The ripple becomes a wave.

These new prices from the PJM auction are set to go into effect in 2015 in PA, OH, WV, VA, MD, DE, NJ, and DC, and in parts of IL, MI, IN, KY and NC.

If consumers in those states are made aware of the looming impact, their voting behavior will surely alter. If consumers in other states fail to see the handwriting on the wall and begin to push back against energy policies that can only be described as ridiculous it may not be long before rate increases such as these are felt in other regions and, eventually, nationwide.

This is an economy-killer.

In Louisiana, I am working hard to prevent ANY federal policies from impacting our energy costs and production so dramatically. There is no reason for this situation, other than a Washington-driven desire to force us into alternative energy.

Alternative energy sources are worthy of exploration, research and development. But not on the consumers dime. We are a very long way from being able to afford and efficiently deploy such alternatives – and to be frank, we shouldn’t be forced to anyway.

The coal supply is adequate for an estimated 500 years. We should use it for our own country and economy. But instead we are on the road to eliminating our use of coal in 30 years and all the while exporting our coal energy resources to countries like China, who is building a new coal fired power plant every couple of weeks.

Oppressive regulations and policies are being implemented to artificially impact an industry on which every American relies not just daily but every minute of every day. In Louisiana, we are pushing back and we are – so far – winning. I’m working hard to keep it that way.

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For more information about Skrmetta and the Public Service Commission, visit EricSkrmetta.com or find him at www.Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.

Media contact: James Hartman, james@jameshartman.net or 504.458.4600

Hurricane Isaac Emergency Information

NEW ORLEANS August 27, 2012 – With an arsenal of disaster response equipment and personnel on standby as Hurricane Isaac nears, AT&T* is ready to respond quickly. AT&T is the first private sector company in the nation to receive disaster preparedness certification under the Department of Homeland Security Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Program.

AT&T has invested more than $600 million in our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program since it was launched to help ensure the flow of wireless and wireline communications during emergencies. The AT&T NDR program is one of the industry’s largest and most advanced disaster response programs and includes more than 320 technology and equipment trailers that can be quickly deployed to respond to disasters. The NDR team works closely with local AT&T network personnel, regional Emergency Operations Centers and Local Response Centers to restore and maintain service until permanent repairs can be made.

To help maximize network reliability during a storm, AT&T conducts readiness drills and simulations throughout the year to ensure our networks are prepared and our personnel are ready to respond at a moment’s notice, and our networks are monitored 24/7. Other preparations include:
• Topping off fuel at generators positioned at cell sites and switching centers
• Testing high-capacity back-up batteries at cell sites
• Distributing additional extended battery life and portable generators
• Using natural gas in some of our permanent generators to eliminate the need to refuel
• Adding capacity to the wireless network as able
• Staging additional emergency response equipment in strategic locations near the anticipated landfall

In addition, AT&T has continued to enhance network redundancy in hurricane-prone areas by installing more back-up and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities; locating critical equipment in less vulnerable areas; upgrading electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels; and protecting physical facilities against flooding. Just as we prepare our networks and personnel, AT&T encourages residents and small businesses to consider the following recommendations in preparation for the storm.

Consumer Tips:
• Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as using your car charger to charge your device or having extra mobile phone batteries on hand.
• Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering.
• Have a family communication plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know who to contact if they get separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.
• Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
• Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as Voicemail, Call Forwarding, Remote Access call forwarding and call forwarding busy line/don’t answer may be useful.
• Track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. If you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports through services like AT&T U-verse Live TV or keep updated with local radar and severe weather alerts through My-Cast® Weather, if you subscribe to those services.
• Camera phones provide assistance. If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos — even video clips — of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.
• Take advantage of location-based mapping technology. Services such as AT&T Navigator and AT&T FamilyMap can help you seek evacuation routes or avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines, as well as track a family member’s wireless device in case you get separated.

