Favorite

Thanks to ledge, you'll pay more for utilities 

Did I mention last week that the current General Assembly had earned the distinction of being the most corporate friendly in history and thereby the most hostile to Arkansas's sons of toil?

I actually played it down. Unmentioned was a little noticed act, signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in late March, that seeks to force the state Public Service Commission to raise utility rates to give investors higher profits than they've gotten in Arkansas and to shift electricity costs from giant energy users like steel and paper mills and big poultry processors like Tyson to homeowners and smaller commercial users.

You'll understand it much better next year when the PSC approves higher rates for Entergy Corp. and transfers electricity costs from big electricity consumers like the Koch brothers' Georgia Pacific Corp. to you.

One bit of evidence for this legislature's distinction as the friendliest to the Fortune 500 was that the legislature voted last month to borrow $87.1 million to bolster Lockheed Martin's profits and chances of landing another big military contract and then pay off the Lockheed debt with some 120 million of your tax dollars. Lockheed, with $46 billion in sales and $5.2 billion in profits last year, gets 82 percent of its revenues from Uncle Sam, making it one of the largest beneficiaries of Big Government, and now of Little Government as well.

Two months earlier, the legislature approved an amendment to the state Constitution to remove the limits on this kind of corporate welfare and permit future legislatures and local governments to obligate as much of Arkansas's taxes as they like — all of it, if they choose — to corporations that would like to operate out of Arkansas. The amendment also will end the 140-year-old constitutional ban on cities appropriating your tax money to corporations like chambers of commerce for advocating business development.

But this is about the legislature and your utility bills.

Rep. Charlie Collins, the Republican chairman of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee, introduced the utility bill, "An Act to Reform Rate Making of Public Utilities," and it passed without a dissenting vote, although a few House members took a powder and didn't vote.

Its "reforms" were two directives to the state utility commission:

• From now on, when the commissioners consider a proper rate of return on a utility company's common equity — the stock held by its investors — they must weigh all the factors and evidence submitted by the company and intervening parties, such as what other states in the region allow utilities to earn, and then in their final order the commissioners must explain how much weight they gave that testimony. Hint: Arkansas has allowed utilities a lower rate of return than the likes of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, and its retail rates are lower. The legislature and the governor now tell the commissioners they can no longer ignore those factors. You can guess what the result will be.

• The new law, Act 725, reverses the historical bent of the utility commission to favor homeowners and small-business users in the competition with large industrials over how a utility's costs and revenues are to be allocated among the classes of customers. Starting now, the utility commission is directed to give extra weight to the needs of big energy-consuming industries for low rates on the grounds that shifting costs from the big consumers to homeowners and small commercial users will mean more jobs.

Entergy Corp. has applied to the PSC for a rate increase, which will reflect its purchase of a unit of the big gas-fired generating plant at El Dorado and also the need for a higher return on equity than it has historically been given. Last week, its official notice in the classified section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette broke down the impact of $167 million in new annual revenue from its customers. Residential rates and small commercial rates would go up more than 13 percent but big industrial users less than 2 percent.

In the past, the PSC staff, the attorney general and eventually the commission itself have always favored homeowners in the allocation of costs while Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, a consortium of big energy users like the big steel and paper mills, oil companies, Riceland Foods, Acme Brick and Tyson Foods, was left to plead with the commission to soften the impact on the big industries' monthly bills.

Act 725 reverses the policy. Now the PSC must favor big industrials, if the utility or other interveners make the case that it would be good for jobs, but it can soften the rate impact on homeowners and businesses if someone can plead their case like the consortium did for the biggies. The attorney general has been the ratepayers' advocate in these cases for 50 years, but the new attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, has taken the side of the Koch brothers, who supported her campaign, and other industrial polluters against President Obama's clean-power plan. Can she switch and become a champion of ordinary ratepayers over her benefactors? Wait and see.

The justification for favoring big industries over everyone else in fixing monthly electric bills — along with any policy on anything that anyone favors today — is that it would be good for jobs. Acknowledging Act 725's injunction, an Entergy executive filed testimony in the case saying that, yes, favorable energy rates for big plants and less favorable rates for other businesses and homeowners would indeed be good for jobs.

If she chose, Rutledge or anyone else might use federal job records and projections to show the opposite is true: Job numbers come from small businesses, not big manufacturers. But in the new regime formed by massive political contributions from corporate wealth, facts must not get in the way of policy.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Glass houses

    Having gotten a deep security briefing and probably a confidential glimpse of our own vast cyberspying operation, Donald Trump is no longer pretty sure that the Kremlin didn't hack Democratic computers or employ other tactics to help his election.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • ACA and the GOP

    Congress and the new president in a matter of weeks will repeal big parts of the Affordable Care Act, at least nominally, but what will follow that wondrous event will not be the contentment that Republicans have long promised, but even more political tumult.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Glass houses

    Having gotten a deep security briefing and probably a confidential glimpse of our own vast cyberspying operation, Donald Trump is no longer pretty sure that the Kremlin didn't hack Democratic computers or employ other tactics to help his election.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • ACA and the GOP

    Congress and the new president in a matter of weeks will repeal big parts of the Affordable Care Act, at least nominally, but what will follow that wondrous event will not be the contentment that Republicans have long promised, but even more political tumult.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • A heart in this house

    Since Election Day, I have been at a loss as to how to direct my energy. I am spinning in circles.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A heart in this house

    • The elections woke people up, a good thing and caused some people to feel insecure…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: A heart in this house

    • Arkansas needs You.

    • on January 19, 2017
  • Re: A heart in this house

    • Autumn Tolbert, thank You. I met Rev. Barbour in Selma two years ago. A new…

    • on January 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation