World’s largest solar plant applying for federal grant to pay off federal loan

By William La Jeuness

After already receiving a controversial $1.6 billion construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, the wealthy investors of a California solar power plant now want a $539 million federal grant to pay off their federal loan.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” said Reason Foundation VP of Research Julian Morris. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

“They’re already paying less than the market rate,” said Morris, author of a lengthy report detailing alleged cronyism and corruption in the Obama administration’s green energy programs. “Now demanding or asking for a subsidy in the form of a grant directly paying off the loan is an egregious abuse.”

NRG doesn’t see it that way, telling Fox News the money is there for the taking.”NRG believes in a clean and sustainable energy future and therefore participates in available government programs to develop and expand the use of clean energy to accelerate America’s energy independence.” In 2013, the Obama administration handed out $18.5 billion in renewable energy grants, with $4.4 billion going to solar projects.

Ivanpah is the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. It was unveiled in February with great fanfare. Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, justified taxpayers’ investment at the time, saying, “We want to be technology leaders. It’s good for our economy and it’s also good for helping stimulate the global transition to low carbon.”

But since then the plant has not lived up to its clean energy promise. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the plant produced only about a quarter of the power it’s supposed to, a disappointing 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity from January through August, not the million megawatt-hours it promised.

A NRG spokesman blamed the weather, saying the sun didn’t shine as often as years of studies predicted. However by the four-year mark, NRG has “every confidence that the plant will function as anticipated for the life of the facility,”according to the company.

Touted as a clean, green energy, some environmentalists have turned against concentrated solar as a technology, deeming it dangerous and a threat to wildlife. Unlike solar photovoltaics, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, CSP uses thousands of large mirrors to concentrate reflected sunlight into powerful beams aimed at “power towers.” The heat generates steam to turn turbines that create electricity.

The problem is that birds see the mirrors as water. As they approach, the 800º F solar beams roast any bird that happens to fly by. A recent study released by the California Energy Commission conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity called Ivanpah a “mega-trap” that will kill up to 28,000 birds a year.

The plants’ owner at the time, BrightSource Energy, said it will likely kill only a thousand birds a year. BrightSource came under scrutiny by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and investigators found the company received direct “guidance and support from the White House” for how it obtained its $1.6 billion in federal loans.

ARTICLE SOURCE

St. Tammany Republican panel makes initial round of endorsements

By Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

The St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee has issued its first round of endorsements for the Nov. 4 elections, including support of Congressman Steve Scalise‘s bid for re-election. The endorsements stem from a forum the panel held on Saturday (Sept. 13) for candidates in select races.

After the public meeting, the RPEC went into executive session to consider endorsements.  Endorsements made public Monday were:

  • Steve Scalise, U. S. House of Representatives, 1st District.
  • Dawn Amacker, state judge, 22nd Judicial District, Division L.
  • Eric Skrmetta, Public Service Commission.
  • Michael Nation, St. Tammany Parish School Board, 6thDistrict.
  • Sharon Lo Drucker, St. Tammany Parish School Board, 9th District.
  • “Chuck” Wohltmann, Justice of the Peace, 1st Ward.

 

Article Source

EPA carbon rule draws mixed reaction from Louisiana business, policy leaders

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By Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

Louisiana policy and business leaders have only just started to review the Obama’s administration’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. But the 645-page proposal is already drawing mixed reaction as to how it will impact the state.

The new rule released on Monday (June 2) places the nation’s 600 or so coal-fired plants directly in its crosshairs as one of the largest sources of carbon pollution.

If implemented, experts predict the standard could lead to widespread closures of coal plants and reshape how and where the country gets its power. They’re also expected to prompt a wave of legal and legislative opposition in coming months.

The rule has a more nuanced implication in Louisiana, where coal plants support only about 13 percent of electricity demand.

While that demand is vast, particularly along the Mississippi River industrial corridor, the state gets the majority of its power from cleaner burning natural gas plants with a small share of nuclear power.

It is also a leading producer of natural gas, a commodity that’s expected to become the fuel of choice as power producers wean themselves from coal.

Chuck Barlow, vice president of environmental policy and strategy for Entergy Corp., which provides power to 2.8 million customers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas, said the EPA proposal sets “stringent” targets for carbon emissions reduction, but it is not expected to lead to debilitating costs or closures for the company. The New Orleans-based utility only generates about 10 percent of its power from coal plants.

Barlow said the company is still reviewing the regulations to ensure that goals for reducing carbon pollution are rational. For example, Entergy wants power produced by its nuclear plants, which have no carbon emissions, to cancel out pollution from power produced by dirtier plants under the new standards.

“We feel like we’re in a good position to go forward here,” Barlow said. “But the targets still have to be reasonable.”

The EPA rules sets pollution goals at the state level, rather than for each power plant. States are given a number of routes to meet the new standard, including adjusting their power generation mix to include emission sources such as solar and wind, and joining regional programs where they can buy and sell permits to pollute, so called “cap and trade” programs.

Louisiana congressional members were quick to condemn the new plan. The regulation represents President Barack Obama’s decision to use his authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions linked to climate change after his legislative proposals failed to make it through Congress during his first term.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate Energy Committee, reiterated her view that Congress, not the EPA, should set carbon emission standards.

Louisiana Republicans, including Sen David Vitter, Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson and Gov. Bobby Jindal, all criticized the proposed regulation.

Local policy leaders echoed that criticism.

Eric Skrmetta, the Republican chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which oversees electric power utilities statewide, said he’s doubtful the EPA will take a hands-off approach to the way states plan how they meet the new standards.

Skrmetta said the U.S. risks losing hundreds of thousands of jobs and economic loss in exchange for a marginal reduction in the air pollution. In a report released last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed the rule could result in 224,000 jobs lost and $50 billion in annual costs.

“These rules are economy killers and it will affect the economy of Louisiana one way or another,” Skrmetta said, adding he will support any decision by the state to fight the new rule in court.

Louisiana may not have many coal plants, but it is connected to the national power market, which will see rising electricity prices as hundreds of coal plants close, he said.

He said Louisiana’s natural gas power plants could be called on to support demand in other parts of the country, straining local supply, particularly for industrial users.

He noted many industrial users sign contracts that allow utilities to switch off their power when demand peaks among residential users in exchange for lower rates. That could become more common, he said.

Ratepayer advocates say such concerns are overblown.

Casey Demoss Roberts, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans-based advocacy group, said the Obama administration’s plan calls for a gradual phase out of coal plants, not immediate closures.

“If every coal plant shut down today there would be an issue. But if we can plan this out, which is what this rule is doing, then it’s phasing out” coal power, Roberts said.

Roberts added states have flexibility to plan what power plants are the cheapest to run and to use methods such as investing in energy efficiency to meet standards. That benefits customers, she said.

The EPA has “a very good way of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions in an affordable way,” she said.

State environmental groups largely welcomed the EPA’s proposed guidelines, which they see as a key step in reducing greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which includes more than 50 local environmental organizations among its members, said the new program is long overdue.

“We are at a time in the history of our country and our world where we must no longer talk about the impact of climate change, but take concrete actions to reduce greenhouse emissions to help the health and the economy of our state, nation and world,” Orr said.

If the new rules take effect, power producers are expected to rely increasingly on natural gas to fuel new and existing power plants in coming years.

That’s good news for Louisiana oil and gas companies that produce natural gas, but a concern for manufacturers that rely on the commodity.

Dan Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, said the industry “uses natural gas like a baker’s shop uses flour.”

Borne said a historic low in natural gas prices afforded by the U.S. fracking boom has given the industry an unprecedented advantage over the rest of the world, one that could last for decades if supply and demand remain balanced.

He said the EPA rules threaten to shift the scales and prompt a spike in gas prices.

ARTICLE SOURCE

TAX FREE HURRICANE WEEKEND STARTS TOMORROW

Fellow Louisianans,

As June 1 approaches, many of us are thinking about vacations, children, and how to stay cool in the heavy South Louisiana heat. What we must also consider, however, is the arrival of Hurricane Season. As Louisianan’s we understand this fact of life and know its time to prepare.

This weekend, the State of Louisiana offers a Sales Tax Holiday for the purchase of any supplies related to preparing for the season. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity for savings. While local sales taxes will still apply, purchases of hurricane-related supplies such as generators, flashlights, batteries, etc., will be exempt from state sales taxes. It’s a small way in which we encourage you to prepare for the season.

I am personally preparing my family and I am also preparing as your Public Service Commissioner. I am in contact with your utility providers and I have double-checked with each of them to ensure they are also as prepared as possible. I am confident that each of them are prepared to restore your services as quickly as possible in the event of a tropical weather event.

You can benefit yourself by being prepared. Have your hurricane plan include a review of evacuation routes, planning a place to stay, and travel with basic supplies. When it becomes clear that you will be impacted by a storm you can further prepare by filling your gas tank and ensuring that you have all necessary medications. If no evacuation order is made and you choose to stay, make sure you have adequate supplies of non-perishable food and bottled water for your whole family – including your pets.

Focus your concerns on you and your family. While you do your part, I will do everything within my power to have utilities restored in a reasonable timeframe. We all hope and pray it doesn’t happen but if it does, we need to be ready.

Sincerely,
Eric Skrmetta

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

no-text

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.

Hurricane Season 2014

Fellow Louisianans,

As June 1 approaches, many of us are thinking about vacations, children, and how to stay cool in the heavy South Louisiana heat. What we must also consider, however, is the arrival of Hurricane Season. As Louisianan’s we understand this fact of life and know its time to prepare.

This weekend, the State of Louisiana offers a Sales Tax Holiday for the purchase of any supplies related to preparing for the season. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity for savings. While local sales taxes will still apply, purchases of hurricane-related supplies such as generators, flashlights, batteries, etc., will be exempt from state sales taxes. It’s a small way in which we encourage you to prepare for the season.

I am personally preparing my family and I am also preparing as your Public Service Commissioner. I am in contact with your utility providers and I have double-checked with each of them to ensure they are also as prepared as possible. I am confident that each of them are prepared to restore your services as quickly as possible in the event of a tropical weather event.

You can benefit yourself by being prepared. Have your hurricane plan include a review of evacuation routes, planning a place to stay, and travel with basic supplies. When it becomes clear that you will be impacted by a storm you can further prepare by filling your gas tank and ensuring that you have all necessary medications. If no evacuation order is made and you choose to stay, make sure you have adequate supplies of non-perishable food and bottled water for your whole family – including your pets.

Focus your concerns on you and your family. While you do your part, I will do everything within my power to have utilities restored in a reasonable timeframe. We all hope and pray it doesn’t happen but if it does, we need to be ready.

Sincerely,
Eric Skrmetta

TAX FREE HURRICANE WEEKEND STARTS TOMORROW

Fellow Louisianans,

As June 1 approaches, many of us are thinking about vacations, children, and how to stay cool in the heavy South Louisiana heat. What we must also consider, however, is the arrival of Hurricane Season. As Louisianan’s we understand this fact of life and know its time to prepare.

This weekend, the State of Louisiana offers a Sales Tax Holiday for the purchase of any supplies related to preparing for the season. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity for savings. While local sales taxes will still apply, purchases of hurricane-related supplies such as generators, flashlights, batteries, etc., will be exempt from state sales taxes. It’s a small way in which we encourage you to prepare for the season.

I am personally preparing my family and I am also preparing as your Public Service Commissioner. I am in contact with your utility providers and I have double-checked with each of them to ensure they are also as prepared as possible. I am confident that each of them are prepared to restore your services as quickly as possible in the event of a tropical weather event.

You can benefit yourself by being prepared. Have your hurricane plan include a review of evacuation routes, planning a place to stay, and travel with basic supplies. When it becomes clear that you will be impacted by a storm you can further prepare by filling your gas tank and ensuring that you have all necessary medications. If no evacuation order is made and you choose to stay, make sure you have adequate supplies of non-perishable food and bottled water for your whole family – including your pets.

Focus your concerns on you and your family. While you do your part, I will do everything within my power to have utilities restored in a reasonable timeframe. We all hope and pray it doesn’t happen but if it does, we need to be ready.

Sincerely,
Eric Skrmetta

Back to basics at FERC

By: Eric Skrmetta

On May 20th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans a hearing on the nominations of Cheryl A. LaFleur and Norman C. Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Spring has brought better weather and opportunity in Washington. Louisiana’s own Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) recently became chair of the committee, which enjoys jurisdiction over energy issues ranging from oil and natural gas to electricity. The senator from the sportsman’s paradise knows abundant supplies of energy mean affordable prices for consumers. It’s fair to expect the senator will question the nominees about FERC issues important to the Pelican state, such as liquefied natural gas exports and plans by a hedge fund to abandon a 370-mile natural gas pipeline that could eliminate service and double the utility bills of thousands of Louisianans.

I hope Sen. Landrieu and her colleagues will ask Mr. Bay and Ms. LaFleur about FERC efforts to protect the reliability of the nation’s power grid and ensure the affordability of electricity for consumers. The FERC nominees should also address FERC’s controversial and unprecedented effort in its Order 1000 to restructure the nation’s transmission grid.

As spring arrives, the deep freeze that slammed the North for weeks has given way to moderate temperatures. But last winter’s polar vortex has left a heaping pile of questions about future rate shocks and the ability of utilities to keep the lights on. Consumers want utilities and regulators to get back to the basics of sensible economics. According to recent polls, cost and reliability rank ahead of all other electricity issues for consumers.

Ratepayers are justifiably worried. Last winter’s polar vortex was not just a historic winter storm but a warning about how we will deliver energy on a future grid designed on policy and not economics. Federal regulations forcing the retirement of coal-fired plants, and the dash to low priced natural gas, raise the certain guarantee of power shortfalls and price volatility.

As a series of cold snaps marched across the East Coast last winter, it’s a fact that coal saved the day—and just barely and only temporarily. American Electric Power Company president Nicholas Akins told members of Congress that almost 90 percent of the generation his utility needed to meet power demand in January won’t be available in 2015. “This country did not just dodge a bullet – we dodged a cannonball,” Akins said.

FERC can’t be blamed for freezing temperatures, volatility in the natural gas markets or environmental restrictions imposed by other federal agencies. But it remains unclear how FERC’s plans for the nation’s power grid will address reliability and affordability issues. FERC’s approach to transmission, without a better understanding of electrical generation shortfall, seems less a solution than part of the problem.

Order 1000 imposed radical changes in the way utilities and regions plan and pay for new transmission. Washington would micro-manage the electricity system by demanding top-down regional planning that ignored state and local authority. The FERC also wanted electricity costs determined in a new way. Instead of shielding consumers from high rates, FERC mandated costs be spread more widely and benefits defined more broadly.

FERC’s approach in Order 1000 was predicated on the goal of building a nationwide high-voltage transmission system that would deliver enormous amounts of intermittent clean electricity thousands of miles from the windiest parts of the country to the nation’s heavily populated cities. The advent of low priced natural gas and the rise of solar energy, especially distributed generation, raise questions about whether Order 1000 encourages construction of overpriced transmission projects that are already obsolete and a waste of ratepayer funds.

The FERC’s implementation of Order 1000 over the last year has only exacerbated concerns about the commission’s grid effort. These orders saddle many consumers with unfair transmission costs, assert unprecedented FERC authority over public power and erode the traditional authority of state and regional regulators.

As a result, these federal efforts have divided the FERC, provoked a backlash in Congress and caused a vigorous response from state utility regulators. Last July, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners issued a resolution stating that state Order 1000 “inappropriately infringes on State authority” in key areas of transmission policy. FERC’s failure to recognize the indispensable role that states play “could actually delay successful transmission planning and cost allocation,” the resolution stated.

On Capitol Hill, Landrieu’s predecessor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), as committee chairman, was so displeased with FERC’s rejection of key aspects of a compliance plan for the Northwest that he threatened legislation if FERC failed to reverse its ruling. Landrieu has expressed doubts about FERC’s approach to transmission since 2009.

Congress is the appropriate forum for consideration of national electricity power and the upcoming hearing provides an opportunity to continue the debate on FERC transmission policy. Here’s the bottom line: It’s time for FERC to focus on keeping the lights on and ensuring just and reasonable rates for consumers. Economic value for ratepayers must take precedence over government policy.

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/206381-back-to-basics-at-ferc#ixzz32I64MJ4L

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ST. TAMMANY PARISH

By: James Hartman

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chair Eric Skrmetta will hold a Satellite Office/Town Hall meeting in St. Tammany Parish on Monday, April 21, from 5-6 p.m. at the St Tammany Parish Library Madisonville Branch located at 1123 Main Street in Madisonville.

Skrmetta holds monthly Town Hall meetings in the various parishes he represents to meet with constituents and discuss matters of concern related to utility service. Citizens of St. Tammany Parish who have consumer concerns or issues related to utility companies operating in the area are encouraged to attend.

Citizens who are unable to attend or anyone who has a utility concern may call one of Skrmetta’s offices in Mandeville (985.624.4660) or Metairie (504.846.6930), or on his toll free number, (800) 228-9368. Skrmetta can also be contacted through his website, www.ericskrmetta.com and via Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

SKRMETTA REELECTED CHAIR OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R-Metairie) has been reelected chair of the five-member panel that regulates the state’s utility industries.

At the Commission’s monthly meeting this morning, Skrmetta was reelected to a one-year term by a 4-1 vote.

“I’m really heartened by this vote and by the margin,” said Skrmetta. “I look forward to the coming year as chairman and to continuing our work to protect our citizens’ financial and energy interests.”

Skrmetta was also re-named the Commission’s representative to OMS, the Organization of MISO States.

Commissioner Clyde Holloway was elected vice chairman. Commissioner Lambert Boissiere was named the LPSC’s representative to the Entergy Regional State Committee (ERSC).

For more information about Skrmetta, visit www.ericskrmetta.com and find him on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

For more information about MISO, visit www.MISOstates.org. For more information about the ERSC, visit http://entergy.com/energydelivery/reg_state_committee.aspx.

Media Contact:
James Hartman
504.458.4600
james@jameshartman.net

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN PLAQUEMINES PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Plaquemines Parish on Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 5:30- 6:30 p.m. at the Plaquemines Parish Public Library located at 8442 Hwy 23, in Belle Chasse.

Skrmetta holds monthly Town Hall meetings in the various parishes he represents to meet with constituents and discuss matters of concern related to utility service. Citizens of Plaquemines Parish who have consumer concerns or issues related to utility companies operating in the area are encouraged to attend.

For more information, please call one of Skrmetta’s offices in Mandeville (985.624.4660) or Metairie (504.846.6930) or on his toll free number, (800) 228-9368, or visit www.ericskrmetta.com and find him on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

Media Contact:
James Hartman
james@jameshartman.net
504.458.4600

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

 

View original article here

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ST. TAMMANY PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in St. Tammany Parish on Thursday, Sept.  19, from 5-6 p.m. at the new St Tammany Parish Library Madisonville Branch located at 1123 Main St., Madisonville, LA  70447.

Skrmetta holds monthly Town Hall meetings in the parishes he represents to assist with any consumer concerns or 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 about this meeting or to contact Skrmetta with utility-related concerns, consumers can call his office in Metairie at (504) 846-6930 or his toll free number, (800) 228-9368.  Please visit his website at www.ericskrmetta.com and “like” his page on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC

Media Contact: 

James Hartman
james@jameshartman.net
504.458.4600

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 TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN ASCENSION PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Satellite Office/Town Hall meeting in Ascension Parish on Thursday, August 22 from 5-6 p.m. at the Ascension Parish Council Chambers, 828 S. Irma Blvd., in Gonzales.

Skrmetta holds monthly Town Hall meetings in the parishes he represents to assist with any consumer concerns or issues related to utility companies operating in the area.

All residents are welcome to attend, but Skrmetta’s district includes only 13 precincts in Ascension Parish.  Precincts in District 1 are numbers 4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, 26, 27, 35, and 41.  District 1 Boundaries are: From the Livingston/Ascension line and State Route 44 to Babin, then along Black Bayou to Bayou Francois, to Hwy. 22 then along the Livingston/Ascension line to Bayou Manchac and back to State Route 44.