Small Business Tips:
• Set up a call-forwarding service to a predetermined backup location. Set up a single or multiple hotline number(s) for employees, employees’ families, customers and partners, as appropriate, to call so that all parties know about the business situation and emergency plan. For this to be most effective, maintain an updated contact list, including mobile and home phone numbers and e-mail addresses, for all employees.
• Protect hardware/software/data records/employee records, etc. Routinely back up these files to an off-site location. Use a generator for supplying backup power to vital computer hardware and other mission-critical equipment. Prearrange the replacement of damaged hardware with vendors to ensure quick business recovery.
• Outline detailed plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place plans. Practice these plans (employee training, etc.). Establish a backup location for your business and meeting place for all employees. Assemble a crisis-management team and coordinate efforts with neighboring businesses and building management. Be aware that disasters affecting your suppliers also affect your business. Outline a plan for supply chain continuity for business essentials.
• Consider a back-up cellular network. Services like AT&T Remote Mobility Zone, allows organizations to protect their critical communications by installing small cell sites at the businesses’ locations. If a disaster disables primary communications networks, the back-up cellular network can help keep your company connected.

Maximizing Service During and After a Hurricane:
• Try text messaging. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. All of AT&T’s wireless devices are text messaging capable. Depending on your text or data plan, additional charges may apply.
• Be prepared for high call volume. During an emergency, many people are trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.
• Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum, and limit your calls to the most important ones. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.

Additional information and tips for disaster preparedness can be found at att.com/vitalconnections.

SKRMETTA: ELECTRIC METERS SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECT TO FEDERAL TAXES

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta said the federal government’s efforts to add a “fee” to some utility meters is nothing more than another federal tax, and he agrees with the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association that so-called “smart meters” are not telecommunications devices and should not be subject to federal fees imposed by the Federal Communications Commission.

“They can call it a ‘fee,’ a ‘contribution’ or anything they want, but it’s really just a federal tax and I will stand with consumers and utility companies in opposing it,” Skrmetta said.

Historically, telecommunications providers and their subscribers have paid more than 15 percent of interstate and end-user revenues into the Universal Services Fund. Now, federal regulators want to impose a similar or identical fee on electric meters, adding to consumers’ costs. Earlier this month, the NRECA filed comments with the FCC stating opposition to the imposition of such a cost.

While “smart meters” are not deployed market-wide, some Louisiana utility providers are using them. Skrmetta has consistently said the devices – which range in scope from transmitting energy usage to utility providers for billing purposes, to monitoring and adjusting energy use within a structure – should only be installed if a consumer so chooses. The federal government has issued grants to utility companies to encourage deployment of the devices, ostensibly for the purpose of improving energy efficiency.

“Consumer choice is always the most important factor in my mind and in my work on the Commission,” Skrmetta said. “I oppose mandatory deployment of smart meters but I just as strongly oppose the imposition of federal fees on utility meters under the guise of them being ‘telecommunications devices.’ I will continue to monitor developments and keep consumers informed, and I will consistently oppose any mandate on utility customers-particularly those that come with a federal tax erroneously called a ‘fee.'”

The Universal Services Fund began in the 1990s to pay for the Lifeline program, which provides telephone service to qualified low-income consumers through the collection of mandatory “fees.” Initially to pay for land line service, the program was expanded a few years ago to include cell phones with 250 free minutes each month and has been dubbed the “Obama phone.” An estimated 12.5 million people are already enrolled and tens of millions more could qualify in the current economic climate. In the last three years, the cost has more than tripled, from $500 million to $1.7 billion.

“This proposed ‘fee’ – another federal tax – would add funding to the Lifeline program,” Skrmetta said. “To pay for this government entitlement, the FCC would now add an additional tax to smart meters simply to raise taxes in a non-obvious way . The mandates are coming and we have to resist them now or consumers are going to be stuck with more regulations and more federal taxes disguised as ‘service fees.'”

