BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's utility regulators Wednesday shelved plans for a statewide energy efficiency program, only two months after backing the idea.
The change of one member of the Public Service Commission in the latest election was enough to reverse course. The commission voted 3-2 to abandon the previously approved program plans, without allowing any public testimony before the vote.
New PSC member Scott Angelle, who took his seat in January, said he's concerned about the program's cost for small businesses, because utility companies would be able to charge their customers for energy efficiency initiatives.
"I think there is an absolute value to energy efficiency in the state. I want to work with stakeholders to get there, but I don't believe that this is the appropriate way to do it," said Angelle, of Breaux Bridge.
Supporters of the program said any costs to utility customers would be more than offset by the rate savings because of efficiencies created in the way power is delivered and used.
"That's savings to consumers they just took away," said Casey DeMoss Roberts, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy.
PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta, of Metairie, who voted to scrap the program plans, said the commission would study the idea and return with a new approach that won't "end up costing people needlessly."
He said the PSC would choose another consultant to review similar programs in other states and hold technical hearings about ideas. He didn't provide a timeline for the review.
Since the program was approved in December, the PSC membership changed. Angelle replaced retiring PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, who led the last vote agreeing to establish the energy efficiency program.
Angelle said he asked for details about the program and was disturbed by estimates that showed an average grocery store could pay up to $98 per month in a utility bill add-on to participate in the energy efficiency program.
PSC member Lambert Boissiere III, of New Orleans, noted that the average monthly electric bill for a grocery store of the size Angelle was discussing topped $18,000. Boissiere said the add-on to the utility bill would be a less than 1 percent increase.
He said in the long-term, the energy efficiency program would save businesses money by lowering their utility use and he said 46 other states have embraced similar programs.
"We haven't asked for anything that isn't reasonable," Boissiere said. "We need to make Louisiana a more efficient, less wasteful state."
Skrmetta, Angelle and Commissioner Clyde Holloway voted to abandon the energy efficiency plan, while Boissiere and Commissioner Foster Campbell voted to keep it in place.
Skrmetta refused to allow new testimony on the issue, saying that had all been done in previous PSC hearings.
After the meeting, he said he didn't feel as though the commission had received enough information about the energy efficiency plans, and he said the consultant who worked on the proposal appeared to have a conflict of interest.
Jordan Macha, with the Sierra Club and a supporter of the now-scrapped plan, said the entire rehearing was handled in a sneaky fashion, added by Skrmetta to a supplemental agenda two business days before the meeting and with no opportunity for public comment.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.