For more information about this meeting or to contact Skrmetta with utility-related concerns, consumers can call his office in Metairie at (504) 846-6930 or his toll free number, (800) 228-9368.  Please visit our website at www.ericskrmetta.com and “like” us on Facebook at “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC”

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

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

Seal looks to curb texting while driving

By Lucy Parker The Daily News

“Put the cellphone away while driving” is the message Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal and Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta want to get out to the public.

Joined by Rick Demint, director of external affairs for AT&T Louisiana, they spoke Thursday at the Sheriff’s Office about the issue and Seal’s proclamation of May 15-June 15 “No Texting While Driving Month.”

“I take my duty to protect our parish very seriously,” Seal said. “By educating our citizens about the dangers of texting while driving, we can improve safety and save lives.”

The Public Service Commission made a statewide proclamation of April as “No Texting While Driving Month,” and Skrmetta is now working with local law enforcement agencies to get the word about the dangers of texting while driving out to all members of the public.

“Far too often lives are drastically changed due to a texting-while-driving accident, but together we can change this trend,” Skrmetta said. “Taking the pledge to never text and drive and living up to it is a way to make communities throughout Louisiana safer.”

Skrmetta said a major effort of the program is reaching out to beginning drivers and getting the teens to pledge they will not text and drive.

Nearly 25 percent of all car accidents, approximately 1.6 million per year, are caused by texting and driving, according to the National Safety Council. Texting while driving is about six times more likely to cause an accident than any other highway accident cause, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration determined.

AT&T is working to bring attention to the issue through its “It Can Wait” campaign. In 2012, 165 organizations and a number of educators, legislators and other supporters took the pledge not to drink and drive. Through the combined effort, more than 1.2 million people made the pledge via the website ItCanWait.com, Facebook and Twitter, in addition to text-to-pledge initiatives and live events.

As part of an expanded 2013 effort, AT&T is working with device makers to preload into handsets technologies and solutions that are intended to curb texting while driving. The company’s goal is to make the solutions a standard part of all of its smartphones.

One such solution is the DriveMode Mobile App, which notifies senders of text messages that the driver is behind the wheel and will respond when it is safe to do so. More information on the app is available at att.com/drivemode.

The company is also making “It Can Wait” resources available to other organizations and has launched a nationwide tour of a texting-while-driving simulator.

Skrmetta said the simulator brings the message about the dangers of texting while driving home to students by showing them how many accidents they could get in by engaging in the practice.

“It’s a very, very nice system, and we hope they expand the program and bring it to more schools and give everybody a shot to have that experience,” he said.

The simulator is rotated to Louisiana several times a year, and Demint hopes to get it to a local school, possibly this fall.

Seal said he will ensure his deputies are more aware of texting while driving and that they will be on the lookout for it while they are out patrolling.

“We will enforce this law very vigorously,” he said.

Seal and Skrmetta encourage drivers to take the take the no-texting-while-driving pledge by visiting ItCanWait.com.

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‘No Texting While Driving Month’ in Washington Parish

Sheriff Seale and Safety Commisioner challenge drivers to join “It Can Wait” movement

Author: Alissa Vilardo

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal, Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta and Rick Demint, Director of External Affairs for AT&T Louisiana, joined forces May 16 to encourage residents of Washington Parish to think twice before texting while driving by declaring May 15 – June 15, 2013 “No Texting While Driving Month.”

“I take my duty to protect our parish very serious,” said Sheriff Seal.  “By educating or citizens about the dangers of texting while driving, we can improve safety and save lives.”

The Public Service Commission recently issued a proclamation encouraging Louisiana residents to never text and drive, and Chairman Skrmetta is working with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to spread the word.

“Far too often, lives are drastically changed due to a texting-while-driving accident, but together we can change this trend,” said Chairman Skrmetta.  “Taking the pledge to never text and drive and living up to it is a way to make communities throughout Louisiana safer.”

To drive home this message, AT&T has joined the effort and works with local communities throughout Louisiana to bring more attention to this important issue.

In 2012, 165 organizations, including national nonprofits, commercial businesses, law enforcement agencies, professional associations and government agencies, as well as many educators, legislators, and other supporters, helped get out eh message and encouraged people to make a personal pledge not to text and drive.  This combined effort, including those of the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Organizations for Youth Safety, SADD, Big Brothers Big Sisters, RadioShack and CTIA-The Wireless Association, made a difference.  Major highlights include:

  • Awareness of the It Can Wait message increased 26 percent during the key campaign  period.
  • One-in-three people in that period said that texting while driving messages have an impact on driving habits.
  • More than 1.2 million no-texting-while-driving pledges were made at ItCanWait.com and through Facebook, Twitter, live events and text-to-pledge initiatives.

In 2013, AT&T is extending its work with existing It Can Wait collaborators and significantly expanding their ranks.  Plans include:

  • Working with device makers to pre-load no-texting-while-driving technologies and solutions into handsets, with the goal of making these solutions standard on all AT&T smartphones.
  • Making resources—ranging from It Can Wait branded materials, to teaching aids and sample company policies—available to other organizations  for programs they develop.
  • Launching a year-round texting-while-driving simulator tour targeting more than 380 events nationwide.

Sheriff Seal and Chairman Skrmetta call on all drivers to go to www.ItCanWait.com to take the no-texting-while-driving pledge and then share their promise with others via Facebook and Twitter (#itcanwait).  The pledge is part of the public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving.

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NOPD arrests cab driver in rape, citing help from cab camera, GPS system

By Andrew Vanacore, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on May 07, 2013 at 6:35 PM, updated May 07, 2013 at 6:53 PM

New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Tuesday that new city ordinances requiring video cameras and GPS tracking systems in taxicabs helped detectives find and arrest a cab driver suspected in the rape of a woman last Thursday.

Serpas said police have arrested Sohail Kahn, 40, and plan to book him with second-degree kidnapping and simple rape. He said Kahn has been arrested at least twice before: once in 2011 for getting into a fight with a patron in Jefferson Parish, which resulted in a guilty plea and a fine; and on another occasion the year before in New Jersey, on a charge of attempting to solicit a prostitute.

On May 2, a 20-year-old woman told police that she was taking a cab home at about 3:30 in the morning when her driver pulled over in the 7600 block of Plum Street and raped her.

cab-rape-suspect-sketch-5-3-2013-plum-street.jpgThis is the sketch of a cab driver arrested in the rape of a woman in the 7600 block of Plum Street on May 2. NOPD

Serpas said video footage from the camera in Kahn’s cab helped corroborate the woman’s account. Malachi Hull, director of the New Orleans Taxicab and For-Hire Bureau, said newly installed GPS systems helped his agency narrow down which cabs could have been in the area at the time.

Serpas stressed that the case should be seen as an example of “a bad apple,” and said he expects in many instances that the new taxi cameras will actually help police pursue charges against patrons who mistreat drivers.

“Think of it from both sides of the coin,” Serpas said. “In this case, the video confirms the victim’s testimony to us. Imagine on the other side, though, we have a lot of times where people refuse to pay cab drivers, and people treat cab drivers in the worst possible ways you can imagine. Video also helps the police on that side too.”

 

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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.”

SKRMETTA TO HOLD TOWN HALL MEETING IN TANGIPAHOA PARISH

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta will hold a Town Hall meeting in Tangipahoa  Parish on Thursday, April 18, from 5-6 p.m. at the Tangipahoa Parish Public Library, 314 East Thomas St., in Hammond.

This meeting is being held as a courtesy to the citizens of Tangipahoa 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 one of our District 1 offices in Mandeville (985) 624-4660 or Metairie (504) 846-6930, or call the toll-free number, (800) 228-9368.  More information about Skrmetta and the LPSE 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 504.458.4600No taxpayer dollars were used in the creation or distribution of this message.

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

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 18:51

Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta 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.”

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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.

Carpe Veritas

by: Eric Skrmetta, Chairman, Louisiana Public Service Commission

March 13, 2013

recent opinion written in Forbes.com attacked the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) for overturning the energy efficiency (EE) program that was first voted into place by the LPSC in December 2012. The article published on March 3, 2013 stated, Forty six states have implemented energy efficiency programs similar to the one rejected by Louisiana’s PSC.”

This could well be true. Since adoption though, most of the 46 states have now realized that these programs will cost more than predicted or expected, and the costs of these programs are directly passed along to the consumer and included on each person’s utility bill. Accordingly, many of these states are now working to reduce these programs due to these higher than predicted costs.

The author used an analogy to support his opinion on energy efficiency. He wrote, “Consider my new drying machine. Last year, I replaced the dinosaur-era clothes dryer I had inherited from a previous owner of my home in southwestern Connecticut. The new drying machine cost me about $350 but also reduced my monthly electric bills fell by about $60. In other words, I saved enough money on my utility bills to pay for my new clothes dryer in only six months.”

Congratulations to the author, as that is exactly what most people do. Folks buy appliances that save them money. And they do it all the time without a government program telling them to do it or mandating their participation.

The author also noted, “The DOE’s arithmetic concludes that every dollar spent on energy efficiency creates $0.49 more economic activity than every dollar spent on an electric bill creates in local communities. This makes sense to me and 46 other U.S. states.” That is correct. Every penny you save on any expenditure allows you to spend it on something else of your choice. And every dollar less a consumer spends on his utility bill, on a program that has become suspect, is another dollar saved by the consumers to spend as they choose, not by government mandate.

We should note that the author of the article is William Pentland, Senior Director of Market Development atClearEdge Power, 195 Governors Hwy, South Windsor, CT 06074(860) 727- 2200 | Main: 877-CLR-EDGE (257-3343). Mr. Pentland failed to note that he is also associated with ClearEdge Power. ClearEdge Power is delivering “smart” energy solutions today to improve Energy Efficiency. I wonder why they would be so focused on getting more expensive programs passed into law? I would hazard a guess that they have a dog in the hunt.

Not surprising is that, according to Eric Wesoff of greentechmedia.com, “ClearEdge recently received $2.8 million from the Federal DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Fuel Cell Technologies Program to deploy fuel cells in a variety of commercial buildings.” “… the money is intended to defray the upfront cost of the units.” So, the Fed subsidized this transaction, through a federal Energy Efficiency program.