Media contact:
James Hartman
james@jameshartman.net
504.458.4600

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN SLIDELL

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St Tammany Parish on Tuesday, Aug. 21, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the St Tammany Parish Public Library located at 555 Robert Blvd. in Slidell.

Skrmetta holds monthly meetings throughout his district to meet with citizens and hear their concerns about issues related to utility service. Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with any utility company are encouraged to attend. Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Citizens are welcome to contact Skrmetta at any time, and can call his Northshore office at (985) 624-4660 or his Southshore office at (504) 846-6930. Skrmetta also has a toll-free number for citizens, 1-800-228-9368.

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For more information about Skrmetta and the Public Service Commission, visit EricSkrmetta.com or find him at www.Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.

Media contact: James Hartman, james@jameshartman.net or 504.458.4600

PSC investigating Northshore electric company

The Public Service Commissioner for the Northshore area is launching an investigation into an electric company.

Earlier this week, we told you about several complaints from customers of Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-Op. They say they experience power outages too frequently and several hours without air conditioning over the weekend was the last straw.

The Co-Op says the cause of the weekend disturbance was another utility company damaging wires, which led WST to transfer power service for the North Covington area to a different area while repairs were made. However, that led to an overload of the system, leaving customers in the dark.

Commissioner Eric Skrmetta started looking into the complaints after our report, requesting outage records from the Co-Op to review. He plans to start a formal investigation at the Commission’s September meeting.

He said, “It’s a balancing act and what we want to do is make sure that the companies are paying particular attention to consumers because the goal is to provide the consumer with a reliable source of electricity at all times. ”

The commissioner requests any complaints with WST to be called into his office at 985-624-4660.


Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St. John the Baptist Parish on Tuesday, July 31, at 5 p.m. in the Parish Council Chambers, 1801 W. Airline Hwy., LaPlace.

Commissioner Skrmetta and his staff will be on-hand to answer questions.

Skrmetta holds monthly meetings in various parts of LPSC District 1 to hear constituent concerns about utility service and to update citizens on the Commission’s actions.

For more information or to reach Skrmetta at any time, citizens can call his office at 1-800-228-9368. Skrmetta can also be reached through www.ericskrmetta.com and Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.

Skrmetta represents parts of Ascension, Jefferson, Livingston, Orleans, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes, and all of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes.

ENTERGY REFUNDS TO APPEAR ON CONSUMERS’ BILLS

After successful litigation by the Louisiana Public Service Commission in matters relating to the multi-state System Agreement, a ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has been issued ordering Entergy to begin issuing refunds to Louisiana consumers, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta announced today.

Between June and December, Entergy Louisiana customers will receive credits ranging from $16 to $23, spread out over the seven-month period.  The average user will have a monthly refund of $3.42.  The refund comes in compliance with a remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which was a response to an earlier FERC filing.

“The FERC determined that Entergy delayed implementing an ‘equalization remedy’ in 2005, which resulted in more than $70 million in refunds,” Skrmetta said.  “We have ordered Entergy to return these funds directly to consumers in the form of monthly credits based on average electricity usage.  I am always pleased to successfully return money to Louisiana’s ratepayers and to continue efforts to keep utility costs as low as possible.”

The FERC regulates interstate transmission of electricity and monitors energy markets, but does not have jurisdiction over energy sales and distribution directly to consumers; those regulatory actions fall under the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which issued the refund order to Entergy based on FERC and Appeals Court findings.

“We are examining a similar issue regarding Entergy that occurred in the 2005-2007 time period, and after due process we will determine if there are additional funds to send back to consumers,” Skrmetta said.

 

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN HAHNVILLE

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall Meeting in St. Charles Parish next Wednesday, June 27, at 5 p.m.

Skrmetta, who represents the 1st District on the PSC, holds periodic public meetings to hear directly from constituents about their concerns and issues with utility companies, and to answer questions about the PSC and its activities.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the St. Charles Parish Council Chambers, 15045 Hwy. 18/River Road, Hahnville.  Skrmetta and members of this staff will be on-hand to address concerns and answer questions.

