In a show of bipartisan support, Senate Bill 2295 recently passed the Mississippi House of Representatives by a vote of 90-26. It now goes back to the Senate for concurrence, where it originally passed by an overwhelming vote of 51-1.
It is not often these days that legislation receives this type of bipartisan approval. But this bill, which reauthorizes the Mississippi Public Service Commission, also clarifies that the MPSC is the proper forum to first address state law claims against electric utilities. Why is that important, and why has it received such across-the-board support?
The MPSC was created to regulate utilities. It and the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff are experts in utility matters. For 39 years, the MPUS and outside auditors have audited Entergy Mississippi’s fuel costs and purchases, and the MPSC has certified them and submitted them annually to the Mississippi Legislature. These audits represent thousands of man-hours of work by Entergy Mississippi employees and MPUS staff, and cost Mississippi taxpayers millions of dollars to conduct on their behalf.
Every single audit has confirmed that Entergy Mississippi’s power purchases are fair to Mississippi customers. In fact, they have contributed to our company having some of the lowest residential rates in the country. Yet despite this examination and validation from our elected regulators, the state’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against our company over the very same power purchases without even explaining the reasoning in an open hearing before the commission that audited those purchases.
The result has been a dispute that has taken away resources that our company could otherwise have invested in Mississippi and exposed our customers to potentially paying millions in unnecessary legal costs.
So what does our company and its employees do when the State of Mississippi both validates our power purchases, through the MPSC and the legislature, and at the same time makes unsubstantiated negative claims against those same purchases through the attorney general?
SB 2295 provides a solution to this problem. SB 2295 does not make the MPSC the only place to dispute electric utility issues; it simply makes it the first place. All citizens, including attorneys general, can challenge an MPSC decision in court.
As for the attorney general’s lawsuit against Entergy Mississippi, although it is Entergy’s position that this bill would apply to the case, a court would have to decide if the passage of this bill would impact it. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the bill would provide clarity in future disputes between state entities concerning the regulation of electric utilities.
Our 2,200 Mississippi employees are proud of our reputation for honest and fair business practices. We support this bill because we believe it helps ensure fairness for our customers and for our employees. We respectfully ask the Mississippi Senate to concur when SB 2295 is once again before it for consideration.
PRESIDENT & CEO, ENTERGY MISSISSIPPI