Casey DeMoss Roberts, of The Alliance for Affordable Energy, made the recent comment on nola.com: “What Commissioner Skrmetta did to repeal the energy efficiency law was closed, suspicious, and excluded the public.” Clearly the sour grapes eliminates the facts that the entire process was open for years, numerous comments were made, testimony was taken, and questionable reports were generated all in public. There is nothing “suspicious” or “exclusive” about a previously announced statement that the issue would be challenged in the future. The result is not to avoid an EE policy, but it is to have one that makes sense and is not cluttered by questionable reports, actions and administration.

The EE program that the LPSC approved in December 2012 was proposed through a motion, previously undistributed to the member Commissioners until the time of the vote, except for the Commissioner making the motion. The motion was even made before the contract consultant that was hired by the commission had completed his study of EE programs in other states. The December motion was, in my opinion, railroaded through process and I chose to vote for it; and then publicly stated that I voted for the motion so that, under Roberts Rules of Order, I would be able to bring this matter up again when it would be possible to challenge the EE policy in the future in order to obtain a more meaningful option.

By way of illustration, let’s review what the former LPSC EE policy would have created:

  1. A bureaucracy spending thirty million dollars ($30,000,000.00) of ratepayer money to be spent over the next four years for unspecific purposes for a “Phase 1” program. The money would be spent to hire third party administrators who would then develop programs on how to spend money on EE through unknown mechanisms. That money had to be paid for by rate payers and would have appeared as an additional charge on consumers’ bills. That was only Phase 1, and there is no knowing how many other phases would be sought to support the groups seeking to manage these poorly developed programs.
  2. These third party administrators would have selected high efficiency appliances to advertise through your utility bill. I personally question how and under what circumstances these third party administrators were going to “solicit” manufacturers to be selected for the approved list. I find this aspect capable of breeding inherent conflicts of interest at the third party administrator’s level.
  3. Please note that participation in this program was mandatory! That is, unless you are an industrial user, which were exempt from the EE policy. So users of 78% of the state’s electricity output did not have to participate in, or pay for, the EE policy. Representation of industrial users in other jurisdictions can create conflicts of interest.

 

So, as a result of the question of potential conflicts having been so clearly raised at that point, all consultants of the LPSC now have to sign a statement under oath that they have no conflict in representing the LPSC.

The LPSC was referenced in the Forbes article as “Luddites” (“Opponents of technological progress.”) Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is the LPSC is positioned as a watchdog for consumers and exists in part to identify ways that some groups use to try to fleece consumers.

In any future development of an energy efficiency policy in Louisiana there are factors the commission may want to include:

  1. The program would be voluntary.
  2. The program would encourage participation from the industrial sector as they consume 78% of the electricity.
  3. Each utility should manage its own EE policy and save Louisiana ratepayers tens of millions of dollars in the process by eliminating special interest groups from sticking their gob in the trough containing ratepayer money.
  4. Encourage utilities to take meaningful action to assist residential users in the task of weatherizing homes and educating the public in ways to save electricity. Utilities should bear this cost, not ratepayers.

 

It’s difficult to understand how groups who seek to make energy affordable for consumers want to work in ways that actually cost consumers more money on their utility bills. As a Commissioner, I am suspect of groups seeking to manage an EE policy when that policy should be dealt with by the utility, at its expense. There is room in the future for an improved EE policy for Louisiana. But, we need an EE policy free of third party conflicts of interest and one that helps reduce the need for future electrical infrastructure, and one that truly helps helping folks save money. I am confident we will get onto this work in due time, but in a way that is reasonable and untainted by financial gain for third party administrators, and in the public interest.

Statewide energy efficiency program halted after utility regulator meeting

By Lauren McGaughy, NOLA.com|The Times Picayune

Louisiana’s utilities regulators voted to halt implementation of a statewide energy-efficiency program during a Wednesday meeting in Baton Rouge. While Eric Skrmetta, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, said the vote was necessary to revisit specifics of the plan, environmentalists and commissioners who opposed the vote’s outcome were critical of the move.

The initiative, first passed at a December PSC meeting under previous Chairman Foster Campbell, gave electric utilities and natural gas providers about a year to develop programs that would have likely offered residential and business customers incentives for making improvements that lower their electricity use.

Supporters of the statewide initiative said it would benefit businesses and ratepayers in the long-term by cutting cut down on power consumption and energy costs, as Energy Smart, a similar program in New Orleans, has since 2011.

However, newly-elected PSC Chair Eric Skrmetta said the vote to halt the program was necessary because the initiative was “shoved through” in December without proper research being done first.

“Now we’re going to go back, we’re going to start over and we’re going to get it done the right way,” Skrmetta said in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t want to see things not done, but I want to see things done in the right way which causes the least impact on the consumer and makes the most sense.”

Skrmetta added a report presented to the PSC in December, on which the panel made their decision, was inaccurate because the contractor hired to do the research had a “conflict of interests.”

But two other commissioners and environmental groups present at the meeting were critical of the vote, which they said flip-flopped on the December decision and halted a program badly needed in the state.

New Orleans-area Commissioner Lambert Boissiere, in an unusually vocal denunciation of the vote by the panel’s most measured member, said similar initiatives have already been implemented in 46 other states where energy-efficiency programs are “normal and reasonable.”

“They want to get rid of energy-efficiency in Louisiana,” Boissier said, referring to Commissioners Skrmetta, Clyde Holloway and Scott Angelle, the three members who voted to revisit the program.

Boissiere also criticized Skrmetta’s decision not to allow members of the public to speak at the meeting, a move Sierra Club Gulf States Representative Jordan Macha called “unprecedented.”

“That was an insult to everyone in Louisiana,” Boissiere said of the decision. “I was chair for two years and I never kept anyone from speaking.”

Skrmetta defended the decision after the meeting, saying all arguments for and against the program were made in December and didn’t need to be re-hashed. But environmental and green energy groups who made the ride over from New Orleans Wednesday to attend the meeting were caught-off guard by the decision.

“This is unprecedented,” Macha said after the meeting, noting the initiative was only added to the agenda on Monday. “If there have been interested parties that want to speak to this, they haven’t been turned away in the past.”

Macha said the initiative passed in December, called “Quick Start,” would cost less than 1/2 cent per customer while yielding savings of more than three to four that times in the long-term. Quick Start would be the first step of the multi-phase energy-efficiency program.

Linda Stone, Program and Operations Director for Global Green USA in New Orleans,  was also disappointed in Skrmetta’s decision. She said energy-efficiency programs have “zillions of benefits,” such as the $625 in annual savings benefiting customers of Global Green’s NOLA Wise program.

However, the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting was not surprising due to the changing composition of the commission.

In December, long-time PSC commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, retired. The moderate Republican was replaced by former Jindal administration official Scott Angelle. Angelle has voted alongside Skrmetta and Holloway in the first two meetings of his tenure, creating a formidable majority on the commission.

During Wednesday’s committee, Angelle said he was concerned Quick Start would put undue pressure on small-to-medium sized commercial customers since large industries would not be covered by the program.

He cited information from the December PSC report which said Quick Start would initially cost the average commercial user between $66 and $97 per month, depending on region.

“This is something we have no business being in,” Commissioner Holloway of Forest Hill said of the energy-efficiency program, adding it “was wrong to put this burden, this $97 a month on the back of someone.”

Skrmetta said he expected the initiative to be revisited within the next few months, at which time the commission would hire new researchers to undertake a more thorough review into the costs and benefits of such a program. The next PSC business and executive committee will take place in Baton Rouge on March 20.

Keep watching NOLA.com for more on the Public Service Commission.

©  NOLA.com. All rights reserved.

Town Hall meeting held in Franklinton

By Lucy Parker THE DAILY NEWS | Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:00 am

Any parish resident experiencing an issue with a utility company had the opportunity to express his or her concerns Thursday, during a Town Hall meeting hosted by Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta.

The meeting was held that evening in the Parish Council Chambers of the parish courthouse, as the wind and rain raged outside.

The monthly public meetings are rotated among each parish in Public Service Commission District 1.

“We have the meetings because we want to reach out to the public and make sure that if they’re having any particular issues with utilities we can deal with them in person,” Skrmetta said.

The Town Hall meetings, Skrmetta said, provide the opportunity for his office to get feedback from the public and give he and his staff the chance to fill citizens in on “what’s going on with the Public Service Commission.”

During the meeting, technical assistant Samantha Goodwin was on hand to aid members of the public in getting answers to any utility-related questions.

For more information, contact Skrmetta at his Mandeville office at 985-624-4660, his Metairie office at 504-846-6930 or at 800-228-9368. He can also be reached through his website, www.ericskrmetta.com, or his Facebook page, “Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, LPSC.”

Skrmetta elected Public Service Commission chairman, named to other regional boards

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 am, The St. Tammany News

In addition to being elected chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission last month, District 1 Commissioner Eric Skrmetta has been named to a number of boards and committees that will enhance his service and the role of the LPSC.

Skrmetta will serve on the Entergy Regional State Committee, a five-person, four-state board established in 2009 to consider how expansion and upgrades to Entergy’s transmission will impact communities and ratepayers. He will also serve on the Board of Directors of the Organization of MISO States, an advisory board to the Midwestern Independent Service Organization, which will take control of the states’ transmission systems at the end of this year. Skrmetta was also appointed by the President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to serve on the national Electricity Committee.

“I am honored to be selected by my fellow commissioners to serve as the Chairman of the Commission,” Skrmetta said. “I will work to set an agenda that will stabilize utility costs for consumers and ensure that regulated companies maintain high standards for their infrastructure systems so consumers can enjoy maximum reliable service.

“My appointment to the Entergy Regional State Committee will allow me to continue developing a strategy that will bring Louisiana into a regional system of managing electricity,” Skrmetta added. “Through NARUC, I will have the ability to interact with commissioners of other states that will help me better understand electricity issues and trends so I may develop strategies for Louisiana to help protect our consumers.”

Eric Skrmetta elected chairman of Louisiana Public Service Commission

By The Associated Press
on January 31, 2013 at 9:21 AM, updated January 31, 2013 at 9:53 AM

The state’s board of elected utility regulators has chosen Commissioner Eric Skrmetta as its chairman for 2013. The Advocate reports the Metairie Republican replaces Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish.

On Wednesday, the five elected members of the PSC then elected Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, as vice chairman.