For more information or to contact Skrmetta at any time, call 1.800.228.9368, visit EricSkrmetta.com, or find him on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

 

TOWN HALL MEETING – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2012

PRESS RELEASE

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

TOWN HALL MEETING _-  WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2012

 

“Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St Charles Parish on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 from 5:00-6:00 pm at the St Charles Parish Council Chambers located at 15045 Hwy 18 River Rd., Hahnville, LA  70757.   This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of St Charles Parish to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area.  Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with a utility company are encouraged to attend.   Commissioner Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.  For more information please call one of our District 1 offices:  Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930 or our toll free number (800) 228-9368, or visit our website at www.ericskrmetta.com and Facebook “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC”

MEDIA ADVISORY: SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Jefferson Parish on Tuesday, June 19, 2012, from 5:00-6:00 pm at the Jefferson Parish Council Chambers located at 1221 Elmwood Park Blvd, 2nd Floor Yenni Bldg, Jefferson, LA.

This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of Jefferson Parish to voice their concerns about any issues related to utility companies operating in the area.  Consumers who are experiencing difficulties with a utility company are encouraged to attend.

Commissioner Skrmetta and his staff will be on hand to answer questions.  For more information please call one of our District 1 offices:  Mandeville (985) 624-4660, Metairie (504) 846-6930 or our toll free number (800) 228-9368, or visit our website at www.ericskrmetta.com or Facebook “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

 

AGENDA 21 EPA RULE BITES CONSUMERS

The federal government’s efforts to control coal-based electricity consumption and the implementation of the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule – a product of an international agreement made 20 years ago – is poised to hit consumers hard in coming years, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta said today.

Last week PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization (RTO) regulated only by the Federal Energy Rregulatory Commission (FERC) held its 2015 power contract auction.

“The market price for new 2015 PJM Interconnection coal-based electricity sold was $136 per megawatt – more than eight times the 2012 price of just $16 per megawatt,” Skrmetta said. “In New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., the new price is $167 per megawatt. For Ohio the price is a vicious slap to consumers of $357 per megawatt. The use of federal regulatory control to artificially inflate the price of coal-generated electricity will soon reach a point where consumers cannot afford traditional electricity and the federal government plans that this will drive increasing numbers of consumers to unreliable ‘green’ energy.”

Skrmetta said the artificially-induced price increases will cause a non-Louisiana residential consumer’s monthly bill of $200 in the PMJ Interconnection territory to rise, at minimum, to about $1,700 per month.  In Ohio, the increase could reach up to $4,400 per month, or 22 times the current rates.

“It’s not only a destructive energy policy that’s injurious to residential consumers, but can lead to further out-migration of jobs as goods and services employers will seek to avoid oppressive U.S. regulations,” Skrmetta said.  “These federal rules are only created to satisfy a political agenda of the radical environmental left to eliminate manmade carbon dioxide.”

At a recent presentation by a professor from MIT to the Federal Energy Bar Association, it was revealed that the EPA’s goal is to eliminate the use of coal in the United States by the year 2035. Even more of a problem for Louisiana and the nation is the goal of the EPA is to eliminate the use of natural gas in the united states by the year 2065.

“Oddly enough, the federal plan is to allow for the export of these ‘fossil’ fuel resources to other nations for use in their economic development,” Skrmetta said. “According to this flawed logic, exhaust gases only rise into a particular countries atmosphere and do not permeate the globe. That is garbage science and patently not true. All of these oblique federal actions come on the tail of news of massive worldwide new natural gas discoveries that seem to show that the United States will have sufficient supplies of natural gas for hundreds of years with free market prices stable for years to come.”

Skrmetta said the origin of the Utility MACT rule lies with the other rules affecting energy use in this nation (Cap and Trade, CSAPR, etc.) emerging from the United Nations Rio Accord of 1992 via the document now known as Agenda 21, which includes the goal of forcing the reduction of consumption of natural energy resources in the United States by increasing prices, while stimulating the application of those resources in the developing world.

