In a runoff election for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, an incumbent sponsored by the utility he regulates is up against a challenger who has called for curbing the power of utilities, with major implications for clean energy development.
Lambert Boissiere III, the Louisiana utility regulator, faces a challenge from Davante Lewis, who has highlighted Boissiere’s reliance on campaign contributions from commission-regulated utilities like Entergy.
According to a review of campaign records by the Energy and Policy Institute, Boissiere received nearly three-quarters of its campaign contributions from individuals and organizations closely associated with industries regulated by the PSC, including Entergy itself. Entergy and Entergy employees were from July 22 to the November 8 general election, the largest single donor to Boissiere.
Boissiere, who took office in 2005, is seeking a final term on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, a five-person elected body that regulates the state’s electric, telecommunications and water utilities. Boissiere represents District 2, the only majority-minority district spanning 10 wards from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
Race has a major impact on climate
The impact of the election outcome on electricity policy could extend across the country and as far south as southern Canada. The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) and Entergy were instrumental in blocking transmission planning and development at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, the regional carrier of which Louisiana is a part. MISO is responsible for planning transmission development across a broad swath of the country stretching from Louisiana to the upper Midwest. MISO recently approved $10.3 billion in new transmission projects in its northern states, which it says will reduce costs for customers while facilitating coal shutdown and the addition of new clean energy. MISO does not expect to conduct a similar long-distance transmission planning process for the South before 2024.
The election could change the political dynamics of the commission with major consequences for Louisiana as well; Currently, three commissioners, including Boissiere, have ruled in ways that have favored increasing reliance on fossil fuels, while two commissioners have ruled in ways that have shown greater openness to clean energy development.
Boissiere has been a member of the commission since 2005 and is currently its chairman. According to American Clean Power, Louisiana ranks 50th out of 50 for electricity generation from wind, solar, and energy storage power plants in the United States.
Boissiere under fire for accepting money from Entergy executives
Before his re-election, Boissiere had $166,836.42 at his disposal, backed by help from donors like Entergy and AT&T, regulated companies long known for spending millions to secure political support for causes before the commission come.
Four challengers filed to unseat Boissiere, who has been repeatedly criticized by his opponents for accepting campaign contributions from the companies he was tasked with regulating.
Boissiere and Lewis are both Democrats; Louisiana requires runoffs between the two frontrunners if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in a general election. Boissiere received 43 percent of the vote; Lewis received 18 percent; a third candidate finished with 17 percent. The runoff is scheduled for December 10th.
The challengers, including Lewis, campaigned on the platform that the Public Service Commission should ban contributions from regulated utilities, following lead by the New Orleans City Council, which did so earlier this year. (The New Orleans City Council directly regulates Entergy’s New Orleans subsidiary; the PSC regulates the company in the rest of the state, as well as all other investor-owned Louisiana utilities.)
Boissiere defended accepting utility funds: “There is no other way to fund a campaign […] What if you get beaten every time because you couldn’t come up with any money? The fact is, you can regulate yourself, but you cannot regulate your opponents.”
According to an EPI campaign funding review, none of Boissiere’s opponents accepted campaign contributions from Entergy or other regulated organizations. Gregory Manning, one of Boissiere’s challengers, said he thought it “morally wrong” for a commissioner to depend financially on donations from the bodies they were elected to regulate. Lewis has pledged to create a rule that would bar campaign contributions from regulated companies if elected.
Lewis also lobbied for a Ratepayer’s Bill of Rights that would ban utility shutdowns during busy months, cap late fees, cap profits for investor-owned utilities, break Entergy’s monopoly on power generation, and limit the influence of regulated companies like Entergy would restrict .
Combined, Boissiere’s opponents raised just $123,202 from July 22 through November 8.
Boissiere’s challengers weren’t the only ones to criticize him for accepting utility money. leave the lights onA super PAC backed by the Environmental Defense Fund spent half a million dollars on a 30-second ad that portrayed Boissiere as an Entergy puppet because he “takes heaps of campaign contributions from the same industries that he regulates.” target”.
Entergy and other regulated companies are the top funders of Boissiere’s re-election campaign.
Boissiere received more than 70% of his campaign funds from individuals and organizations closely associated with the industries regulated by the PSC. This includes regulated companies and their employees, as well as lawyers, lobbyists and consultants who work on behalf of either the utilities or the Commission itself, according to an analysis of EPI’s campaign finance data.
ENPAC, the company’s political action committee, and Entergy’s top employees contributed nearly $12,500 to Boissiere’s re-election bid.
On October 28, the Entergy PAC donated $5,000 to Boissiere, and Entergy CEO Leo Denault and three other executives each donated $1,000. On November 3, another $3,500 came in from other Entergy executives and senior staff.
The header image is from WAFB.