Skrmetta said that as chairman he wanted all consultants to visit with commissioners prior to presenting their reports to the PSC. He also said he wanted the hired experts, usually economists and accountants specializing in utilities, to sign that they had no conflict of interests in preparing the reports for the commission.

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta calls constituent meeting in Slidell

By Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on January 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM, updated January 15, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta plans to host a town hall meeting in Slidell on Jan. 28 to listen to any complaints customers have with utility companies. Skrmetta, who represents District 1, will answer questions, according to a news release from his office. The Public Service Commission regulates utilities and various intrastate transportation businesses.

The meeting will be held Jan. 28 from 5 p.m. to 6 pm. at the St. Tammany Parish Public Library at 555 Robert Blvd. in Slidell.

Skrmetta’s office in Mandeville can be reached at 985-624-4660 and in Metairie at 504-846-6930.

Students learn about dying while texting

KARI DEQUINE HARDEN
New Orleans bureau
November 27, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — No text message is worth dying for — that was the crux of the lesson AT&T representatives brought to students at the Academy of the Sacred Heart on Monday.

The presentation, given to all the ninth- through 12th-grade students, started with a video in which friends and families told their stories of loved ones lost due to accidents caused by texting while driving. The students were then given the opportunity to sit in a simulator with pedals, a steering wheel, a monitor and a phone, designed to demonstrate the attention taken away from the road while sending a text message.

In the first video clip, the friend of a teenager who was killed while driving said that it was just four letters: “yeah,” that were isolated by police as the text sent at the exact time of the crash. It was the friend being interviewed who sent the text, and she talked about living with the knowledge of the role that single word played in her friend’s death.

The second clip told the story of a teenage boy who hit and killed a bicyclist because of a “LOL” text. The boy talked about the grief, depression and self-hatred he dealt with after the crash — all due to a “stupid meaningless text.”

Another boy interviewed was nearly killed and is now severely disabled, because of an text that read just “where r.” Another girl lost her life when she crashed after receiving a “where u at” text, sent by a boy she was heading to meet.

The video ended by citing a study showing that motorists are 23 times more likely to be in an accident if texting while driving.

Students then took turns “driving” the simulator while being instructed on the monitor to reply to texts while driving. The simulation required them to follow speed limits and navigate through traffic. Nearly all who tried ended up in a crash or being pulled over by police.

“It’s essentially driving blind,” presenter Griffin Hagler told the students, explaining that an average text takes five seconds to send, which traveling at 50 miles an hour is the length of a football field.

When one student was hit by another car on the simulator, Leo Marsh, external affairs director for AT&T, was quick to counteract the “not my fault argument.” Marsh pointed out that in the state of Louisiana, if you have a phone in your hand at the time of the accident, it is your fault and with triple the fines. Marsh also pointed out that the texts, calls and times will be tracked down and used as evidence, even if erased.

Part of the awareness event also asked students to make a pledge not to text and drive.

Erik Skrmetta, a Louisiana public service commissioner, said that bringing the simulator and accompanying presentation into schools was important to reach children at a young age, and educate them about the real-life consequences of answering a quick question on their phone from a friend while driving. “Peer pressure is a powerful thing among teenagers,” Skrmetta said. “We hope they use it in a good way.”

Megan Terral, a junior, said that simulator was more difficult than she would have thought, and she was surprised to learn that texting and driving was in many ways as, if not more, dangerous than drinking and driving.

“It can always wait,” junior Margaux Hoffer said, acknowledging that she witnesses the practice of texting and driving fairly often. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a text that was so urgent that I couldn’t wait. Or pull over,” she said.

What I’m Thankful For

Friends,

In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition, I am reflecting today on all that I have to be thankful for.

The United States of America and the state of Louisiana have given so much to me and my wife, Debbie, and our children, Race and Elizabeth.

This is our home, we are raising our two wonderful children here, and to simply say that I am thankful for these things doesn’t seem to do it justice.

I hope you share similar blessings.

I am also thankful for you – the people who have entrusted with me the honor of serving as your Public Service Commissioner.

My family and I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed a joyful holiday season to come.

With best wishes,

Eric

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

Inhofe: EPA ‘punting’ regs until after election that ‘spell doom’ for jobs, economy

Republican Sen. James Inhofe says the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed action or “punted” on numerous regulations while President Obama tries to “earns votes” for a second term.

The Oklahoma senator and ranking Republican on the chamber’s Committee on Environment and Public Works has released a report stating that when the agency approves the roughly one dozen regulations next year in 2013, they will “spell doom” for jobs and economic growth.

“The Obama-EPA plans to move full speed ahead to implement this agenda if President Obama wins a second term,” Inhofe writes. “These rules taken together will inevitably result in the elimination of millions of American jobs, drive up the price of gas at the pump even more, impose construction bans on local communities and essentially shut down American oil, natural gas and coal production.”

The 14-page report cites pending regulations on a wide range of environmental-economic issues including those on power plant emissions and hydraulic fracturing.

The report concluded that pending overall regulations on greenhouse gases if enacted would cost $300 billion to $400 billion annual and significantly increase the price of gasoline and home heating.

“The requirements are so strict they virtually eliminate coal as a fuel option for future electric power generation,” the report states. “In a thinly veiled political move, the agency has put off finalizing the proposal until after the election.”

The EPA has long been a target of Republicans lawmakers and other fiscal conservative who think the agency has overstepped its authority.

The issue has re-emerged this election cycle with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Obama’s campaign referred a request for comment to the administration. But the campaign staffer said earlier this month the president has doubled fuel-efficiency standards so cars and trucks “will go farther on a gallon of gas, helped double our production of job-creating clean wind and solar energies and has championed an all-of-the-above American energy strategy.”

He also argued the administration has opened millions of federal acres to oil and gas development, oil production is now at 14-year high, natural gas production is at an all-time high and the country is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in two decades – arguments Obama made in the Oct. 17 presidential debate.

The report also singles out pending federal regulations on such issues as farm dust, air quality, coal ash and water-quality in Florida.

The ozone standard if enacted would cost at least $90 billion annually and would eliminate 7.4 million jobs, the report states, citing federal analysis.

The report, citing published news reports, states the Obama administration several years ago agreed to set “first-ever” federal limits on runoff in Florida, but environmental groups are still waiting for a final decision as the state is “expected to play a critical role in the outcome” of the election.

The EPA proposed new guidance document for waters covered by the Clean Water Act, proposed in April 2011, reinterprets recent Supreme Court decisions to allow the agency to expand federal control over virtually every body of water in the United States, no matter how small, the report also concludes.

Originally posted on FOX News – Politics

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

Commissioners Skrmetta, Boissiere Prompt Investigation into Utility Companies’ Response to Hurricane Isaac; Utility Leaders to be Subpoenaed to Testify

Sept. 12, 2012-Baton Rouge, LA. – Louisiana Public Service Commissioners Eric Skrmetta and Lambert Boissiere today led a 5-0 vote setting an investigative hearing by the Commission to analyze the preparation and response of various utility companies to Hurricane Isaac.

After an extensive discussion in which Commissioner Jimmy Fields originally objected to hiring legal counsel to conduct an independent investigatory review of all utility companies’ recovery from Isaac, the Commission agreed to proceed with fact-finding.

Said Skrmetta, “Some utility companies performed admirably while others did not meet the expectations of the consumers or the Commission. The LPSC is the governing body over the utility companies, and we owe it to our consumers to determine if the actions by utility companies before, during and after Hurricane Isaac were reasonable and reliable. We will conduct a fair, transparent hearing so that we may learn more about each company’s plan to protect and restore power, and so that we may learn how each company executed its respective emergency plans.”

At the peak, the LPSC reported more than 903,000 customers or 43% of electric power users with outages. “The limited communications by some companies to consumers, the media and the commission triggered a public outcry for more information and a formal investigation. We will subpoena the leaders of various utility companies to appear before the commission. The commission’s finding will be published on our website, and the commission will determine how to proceed from our findings.”

The LPSC has the authority to impose remedies if they find a utility company’s actions were flawed. Those actions could include:
-Requiring a company’s shareholders to bear the cost of improving the quality of service at a reliable level;
-Requiring a company’s shareholders to bear a portion of or the full cost of recovery;
-Requiring a utility company to provide certain billing credits to a customer; and/or
-Revoking a franchise license or levying a fine against a company for poor performance.

Skrmetta’s decision prompted the first LPSC investigation into utility company readiness and performance since Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. However, this is the first ever investigation in which legal counsel will be debrief government and utility leaders prior to the hearing. Said Skrmetta at the Commission meeting, “I am requesting that the Louisiana Public Service Commission exercise its right to conduct an open and transparent investigation into the practices of the utility providers. I recommend that we use our full subpoena power and employ counsel to help us conduct a valid hearing that calls upon industry executives to explain their pre and post storm strategies.”

The action is similar to one taken on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 when an investigation began by the Maryland Public Service Commission into Pepco’s East Coast response from a summer storm that left almost a half-million consumers without power. In December of that year, Maryland’s Public Service Commission levied a $1 million fine, its largest in recent memory, against Pepco for failing to keep up with tree-trimming and other preventive maintenance that could have limited power disruptions due to storm damage.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) is an independent regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest by assuring safe, reliable, and reasonably-priced services for public utilities and motor carriers. The LPSC consists of five elected Commissioners who serve overlapping terms of six years and a main office staff, created by Article IV, Section 21 of the 1921 Constitution of the State of Louisiana. The Commission has jurisdiction over publicly-owned utilities providing electric, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunication services, as well as all the electric cooperatives in Louisiana. The Commission is led by Chief Executive Officer Eve Gonzales, and a Commission Staff that consists of administrative law judges, attorneys, auditors, economists, engineers, professional and clerical support, and rate analysts.

Said Gonzales, “Commissioner Skrmetta led an unprecedented action today, and the Commission unanimously agreed that our utility providers should be investigated for their actions regarding this storm. The utility providers should take this investigation seriously and provide reasonable answers to the questions that were commonly asked before, during and after the storm. The utility providers should also recommend ways to harden their systems so that a storm of Isaac’s strength can no longer take such a significant toll on the consumer.”

The hearings are set for the next regular scheduled Louisiana Public Service Commission meeting in Baton Rouge. The hearing will be open to the public.

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

How About A Little More Good News?