Skrmetta said the simple proof of this international effort is found in United Nations Document Agenda 21, Section I, Chapter 4, “Changing Consumption Patterns,” which states, in part:

“4.24. Without the stimulus of prices and market signals that make clear to producers and consumers the environmental costs of the consumption of energy, materials and natural resources and the generation of wastes, significant changes in consumption and production patterns seem unlikely to occur in the near future.

4.25. Some progress has begun in the use of appropriate economic instruments to influence consumer behaviour. These instruments include environmental charges and taxes, deposit/refund systems, etc. This process should be encouraged in the light of country-specific conditions.”

“The EPA is using artificial market regulatory mechanisms to make energy so costly that consumers will have no choice but to rely on unreliable green energy,” Skrmetta said. “The brutal coercion of the federal government in manipulating free markets and its ultimate effect on consumers is horribly wrong and is damaging to free markets and the long-term economic stability of our nation.  I am publicly asking Louisiana’s federal delegation to join with other concerned States and open a Congressional investigation into the arbitrary actions of the bureaucracy of the federal government in causing these rules to be forced on citizens, seemingly to achieve a political agenda that will have little effect other than to diminish the economic stability of the United States.”

Consumers can also contact him at 1-800-228-9368.

TRANSMISSION PROJECT HELPS ELECTRICITY RELIABILITY IN ACADIANA

The first major electricity transmission project in decades is nearing completion in Acadiana, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta announced this weekend.

“Completion of this project will improve efficiency of delivery of electricity to ratepayers and hopefully end the threat of blackouts and interruption of electrical service during peak demand periods,” Skrmetta said.

In 2009 the Louisiana Public Service Commission approved a $193 million plan to develop the new transmission line that would be developed in a cooperative project between Cleco, Entergy and Lafayette Utilities System. Completion of the project is now anticipated by June 2012.

“When the LPSC voted to approve this project we required that it be completed on schedule and within budget parameters,” Skrmetta said. “The utilities acted responsibly and got the job done.”

The transmission project is comprised of more than 90 miles of new transmission lines and substation system improvements. The area affected by the transmission grid upgrades is bounded by U.S. 190 on the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Jennings on the west and the Atchafalaya Basin on the east.

“With the completion of the Acadiana Load Pocket Transmission project, the Lafayette region will see the threat of rolling blackouts become a thing of the past,” Skrmetta said. “Stability of electrical service is now more certain in the region.”

The transmission project was approved to alleviate strained power resources that have manifested themselves in recent years. A growing population in the region required the project be built to provide reliability to the system.

“More robust transmission systems were needed to carry the greater amount of electricity demanded by the region,” said Skrmetta.

“New transmission projects have not occurred that often,” Skrmetta added. “With a look to the future the LPSC has focused on long-term planning through its transmission docket and its use of an Independent Coordinator of Transmission. The LPSC has now also taken the first step to regional transmission planning and I have great hopes for the future benefits to the consumers of Louisiana.”

 

LOUISIANA MOVES TO A REGIONAL APPROACH ON ELECTRICITY TRANSMISSION AND MARKET POWER ACCESS

The Louisiana Public Service Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the first phase of a project to join the Midwest Independent Service Organization (MISO), a movement towards a method of regionalized management of transmission of electricity and towards greater participation in a free-market approach to the purchase of electrical power.

“MISO operates a market center that facilitates the buying and selling of electricity on a two-day to two-minute market availability and creates a powerful competitive market for industry participants,” Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta said.

MISO, which also oversees transmission planning and construction for its members, is the nation’s first regional transmission organization and one of its largest.

“Consumers are one step closer to greater savings on their utility bills,” said Skrmetta. “Subject to carefully considered conditions, the proposed integration into MISO is expected to occur in December 2013.”

