YP – Dueling PSC Press Releases: Rates Up or Down?

On Tuesday, June 30, the Mississippi Public Service Commission issued orders regarding Entergy Mississippi, Inc. Commission Chairman Lynn Posey (D-Union Church) from the Central District, and Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz (R-Woolmarket) voted for the orders while Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley (D-Nettleton) voted against the order. The dueling press releases make for an interesting study in spin.

This is how PSC Chairman Lynn Posey described it.

Posey Votes for Order Reducing Summer Rates for Entergy Mississippi Customers

Today, Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey (D-Union Church) announced that the Commission has issued orders to Entergy Mississippi, Inc. which will reduce customer rates by $1.91 per 1000 kilowatt hours for average residential customers.

In addition to this cost savings for the rate payer, Entergy Mississippi, Inc. agreed to pay for fuel audits for fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009 by an independent audit firm which would be hired by the Commission. Another cost saving measure for the rate payer associated with the orders is the agreement that Entergy Mississippi, Inc. withdraw its appeal of the Commission’s denial of the $3.775 million increase pursuant to last year’s formula rate plan evaluation.

Posey states, “By issuing these orders outlining the above referenced cost savings, the Commission has met its statutory requirements to make sure Entergy Mississippi, Inc. provides affordable as well as reliable energy for its customers.”

This is how Commissioner Presley described it.

Presley Votes Against $14.5 Million Entergy Rate Hike

Jackson, Mississippi (June 30, 2009)- Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D-Nettleton) today cast the sole vote against a $14,500,000.00 rate increase for Entergy Mississippi customers. Presley said due to the rate increase consumers will see their power bills increase during the hottest months of the year.

“This rate increase has come about because of Entergy’s formula rate plan that I have advocated changing since day one because it allows the company to ‘grade its own papers’ when it comes to service quality.” Presley said. “The purpose of this plan is to, in-part, tie rates to service quality, yet that gets very little independent scrutiny under the current set-up.”

Presley noted that none of the complaints from consumers of poor service, etc., that are registered with the PSC against Entergy are taken into account when setting the rates under the current plan. “Entergy could have a valid complaint filed by each and every one of their customers in Mississippi, and it would not decrease their profits one penny under this current plan,” Presley said. “Try explaining a plan like that to your neighbor down the road; it makes no sense at all.”

Presley added that Entergy Mississippi has indicated that today they intend to dismiss their current appeal before the Mississippi Supreme Court involving the Commission’s denial earlier this year of a $3,775,000.00 rate increase.

So Posey voted for lower rates and Presley voted against higher rates, but they voted opposite on the same measure. Who is telling the truth? Posey said rates are going down and Presley said rates are going up.

Presley stuck by his story yesterday on Mississippi Network News when he said, “The proposed rate increase is $14.5 million that comes at a terrible time for Mississippi consumers. So, this rate increase is going into effect during the hottest months of the year, and I felt that it just wasn’t a justified rate increase.”

Posey also stuck by his story on Supertalk Mississippi’s “On Deadline with Sid Salter” when he said, “The rates aren’t going to be raised. That’s a fuel adjustment money that they receive because statute says they can receive it. Actually, your rates will be going down $1.91 per 1000 kilowatt hours starting July 1.”

Finally, one of them came around. WLBT interviewed both commissioners and it turns out, Presley admitted that rates are going to go down. Presley said, “Rates are going to go down but they’re not going to go down as much as they would have…They’re going to go down about a $1 and 91 cents per month they would have gone down in excess of $3.”

It is not unusual to see a scathing press release issued by Brandon Presley attacking Entergy Mississippi, but it is unusual to have two dueling press releases on a split vote come out apparently contradicting each other. And it is interesting that Presley alleges in his press release that “consumers will see their power bills increase during the hottest months of the year” but finally acknowledge to the press after being contradicted in public by the Posey, the Commission chairman, that actually, “rates are going to go down”.

Looks like Posey won this duel.