Pursuing Entergy, Hood exposes PSC’s inability to regulate

Regardless of Hood’s motivation for pursuing Entergy on allegations that the utility buys fuel and power from other Entergy subsidiaries at a higher price than it could on the open market and then passes those costs along to customers, his investigation has raised an issue that is very relevant to Mississippi taxpayers.

For its part, Entergy has challenged the attorney general on grounds that Hood’s office doesn’t have jurisdiction over utilities, that Hood’s records subpoena is a veiled “fishing expedition” and that production of the records may end up costing Entergy customers millions of dollars to produce.

In its court pleadings, Entergy argued that its “operating companies, are the parties to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-regulated rate schedule that provides the basis for the integrated planning, construction and operation of the electrical generating and bulk transmission (and other) facilities” and that FERC “has exclusive administrative and regulatory jurisdiction over the transmission and sale of electrical energy in interstate commerce.”

More to the point, Entergy argued that the state Public Service Commission, not Hood, is charged with regulating public utilities in Mississippi.

The PSC has direct statutory authority to regulate Mississippi’s public utilities and to approve or deny rate hikes. In addition, the PSC’s staff is also charged with examining and auditing the financial records of public utilities and conducting “audits of electric and gas companies and purchased fuel and gas adjustments.”

But in response to Hood’s probe, PSC Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey said that it would be virtually impossible for the PSC to review the documentation Hood subpoenaed.

“We have no one on the staff capable of analyzing this information,” Posey said. He later recanted that statement, but the implications of it remain.

Why does the PSC need Hood to intercede on its behalf? Why didn’t the PSC staff review these fuel cost documents prior to approving Entergy’s current rates?

Sid Salter
Clarion Ledger