A May 2011 analysis showed that joining MISO is expected to result in net benefits to ratepayers of Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States of $430 million to $575 million on a net present value basis over the next 10 years. The projected savings are largely attributable to MISO’s organized power markets, which allow MISO to optimize the dispatch of all generating units within its area, whether owned by the Entergy operating companies or other MISO members. The addition of the Entergy operating companies to its membership, MISO will stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

“As the LPSC representative to the Entergy Regional States Committee, I have worked with our staff for more than 15 months on this proposal and am satisfied that we have focused on planning an effective strategy for participating in a regional transmission organization,” Skrmetta said. “We have also ensured that jurisdictional oversight will play a part in the regional management of the program. The purpose of joining MISO is improve reliability, reduce transmission congestion and stabilize/lower costs for consumers,” Skrmetta said.

“The LPSC has taken the first step among the five regional component jurisdictions of Entergy and we hope the City of New Orleans as well as the States of Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas will join us in this move towards greater savings and efficiency for rate payers,” Skrmetta said.

“Unlike the massive rate increase issues facing other competing Regional Transmission Organizations in the Eastern Atlantic States, MISO is composed of 95 percent state-regulated members and includes a free-market structure,” Skrmetta said. “As a regulator, I am focused on ensuring that the public is protected from artificial price increases and that the consumer has the greatest access to the free market system.”

For more information about Commissioner Skrmetta, visitwww.EricSkrmetta.com or find him on Facebook.  Consumers can also contact him at 1-800-228-9368.

 

PSC APPROVES AT&T REQUEST TO REDUCE WHITE PAGES DISTRIBUTION

By a 4-1 vote yesterday the Louisiana Public Service Commission approved a request by telephone service provider AT&T to discontinue automatic distribution of its residential telephone directory but continue to provide the volume to consumers upon request.

AT&T representatives appeared before the Commission at its April meeting to make the request, citing cost savings that can be passed along to consumers through the deployment of enhanced communications technologies throughout the state.

“I was and am fully supportive of this initiative,” said District 1 Commissioner Eric Skrmetta.  “By saving money and natural resources by discontinuing the production of millions of these books, AT&T will have more resources to put into developing infrastructure and building better service operations throughout Louisiana, particularly in areas that are currently underserved.  In the age of the Internet, a very small percentage of people utilize the White Pages directory.  For those who do, the product will still be available at no charge.  The savings to the company will have the long-term result of improving service to these consumers – including the development of better wireless and residential Internet access in our rural communities.”

Only District 5 Commissioner Foster Campbell voted against the measure.

AT&T staff have not yet scheduled the phase-out of White Pages distribution, but the company will likely continue distribution through 2012.  When the automatic home delivery is discontinued, consumers who wish to receive a free copy may contact the company at 1-866-329-7118 to request a paper or a CD-ROM version of the directory.  Consumers can also submit such a request online at www.att.com/mydirectories or access White Pages residential listings online at www.realpageslive.com.  Consumers who do not wish to receive the book but prefer to find numbers without using the Internet can call 1-800-FREE411 (800-373-3411) or 1-800-YELLOWPAGES (800-935-5697).

For more information about Commissioner Skrmetta, visit wwwEricSkrmetta.com or find him on Facebook.  Consumers can also contact him at 1-800-228-9368.

 

REPORTS OF SCAM CONTINUE, MORE VICTIMS MAY BE UNAWARE

Since alerting the public to a pair of utility-related scams on Wednesday, Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta said approximately 100 additional reports have been received by his office and by utility providers throughout the state.

One of the cons involves unknown persons visiting consumers at home to collect payment for their utility bills.  The criminal pretends to collect information for a company called Bill Matrix – a legitimate company not involved in the scam – and gleans from consumers their social security numbers and other personal information.  Victims are told their bill will be paid through this system, but the bill is never paid and funds are withdrawn from the consumer’s account.

In the other scam, consumers are receiving electronic messages telling them their utility bills are being paid by the federal government with monies collected from the BP oil spill settlement.  Customers are directed to provide personal information and are given a routing number.  Electronic payments appear to go through but are later rejected and the same situation results, with service disconnects and the release of personal information that often results in theft directly from the victims’ bank accounts.

“I’ve talked with local sheriffs, the State Police and federal investigators about these crimes, and am encouraging citizens to continue calling utility providers and my office if you have been or suspect you have been victimized,” Skrmetta said.  “From what we can tell, these scams have been occurring in multiple communities around Louisiana, and we are concerned more victims have not yet come forward.  Consumers need to be very cautious and aware, and should report suspicious or criminal behavior immediately to law enforcement authorities and to the Public Service Commission.”

Anyone who has been a victim of these scams is asked to call Skrmetta’s office at 800-228-9368.

 

SKRMETTA CAUTIONS CONSUMERS ABOUT UTILITY SCAMS

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta has been in contact with local, state and federal authorities about two utility scams being perpetrated against consumers and is cautioning citizens to be alert and to avoid becoming victims.

In one scam, publicized a few weeks ago, unknown persons are visiting consumers at home to collect payment for their Entergy bills.  The criminal pretends to collect information for a company called Bill Matrix – a legitimate company not involved in the scam – and gleans from consumers their social security numbers and other personal information.  Victims are told their bill will be paid through this system, but the bill is never paid.  The results have included utility disconnects and, worse, victims have made themselves vulnerable to identity theft by revealing personal information to a stranger with obvious criminal intent.

In the other con, consumers are receiving emails or texts telling them their utility bills are being paid by the federal government with monies collected from the BP oil spill settlement.  Customers are directed to provide personal information and are given a routing number.  Electronic payments appear to go through but are later rejected and the same situation results, with service disconnects and the release of personal information.

“In speaking with the FBI about these issues, I am assured that law enforcement authorities are giving these crimes their best attention,” Skrmetta said.  “In the meantime, consumers need to be aware of these scams and not fall prey to con artists.  Customers can also help police stop these criminals by turning the tables, getting as much information as possible without releasing any in return and then sharing that information with police and with my office.  Information such as a number on caller ID, the name of the fake customer service representative, and even the times of day when such emails, calls or texts arrive, can be helpful in this investigation.  If someone comes to your door to collect payment, do not let them in.  Get a description and call police immediately.  No reputable utility provider collects payments in this way.”

Anyone who has been a victim of these scams is asked to call Skrmetta’s office at 800-228-9368.

For more information, visit www.EricSkrmetta.com and Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.com.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TOWN HALL MEETING – THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Livingston Parish on Thursday, April 26, 2012 from 5:00- 6:00 pm at the Old City Hall located at 115 Mattie Street, Denham Springs, LA  70726.  This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of Livingston Parish to assist with any consumer concerns or issues related to utility companies operating in the area.  For more information please call one of our District 1 offices:  Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930 or our toll free number (800) 228-9368, or visit our website at www.ericskrmetta.com<http://www.ericskrmetta.com> and Facebook page “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC

Smart Meters in LPSC District 1

In response to constituent requests, Commissioner Skrmetta obtained information today from CLECO regarding the installation of Smart Meters in LPSC District 1.

According to CLECO, any Smart Meter installed in LPSC District 1 is part of a voluntary pilot program offered to local customers.  Participation in this program is completely optional and no Smart Meters will be installed without prior customer approval.  CLECO’s pilot program mirrors the SmartView pilot program that Entergy launched earlier this year.

Consumers are reminded that traditional meters (turning dials) are no longer mechanical but are now solid state electronic (digital).

Commissioner Skrmetta is a steadfast supporter of consumer choice and will continue to work with local providers to ensure that future Smart Meter installation is always voluntary.