Earlier today, I posted some good news about the Republican Party adopting tea party proposals into the 2012 GOP platform. Why not just make this an all-around day for good news with a story about a federal court striking down some job-killing, energy rate-hiking Obama EPA regulations.

What do you do if you are a Democratic president facing a deep recession with rising unemployment and soaring energy prices? Well, you work to make energy prices “necessarily sky-rocket,” of course, rising unemployment even more and hurting poor folks struggling to pay their electric bills.

At least it’s one promise Obama has tried to keep:

Obama said he would bankrupt coal companies when running for office last time around, but was unable to pass his energy tax “cap-and-trade” plan. No problem, just use the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal-fire power plants to death.

His EPA has been attacking coal through the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, also called the “transport rule.” It was supposed to go into effect on Jan 1, 2011, but was delayed in court. What Obama has been trying to do is enacting cap-and-trade through executive fiat.

The EPA rule would have which would have required utilities in 28 states to install new pollution controls that they can’t afford and force them into a cap-and-trade system where they would buy and sell pollution credits.

Rising energy prices would stifle industry as well as raise utility rates for everyone, making no one happy except the environmental extremists who vote for people like Obama.
“This would be a tax on everyone, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich,” as Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta puts it.

Only, it’s not going to happen now.

The U.S. Court of Appeals delivered a 2-1 ruling yesterday that the EPA had overreached its authority with an act that was too burdensome for utilities, returning standards to Bush-era regulations. The PSC had filed a parallel suit against the EPA and Skrmetta sent out this press release:

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta strongly defended the U.S. Court of Appeals’ split decision today vacating the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in favor of the existing Clean Air Interstate Rule of 2005.

Skrmetta helped lead a September 7, 2011 motion that authorized the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) legal counsel to file actions to prevent the implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), also known as the “Transport Rule”. The LPSC filed an appeal to the rule in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia circuit on October 7, 2011. On October 11, 2011, the LPSC also filed for a motion to stay the rule which would have gone into effect January 1, 2013.

For more than a year Skrmetta has made numerous public addresses voicing his opposition to what he called “an over-reaching federal mandate.” In a media release earlier this year, Skrmetta noted, “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. These federal rules are only created to satisfy a political agenda of the radical environmental left to eliminate manmade carbon dioxide.”

Today’s decision by two of three federal judges sided with Louisiana and more than three dozen challengers to the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (“CSAPR” or “Transport Rule”), which imposes caps on emissions for 28 states. The court ordered the EPA to return to the 2005 rule, known as the Clear Air Interstate Rule (“CAIR”), until a viable replacement to the cross-state pollution rule is made. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals judges renders the EPA’s regulation of interstate air pollution as unlawful. The Louisiana Public Service Commission case was a parallel case stating that the rule put undue financial burden on power producers and threatens electricity reliability by forcing some companies to shut older plants. The rule violates the Clean Air Act, or CAA, by requiring states to reduce their emissions by more than their own significant contributions to downwind states’ nonattainment of air quality standards, according to the decision.

Said Skrmetta, “This decision will protect ratepayers from significant cost increases. In many cases, ratepayers would likely have paid twice as much for electric power had this rule been upheld.” The opinions of Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith vacated the rule, with Circuit Judge Judith Rogers dissenting.

Skrmetta knows that the EPA regulations wouldn’t have impacted Louisiana as much as other states, since we are “sitting on a sea of natural gas.” We would have felt a little pain, with residential electric bills going up as much as $100 per-month on average if the new rules would have been kept in place, he said.

The larger issue is what such businesses-killing policies is doing to the nation as a whole. The Obama Administration said today that the “EPA is reviewing the 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturning the Agency’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule. … When that review is complete, EPA will determine the appropriate course of action.”
Let’s don’t give Obama’s EPA another four years to work on the next “course of action.”

Yeah, this has been a day for good news, but I hoping for some really, really good news in about 76 days from now—c’mon Nov. 6.

U.S. Court Decision Against Controversial Emissions Rule Will Save Ratepayers Significant Cost Increase

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta strongly defended the U.S. Court of Appeals’ split decision today vacating the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in favor of the existing Clean Air Interstate Rule of 2005.

Skrmetta helped lead a September 7, 2011 motion that authorized the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) legal counsel to file actions to prevent the implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), also known as the “Transport Rule”. The LPSC filed an appeal to the rule in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia circuit on October 7, 2011. On October 11, 2011, the LPSC also filed for a motion to stay the rule which would have gone into effect January 1, 2013.

For more than a year Skrmetta has made numerous public addresses voicing his opposition to what he called “an over-reaching federal mandate.” In a media release earlier this year, Skrmetta noted, “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. These federal rules are only created to satisfy a political agenda of the radical environmental left to eliminate manmade carbon dioxide.”

Today’s decision by two of three federal judges sided with Louisiana and more than three dozen challengers to the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (“CSAPR” or “Transport Rule”), which imposes caps on emissions for 28 states. The court ordered the EPA to return to the 2005 rule, known as the Clear Air Interstate Rule (“CAIR”), until a viable replacement to the cross-state pollution rule is made. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals judges renders the EPA’s regulation of interstate air pollution as unlawful. The Louisiana Public Service Commission case was a parallel case stating that the rule put undue financial burden on power producers and threatens electricity reliability by forcing some companies to shut older plants. The rule violates the Clean Air Act, or CAA, by requiring states to reduce their emissions by more than their own significant contributions to downwind states’ nonattainment of air quality standards, according to the decision.

Said Skrmetta, “This decision will protect ratepayers from significant cost increases. In many cases, ratepayers would likely have paid twice as much for electric power had this rule been upheld.” The opinions of Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith vacated the rule, with Circuit Judge Judith Rogers dissenting.

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 customers to get average $3.42 monthly refund June-Dec. 2012

MANDEVILLE—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 June 27.

He represents Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Tammany as well as other SE Louisiana parished.

The action came after successful court litigation by the Louisiana Public Service Commission in matters relating to the multi-state System Agreement.

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 US 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.

Skrmeta represents Ascension*, Jefferson*, Livingston*, Orleans*, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles*, St. Helena, St. John Baptist*, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington.

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.”

 

Notice

Washington St. Tammany Electric Cooperative will have a planned outage at its Talisheek metering point on Friday, June 8 from 11:30 p.m. to Saturday, June 9 at 4 a.m. while damaged equipment within the metering point is replaced. Surrounding substations affected will be the Talisheek substation, Sun substation, Moneyhill substation, Abita Springs substation, and Hickory substation. WSTE proactively will contact the members of the affected communities by phone, where possible, to inform them of the following planned outage, date, and time.

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.

 

Party with a purpose. Please help a family in need and make a difference.

Dear Friends,Eric and I would love to have you come to our home and join us for a special evening.  One where you can help a family in need and make a difference.

Our friend, Allison Michellian, is a new representative for Arbonne Cosmetics.  She started this business out of necessity.  Allison’s daughter, Bishop, is fighting brain cancer.  Her son is autistic.  Allison had to quit working to manage the medical issues, doctors appointments, etc of her two children.  They are now a one income family and struggling under the pressure of their extensive medical bills.  Allison is working in her limited free time  to supplement their income.
Allison lives in Nashville but will be here this summer visiting her parents, Rita and Mark Bezue.
In order to help the family, we are hosting a party at our home (117 Sena Dr, Metairie) on Tuesday, June 12th from 5:30 to 7:30.  Allison will have her Arbonne cosmetics available for you to consider.  Her daughter Bishop makes a variety of art crafts to help with her medical expenses and they will be available as well. 
If you are unable to come on the 12th but would like to help, here are 2 options….
www.arbonne.com (consultant ID#19989183)  You may purchase from Arbonne directly under Allison’s name.
www.bizzysboutique.com  You can see all of Bishop’s items and again purchase directly.
You may also follow Bishop’s story on Caring Bridge, www.caringbridge.org/visit/bishopmikaelian
We hope you will take a few minutes to stop by, enjoy some friendship and refreshments and support this family.  Please feel free to bring friends along.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
We hope to see you on the 12th!!

Debbie and Eric Skrmetta.

LPSC may phase out white pages delivery

The Louisiana Public Service Commission is considering dropping statewide mandatory residential white pages delivery.

The move comes at a time when, according to AT&T, only about one percent of households in the country use the directory. The advent of the Internet has changed the way people access information, and the company no longer believes resources should be diverted to a scarcely-used book.

Louisiana residents, under the proposal, would only receive the directory by request, according to Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie. Residents still interested in receiving the white pages would need to sign up online or through a toll-free phone number.

The matter is on the PSC’s May 23 agenda, though commissioners are not sure it will be taken up then.

“If a consumer requests a directory, they will absolutely receive a directory under AT&T’s proposal,” Skrmetta said. “Unwanted and unused directories are a waste of natural resources and scarce capital.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the directories generated 650,000 tons of solid waste in 2009, and a 2008 Gallup poll found only 11 percent of households used the printed White Pages phone books that year, down from 25 percent in 2005.

Skrmetta argued the capital spent on printing the directories could be better invested by the company on expanding services, especially into unserved and under-served areas.

“It’s the right thing for economic development to get them these services,” Skrmetta said. “We have entrepreneurs in rural areas who would benefit from that expansion. We have to be efficient.”

AT&T has supported the proposal as a way to save money for such investments.

The company wouldn’t say how much the company spends on the directories or how many pages are printed each year, citing competitive reasons.

“Lessons learned from 75 markets around the country tell us that fewer than one percent of our customers make that request,” said AT&T spokeswoman Kim Allen. “We hear what our customers are telling us, loud and clear — instead of spending money publishing white pages directories few people want, use that money to invest in new technologies to deliver enhancements like broadband service and more wireless services across Louisiana. And that’s exactly what AT&T intends to do. Louisiana consumers deserve nothing less.”

Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Bossier City, doesn’t believe that will be the case. He argues the proposal is designed only to save AT&T money which the company will only pocket, not reinvest into rural development.

“That’s just not true. I do not believe them at all,” Campbell said. “Why are we letting AT&T make more money when service is poor and rates are high? What are we rewarding them for?”

Campbell said AT&T has expressed no interest in the past toward expanding services to rural parishes. Rural parish residents are less likely to have, or want, access to the Internet, Campbell said, and would be disserviced by ending directory delivery.

