Public Service Commission wary of Sierra Club's bid to intervene in Entergy rate case | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Public Service Commission wary of Sierra Club's bid to intervene in Entergy rate case

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 11:56 AM

The original version of this item incorrectly stated that the Public Service Commission had ruled against the Sierra Club's request to intervene. That's not happened. The PSC staff has made a recommendation against the Sierra Club, as cited below, but the Commissioners themselves have not issued a ruling. I apologize for the error.

Talk Business reports
that staff with the Arkansas Public Service Commission recommend that the PSC's commissioners deny a request by the Sierra Club of Arkansas to intervene in Entergy Arkansas's proposal to increase rates on electricity consumers for the purpose of making improvements to its infrastructure (oh, with a boost to its margin in the process).

Yesterday, the Sierra Club voiced objection to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's decision to formally oppose the Sierra Club's intervention in the rate case. PSC staff seems to agree with the Attorney General:

Sierra has not demonstrated why a rate increase would financially impact its members in a manner any different from a financial impact to all other residential ratepayers that are already not represented by CURAD (Consumer Utilities Rate Advocacy Division of the Office of the Arkansas Attorney General) and staff,” PSC Dawn Counsel Kelliher Guthrie wrote in a six-page response.

The PSC’s response came after Entergy Arkansas and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge formally opposed the intervention request of Sierra Club, arguing that the AG’s office would adequately represent the interests of the environmental group. The Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers Inc. and Evergreen Packaging Inc., which are intervenors in the case, also filed a joint response opposing the Sierra Club’s participation in the rate case.

click to enlarge sierra-club-logo.jpeg
PSC has allowed seven other entities to intervene in the rate case, including Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, Inc, Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger's, and a trade association representing the University of Arkansas and several major Arkansas hospitals.

Editorializing: Those are all big consumers of electricity. It's clear why they want to intervene — they have a vested interest in keeping rates low. It's the PSC's job to balance the interest of consumers and providers of power. But what about the interests of the environmental commons? I suppose PSC can argue that that's outside of its mandate, but I think that's a bogus claim given PSC has worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to prepare for coming federal EPA rules on carbon emissions. Electricity rates are intrinsically tied up with how power is generated, which is intrinsically tied up with carbon output. 

We're in a new regulatory world in regards to power generation. Those who acknowledge climate change need to recognize the fact that regulators must balance the interests of the environment right along with those of consumers and producers.

In addition to Sierra Club, PSC has not yet said whether it will allow another intervener that might be expected to inject a note of caution over continued coal use into the Entergy proceeding: The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.

The AAEA, which represents companies that manufacture, install or use utilize renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuel components, also requested to intervene in the rate case on June 18. As of today (Tuesday, June 23), the PSC staff had not approved to AAEA’s request to intervene.

“The AAEA petition is pending and has not been approved,” PSC Executive John Bethel said, adding that the PSC staff is reviewing the request and other interested parties have 10 days to respond to the application.

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