SKRMETTA ASKS NORTHSHORE UTILITY PROVIDER TO ACCEPT PAYMENTS LOCALLY

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta is pleased to announce that  water and wastewater utility company Utilities, Inc. will begin to accept payments at local Wal-Mart stores, saving customers postage costs and time.

At his Town Hall meeting in Mandeville last month, Skrmetta heard from consumers who wanted the convenience of paying bills in-person instead of mailing them out of town.  Skrmetta has previously discussed the need for local payment options with Utilities, Inc. management and is pleased that the company responded by offering arrangements with local Wal-Mart stores in many of its markets including  Covington.

Utilities, Inc. provides service to customers via several systems in the Covington and Slidell areas.

To utilize this new payment option, Utilities, Inc. customers can bring cash payment and a copy of their bill to the Customer Service counter of a local Wal-Mart. The cost of this payment will be 88 cents for a three-day posting, or $1.88 for next-day posting to the account. If the payment is either for a late or service interruption payment, the customer must call Utilities, Inc. at 1-800-272-1919 after making the payment to provide the confirmation number.

“This quick resolution shows that even a large company like Utilities, Inc. listens to the needs of its customers, and wants to continue to improve their service,” Skrmetta said.  “I’m always interested in hearing these types of concerns and in interceding on behalf of consumers whenever possible.”

For more information or to contact Commissioner Skrmetta, Facebook.com/EricSkrmetta, email eric@ericskrmetta.com, or call 800-228-9368.

For more information about Utilities, Inc., visit www.UIWater.com.

 

Media Contact:

James Hartman

james@jameshartman.net

NEW TAXI REGULATIONS IN EFFECT

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

 

 NEW TAXI REGULATIONS IN EFFECT 

A new order authored by Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will significantly impact the quality of service provided by taxicab companies throughout Louisiana in the new year.

 

The order, passed unanimously at the LPSC’s Dec. 14 meeting, imposes new standards and registration regulations on cab and limousine companies and drivers, all designed to improve passengers’ experience and safety.  Among the new regulations is a rule requiring each taxi driver to be registered with the LPSC; the previous order only required the cab company itself to have an LPSC registration number.  The order also restates the existing requirement that each driver have his or her identification, license and proof of insurance prominently displayed in his or her cab.

 

“Prior to this order going into effect, a consumer might call a cab company or local regulating authority to complain about a cab driver’s conduct or operation of the vehicle, but be unable to identify the specific driver,” Skrmetta said.  “With the new regulations in place, each driver will have an individual registration number, attached as a decimal behind the company’s identifier.  This also provides a database of all cab drivers, which will be accessible to the public and will help law enforcement when necessary.”

 

Additionally, the new order requires all cabs to accept credit or debit card payments.  Previously, cab companies could insist on cash-only payment, which often inconvenienced passengers or required them to either find an ATM or have the cab driver transport them to a cash machine and wait while the passenger withdrew money, resulting in a higher fare.

 

“In an increasingly cash-less culture, having the ability to pay a far with a credit or debit card will be a tremendous option to passengers,” Skrmetta said.  “Drivers will also be required to provide printed receipts, making record-keeping easier for all parties.”

 

The order also regulates driver conduct, including a prohibition on cell phone use – including hands-free devices – while transporting passengers.  At least one vehicle in every 20 must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  All taxis will be required to have working seatbelts for all passengers and, beginning in 2013, no taxi may be more than seven years old.

 

“These new regulations will positively impact the safety and experience of passengers and cab drivers alike,” Skrmetta said.  “At a public hearing held before final passage of this order, the cab company operators present all expressed support for these steps.”

 

The order also delineates penalties for non-compliance, and establishes a Passenger Bill of Rights.  The LPSC has the authority to regulate any cab company that operates in a radius of more than 10 miles.

 

The Passenger Bill of Rights established by the order can be viewed here or on Commissioner Skrmetta’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/EricSkrmetta.

 

Media Contact:

James Hartman

504.458.4600

james@jameshartman.net

 

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