“It’s naïve to say these people can just go online to get the same information,” Campbell said. “I hope people who want to keep the phone book will make their voices heard.”

Skrmetta said the PSC has the authority to make AT&T keep its word on expanding services following any changes. He said he’s never had a show of bad faith from the company in his three years of service.

“We have the ability to make them live up to their obligations,” Skrmetta said.

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.

AT&T wants to end mandatory white pages

NEW ORLEANS — In the era of mobile telephones, AT&T Inc. is trying to rid itself of a long-standing tradition in Louisiana: the familiar white pages of residential phone listings dropped on front porches and driveways.

The staff of the Louisiana Public Service Commission has recommended a plan under which white pages would be sent only to customers who specifically request the directory. AT&T customers also could request a CD-ROM of home listings for computer use.

The commission could vote on the proposal May 23.

The program wouldn’t affect the yellow pages, which is advertiser-supported, or the business version of the white pages, both of which would be delivered to all customers.

“The traditional residential white page telephone directory no longer provides the same utility it once did as customers are now turning less and less to the residential white pages directory and are looking to online and other resources for listing information,” AT&T said in its request to the commission.

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell opposes the request, calling it “a moneymaking deal” for AT&T.

“What do you think people are going to do when you take their telephone directory away? They’re going to call 411 and pay $1.50. If they don’t have a computer, they’re going to call 411,” Campbell said.

AT&T spokeswoman Kim Allen said that in 75 of company’s markets across the country where white pages delivery is optional, less than 1 percent of its customers requested the directory. She said at least 19 states have removed mandatory directory delivery.

AT&T would rather use the savings to upgrade broadband services and wireless services in the state, Allen said. Allen would not say how much AT&T spends annually on its white pages and how many customers the company has in Louisiana, citing competitive reasons. She also was unable to say how many cities might be affected the PSC approves the company’s request.

Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta said he supports the proposal.

“Unwanted and unused directories are a waste of natural resources and scarce capital,” Skrmetta said.

But Campbell said rural residents often have trouble getting adequate Internet service to access online telephone directories.

“The phone book is almost like the Bible for many people, and it is a security device. People keep it by the phone and in it they write down the numbers of their doctor, their children, the sheriff, the ambulance service and other important numbers,” Campbell said.

Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway said he was leaning in favor of the proposal.

“I think it would be good environmentally. Every school I know goes through collecting phone books for recycling,” Holloway said.

Commissioner Jimmy Field said that to get his vote, the plan would have to be amended so a request for the directory is renewed automatically on an annual basis until the customer no longer wants the book.

Commissioner Lambert Boissiere did not return a call for comment.

Skrmetta Supports Consumer Choice For Residential Phone Book

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 30, 2012

AT&T has asked the Public Service Commission to approve a plan to provide consumers with white pages directories only upon request, eliminating over-printing and providing a cost-savings to the company that can benefit consumers, and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R-Metairie) said he will support the plan.

“If consumers request a directory, they will absolutely receive a directory under AT&T’s proposal,” Skrmetta said. “Recent surveys by AT&T show that only about one percent of households utilize and want printed white page directories. Unwanted and unused directories are a waste of natural resources and scarce capital. Savings from printing directories only for consumers who actually want them can free up capital for increased development of consumer DSL and broadband services, in both traditional and cellular based modalities. Consumer choice allows for smart management of resources.”

“The traditional residential white page telephone directory is no longer in as great a usage as it once was,” AT&T representatives told the Commission last week. “Customers are turning less and less to the residential white pages directory and are looking to online and other resources for listing information.”

“It makes sense to ensure that white pages directories are available to all consumers who choose to have them,” Skrmetta said. “As we all know, not everybody owns a computer or a hand-held device, and there must be directory services available to serve consumers who could be affected.

“Savings realized by efficient production of the directory will allow for cash within the company to be used to expand DSL-type services into traditionally unserved or under-served areas. Once realized, AT&T needs to put those savings to work in Louisiana.” Skrmetta said. “In this difficult economy AT&T, like all companies and folks in general, must focus on the best uses of limited financial resources. This simple change to consumer choice helps achieve the best use.”

The Yellow Pages, predominantly funded by advertising revenue, would not be affected by this rule change.

“This change in how these directories are managed is pro-consumer,” Skrmetta said. “I’m going to do everything I can to bring consumer choice to the center of all discussions.”

Media Contact:
James Hartman
504.458.4600
james@jameshartman.net

Bananas Foster Campbell, Defender Of Obsolescence

Three weeks ago, Bloomberg reported that telecom giant AT&T was unloading a part of its business which had formerly been a major profit center.

AT&T Inc. on Monday said that it had agreed to sell a majority stake in its Yellow Pages business to the private-equity firm Cerberus Capital for $950 million.

The sale is part of AT&T’s strategy to jettison shrinking parts of its business to focus on growing ones, particularly wireless. Revenue from the Yellow Pages business has shrunk 30 percent in two years, as consumers turn to the Web instead of phone books.

Phone books were once a cash cow, generating reliable profits as businesses paid for ads that were right under consumer’s finger tips as they were looking for local stores and services. Even with the steep revenue decline, AT&T’s Yellow Pages unit has been profitable before impairment charges for the last three years.

AT&T, the country’s largest phone company, is following in the footsteps of Verizon Communications Inc., the second-largest, in cutting its exposure in the phone book business. Verizon spun off its directories business to shareholders in 2006, only to see it file for bankruptcy three years later.

Cerberus is paying AT&T $750 million in cash and a $200 million note, plus a 47 percent stake in YP Holdings LLC which will oversee the business.

And with the sale, AT&T is contemplating a change in its distribution practices of the books. AT&T’s current practice of putting out White Pages at every doorstep would go by the boards, with customers who want a White Pages delivered simply needing to call AT&T to get one.

Delivering White Pages is expensive. It might have made sense to do it when AT&T owned the book. Now that they’ve sold it…not so much.

Studies indicate only one percent of the customers involved would request one. That makes for a massive amount of cost savings, which would assumedly free up capital to pursue projects more in line with the 21st century.

But here in Louisiana, our illustrious Public Service Commission chairman is standing athwart history yelling “stop.” Over the weekend, this press release made its debut…

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell said he will oppose a plan to phase out residential white-pages telephone directories.

“I am not for making communication harder,” Campbell said. “I am for making communication easier, and doing away with the peoples’ pages in the phone book is all about saving money for the phone company.”

AT&T is asking the Public Service Commission to eliminate a PSC requirement that each year they distribute free “white pages” residential directories to customers.

“The traditional residential white page telephone directory no longer provides the same utility it once did,” AT&T says in comments to the commission.

Customers are “turning less and less to the residential white pages directory and are looking to online and other resources for listing information.”

Campbell responded, “Not everybody owns a computer. And even when they can afford one, rural residents often cannot get good Internet service because companies like AT&T have stopped investing in DSL expansion.

“The phone book is almost like the Bible for many people, and it is a security device. People keep it by the phone and in it they write down the numbers of their doctor, their children, the sheriff, the ambulance service and other important numbers.

“AT&T is worried about money. They’re not proposing to do away with the Yellow Pages because they make money there. And they are not offering to reduce their rates or eliminate the $1.50 they charge to call 411 Directory Assistance, so there is no benefit in this for consumers.

“This move is anti-consumer,” Campbell said. “I’m going to do everything I can to stop it.”

Campbell’s desire for giving AT&T a hard time is well-known, and it’s reasonable to assume this is little more than harrassment. On the merits, Campbell hardly has a good case – when the phone company proposes to make the White Pages request-only as a response to the market, you really come off as a goofball in demanding phone books be delivered to folks who don’t use them and will likely just throw them away.

But since he holds the gavel, the PSC will take up this nonsense.

Bear in mind that if everybody wanted a White Pages, it would be more expensive and cumbersome to deal with all the requests and keep track of where to deliver them and where not to than to just deliver it everywhere. AT&T wouldn’t go to the hassle of changing its White Pages policy unless they had the numbers on their side.

Foolishness like this will make elections to the PSC interesting in the next couple of years.

Jimmy Field, the former chairman of the commission who voluntarily surrendered the gavel to Campbell, is running for re-election. Field has been a mainstay of Baton Rouge-area Republican politics for quite some time, and the former LSU quarterback is still a popular figure – but allowing Campbell to take control of the committee and drive its agenda (he still doesn’t have the votes to pass his more loopy initiatives, but as chairman he can give them an airing they wouldn’t otherwise receive) has irritated many conservatives.

As such, Field is going to have some opposition this fall. John Maginnis, reporting at the Baton Rouge Business Report last week, had this snippet…

—The speculation over what’s next for Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, a hot topic last year, is warming up again. The latest word from some close sources is that he is considering running for the Public Service Commission this fall against incumbent Jimmy Field. The Natural Resources secretary did not return a phone call for comment. The PSC District 2 would be attractive to the former St. Martin Parish president because 57% of it is on his side of the Atchafalaya, with Field’s smaller base in the mostly white precincts of Baton Rouge. Already declared is former Lafayette TV weatherman Ed Roy, a former councilman, who has enlisted the fundraising help of respected oilman Paul Hilliard.

An Angelle-Field-Roy race would be an interesting one, and a runoff in such a race would be quite likely. As Maginnis reports, you’ve got to be strong in Acadiana if you want to win District 2.

But Campbell isn’t safe, either, when he comes up for re-election in 2014. Hayride sources report that Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), who’s making a name for himself as one of the more vocal conservatives in the Louisiana House of Representatives, is weighing a run. And Seabaugh has a chance to win – District 5 is about 58 percent white and 38 percent black, but by voter registration it’s about 50 percent Democrat and 29 percent Republican. That’s a number which more or less mirrors the statewide number.

But here’s something our buddy John Couvillon came up with – the 2010 and 2011 off-year elections showed that District 5′s black vote underperformed by about five percent – so a 38 percent black district might be expected to turn out like a 33 percent black district in an off-year election like 2014 will be.

Campbell can easily throw a million dollars of his own money into a race, but he might need it against an energetic, articulate and aggressive up-and-comer like Seabaugh.

