Those of our readers who live in Public Service Commission District 1 (which would not include the erstwhile and de-facto Democrat candidate Forest Wright, but we digress) may have noticed the inundation on radio and TV about how the incumbent Commissioner Eric Skrmetta somehow fought to keep alive a failed coal/petroleum coke power plant while doing the bidding of the evil Entergy as they sought to poison the atmosphere along with soaking the ratepayers.
But the story of the Little Gypsy power plant in the St. Charles Parish hamlet of Montz is actually quite a bit simpler than the ads the Wright campaign and their out-of-state PAC allies are telling. Little Gypsy isn’t anything more than a typical tale of environmentalist-nut advocacy run amok and causing massive cost problems.
The Skrmetta campaign put out a video today telling his side of the story, which our research indicates is a lot closer to the truth than Wright would have you believe…
Wright calls himself an “energy expert.” Where he comes by that designation is an interesting question; his website says he “graduated with his bachelors and masters degrees from Tulane University, where he studied international development and tourism planning.”
But the Alliance For Affordable Energy, where Wright has worked for the past nine years, has been busy costing ratepayers money by attacking projects like Little Gypsy.
To be fair, Little Gypsy was going to be problematic from the start seeing as though Entergy wanted to convert it from gas to coal at a time when natural gas was seen as too expensive. Market conditions changed dramatically from the time the conversion was conceived of to the time the project was killed; thanks to the shale gas boom, the cost of gas went to almost nothing while at the same time the Obama administration’s war on coal made it nearly impossible to build or run a coal plant (and a large number of those facilities have been shut down across the country in the last several years). Still, the purpose behind the idea of converting the plant to coal is an intelligent one; namely, that power companies ought to have a diverse fuel mix to fuel their grid to guard against price and rate spikes owing to market disruptions, and you can’t realistically have a diverse fuel mix suiting that purpose unless coal (or in the case of Little Gypsy, petroleum coke procured as a by-product from nearby oil refineries as a secondary fuel along with coal) is included.
Bad federal policy and good market conditions might have killed Little Gypsy anyway, but Wright’s organization ran up the costs of the project in advance and because they did Entergy was by law entitled to pass those losses on to the consumer. Even when the Little Gypsy project died.
If that sounds like a Charlie Foxtrot to you, now you know why you don’t put enviro-loons like Forest Wright on regulatory bodies like the Public Service Commission. The amount of damage these morons can do is more than you’d ever imagine, and unless conservative voters who make up the vast majority of the 1st District PSC electorate recognize the stakes and the attempt at deception of the public inherent in Saturday’s election, the consequences of what on the surface might seem a sleepy down-ballot race could be severe.