In the meantime, there will be lots of fireworks between Campbell and his fellow commissioners on the phone book issue. District 1 commissioner Eric Skrmetta got into a heated discussion on the issue at last week’s PSC meeting, and Skrmetta put out a release this morning on the issue…

AT&T has asked the Public Service Commission to approve a plan to provide consumers with white pages directories only upon request, eliminating over-printing and providing a cost-savings to the company that can benefit consumers, and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R-Metairie) said he will support the plan.

“If a consumers request a directory, they will absolutely receive a directory under AT&T’s proposal,” Skrmetta said. “Recent surveys by AT&T show that only about one percent of households utilize and want printed white page directories.“Unwanted and unused directories are a waste of natural resources and scarce capital,” Skrmetta said. “Savings from printing directories only for consumers who actually want them can free up capital for increased development of consumer DSL and broadband services,in both traditional and cellular based modalities.Consumer choice allows for smart management of resources.”

“The traditional residential white page telephone directory is no longer in as great a usage as it once was” AT&T representatives told the Commission last week. “Customers are turning less and less to the residential white pages directory and are looking to online and other resources for listing information.”

“It makes sense to ensure that white pages directories are available to all consumers who choose to have them,” Skrmetta said. “As we all know, not everybody owns a computer or a hand-held device, and there must be directory services available to serve consumers who could be affected.

“Savings realized by efficient production of the directory will allow for cash within the company to be used to expand DSL-type services into traditionally unserved or under-served areas. Once realized, AT&T needs to put those savingsto work in Louisiana.” Skrmetta said.“In this difficult economy, AT&T, like all companies and folks in general, must to focus on the best uses of limited financial resources. This simple change to consumer choice helps achieve the best use.” Skrmetta said.

The Yellow Pages, predominantly funded by advertising revenue, would not be affected by this rule change.

“This change in how these directories are managed is pro-consumer,” Skrmetta said. “I’m going to do everything I can to bring consumer choice to the center of all discussions.”

Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday

2012 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday
Saturday, May 26 & Sunday, May 27

Louisiana Revised Statute 47:305.58 provides for an annual state sales tax holiday on sales of hurricane-preparedness items or supplies made on the last Saturday and Sunday of each May. During the two-day annual holiday, tax-free purchases are authorized on the first $1,500 of the sales price of each of the following items:

  • portable self-powered light source;
  • portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather band radio;
  • tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting;
  • any ground anchor system or tie-down kit;
  • any gas or diesel fuel tank;
  • any package of AAA-cell, AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries;
  • any cellular phone battery and any cellular phone charger;
  • any non-electric food storage cooler;
  • any portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage;
  • any “storm shutter device,” as defined in the Act;
  • any carbon monoxide detector; and
  • any blue ice product.

La. R.S. 47:301(10)(ee), and 301(18)(o), as enacted by Act 462 of the 2007 Regular Session, provide a permanent state sales and use tax exclusion for storm shutter devices. La. R.S. 47:337.10(m) authorizes, but does not require, political subdivisions of the state to provide a similar exclusion from their sales and use taxes. Accordingly, the state sales tax exemption on storm shutter devices is not limited to the two days of the sales tax holiday. The term “storm shutter device” is defined for purposes of both the holiday and the permanent exclusion as materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms.

Conditions for Exemption

The following activities will be eligible during the two days of each annual holiday for the sales tax exemption:

  • buying and accepting delivery of eligible hurricane-preparedness items or supplies;
  • placing eligible items or supplies on layaway;
  • making final payment on and withdrawing eligible items or supplies previously placed on layaway; or
  • ordering an eligible item for immediate delivery, even if delivery must be delayed, provided that the customer has not requested delayed shipment.

Special Provisions

The Act provides that:

  • The exemption is allowed on both inputs to and withdrawals from layaway.
  • Purchases of eligible items or supplies during the holiday with “rain checks” issued before the holiday are eligible for exemption, but purchases after the holiday with “rain checks” issued during the holiday are not eligible for exemption;
  • Orders for immediate shipment are eligible for exemption even if the shipment is after the holiday, provided that the customer does not request delayed shipment;
  • The post-holiday exchange of merchandise to effectuate changes in size, color, or correction of defects does not create a tax liability, but exchanges after the holiday for dissimilar items will be considered the purchase of new property on which the sales tax will be payable;
  • For a 60-day period after the holiday, dealers who issue refund or credit for the return of merchandise that was eligible for sales tax exemption during the holiday can issue refund or credit for the state sales tax on that returned merchandise only if the customers returning the property have receipts showing that the tax was actually paid on the original purchases, or the dealers are otherwise able to document that the state sales tax was paid on the original purchases.

The sales tax holiday does not extend to hurricane-preparedness items or supplies purchased at any airport, public lodging establishment or hotel, convenience store, or entertainment complex. Since these terms are not defined by La. R.S. 47:305.58 the department has published a rule, LAC 61:I.4423, to define the terms.

The 2012 sales tax holiday will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 26 and conclude at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 27.

Return Filing Procedures 

Retailers should report exempt sales on Line 24 of the Sales Tax Return (R-1029).

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.

OPED: EPA Proposal for First CO2 Limits on Power Plant

In the Obama administrations never ending quest to force energy conservation through artificial price increases, the EPA has now proposed a new rule regulating CO2 emissions from certain new (for now) power plants.  The EPA has “determined” that CO2 contributes to climate change and is therefore a danger to public health and welfare. In 2010 the EPA listed CO2 as a pollutant and it now also chooses to regulate its discharge. This new rule is entitled “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.”

Let’s address the logic behind this EPA rule and the root of the fight against CO2. From the UN Earth Summit of 1992 comes Agenda 21. This is the UN core document planning the redistribution of Western wealth to developing nations. All funding for Agenda 21 coming from western nations, passing through the pocket of the UN, and, after a rough sift, the remainder then into the palms of the developing world. So they can supposedly become as industrialized as the western world. How ironic to seek a way to reduce CO2 by expanding CO2 industrialization from about 40 countries to about 190 countries?

There is no statistical proof of man made climate change. The lack of any statistically significant warming has made it more difficult for the United Nations to paint CO2 as the culprit. CO2 is not a pollutant. All scientists admit that CO2 has been at higher levels throughout history with no ill effect.

I know that proponents will say that our warm winter is proof of climate change. Tell that to residents of Europe and Alaska who experienced a horrific winter. Climatologists have pointed to the location of the jet stream as the source of our warmth this year. Not climate change.

It is easy to be vexed about climate change; we get bombarded about the existing horror that will only grow worse unless we stop using fossil fuels.  I would like to point out that these lemming-like predictions are derived from computer models. And these computer models are in conflict with observed empirical data that human caused CO2 emissions are irrelevant.

Its been said that scientists first guess, then compute, then look out the window to see if they were right in the first place. If not, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Climate science should be rendered from lengthy physical observations of climate happenings. We can gather information from the land, sea and air. If human observations do not follow the computer model then the theoreticians should go back to the drawing board.

That being said lets look how the EPA developed its strategy to combat CO2. As I mentioned, it derives from Agenda 21. Specifically, I quote:

“UN Earth Summit Agenda 21 (1992)

Section I, Chapter 4

Changing Consumption Patterns

B. DEVELOPING NATIONAL POLICIES AND STRATEGIES TO ENCOURAGE CHANGES IN UNSUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION PATTERNS

E) Moving towards environmentally sound pricing

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.”

If you look at section 4.24 it is clear that the drafters of Agenda 21 understood that if left to free market forces the cost of energy would find its lowest balance market point. The drafters sought to develop an artificial stimulus to artificially stoke prices to force reduced consumption. Section 4.25 applauds governmental action to disrupt free market forces through the use of environmental charges to artificially increase prices. Our own Federal government placed its Environmental Adjustment Charge (Federal EAC) on your utility bills to develop the first cap and trade system. It is for Sulfur and Nitrox but has served as the blueprint for CO2 cap and trade strategies. And that’s what the EPA is doing. Increasing costs of fossil fuel energy so we can’t afford it and we will use less or not use it at all. The problem is that we have to use energy and we end up cutting back on other luxuries, dining out, shopping, etc. This slows economic recovery.

Under the rule, new fossil fuel-fired electric power plants above 25 megawatts are required to comply or be fined (taxed). Exempt from regulation are (1) existing sources; (2) “transitional units” that have already received a permit and will start construction within 12 months of publication of the rule; (3) units located in non-continental areas (including Hawaii and U.S. territories); and (4) new units that do not burn fossil fuels.

The goal is to kill the coal industry. A federal goal to kill an industry that supplies the fuel for half the electricity in our nation is silly, and, by that fact, disrupting half the fuel sources for the new highly touted electric cars. Yes, electric cars run on, de facto, coal, natural gas, nuclear resources which make electricity.

New power units can also comply with the new standards by using carbon capture and storage technology, which is more expensive to construct than the power plants themselves, but which EPA contends that won’t be a problem out there in the future. When a new power plant regularly costs over a billion dollars, doubling the cost to two billion for carbon capture doubles the burden on the ratepayer.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the EPA does not expect increased costs due to compliance with this rule, as it anticipates that most new sources would be built with the appropriate technology even without the regulation. (According to the EPA, approximately 95% of units built since 2005 would meet the standards set by the proposed rule, and  that’s because 95% of all new plants have been natural gas or nuclear). EPA also notes that, for the same reason, the rule will have no anticipated impact on CO2 emissions. This fact is truly odd. Why have an EPA rule if there is no anticipated impact on current CO2 emissions. I can tell you that the EPA will always say that there will be no anticipated costs that will not be offset by future savings. Don’t believe it.

It’s fairly clear that the real reason the EPA has slipped in the thin end of the wedge of this rule is contained on page 201 of the proposed rule, where the EPA states that the regulation of new sources “will serve as a necessary predicate for the regulation of existing sources within this source category under CAA section 111(d).” Although only new sources are stated to be impacted by the new regulation, based on the EPA’s own statement you can bet that EPA will push for similar CO2 regulations for existing sources in the future. If I had to guess, the expansion will take place in mid November 2012.

For those who choose, comments on the proposed rule may be submitted to EPA for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. I encourage comments to be filed, not only by governmental agencies, but, also by individuals. Now is the time to complain. After all, it’s you that will foot the bill that will come from increased costs of compliance with this unnecessary federal action.

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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