You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, New Orleans City Councilor Helena Moreno needs to realize.
Yet Moreno seems intent on doing just that. She has asked the Council to beef up its staff that deals with utility issues. It’s unnecessary and wasteful.
Currently, New Orleans only among American cities regulates its electricity provider. In every other state, entities at the state level oversee electric provision, which in Louisiana would mean the Public Service Commission.
However, a special carve-out delegates New Orleans this function. For decades, since it surrendered direct ownership over the electric utility, it has contracted evaluation of the job performance of the private sector provider, Entergy, to another entity.
Moreno, and perhaps some of her Council colleagues, thinks the consultants may have become too prone to deferring to Entergy. Of course, one strategy to obviate this, if it happens, would be to select another adviser.
Instead, Moreno wants to spend taxpayer dollars to increase the Council’s ability independently to gather and analyze utility data. In other words, she wants to duplicate what the PSC staff does statewide.
Why should New Orleans spend taxpayer money to duplicate what already the PSC does? The PSC already covers 90 percent of statewide electricity consumers, so it would take little additional scaling up of its staff to incorporate the 10 percent of the state’s ratepayers located in New Orleans.
Bringing New Orleans utility customers under the PSC umbrella isn’t a tall order. State law asks that either a vote by the governing authority – in this case the City Council – or petition by 10 percent of New Orleanians would transfer regulatory authority from the Council to the PSC.
If Moreno and the Council really wish to do right by taxpayers, rather than put them on the hook for additional expenditures they would dispense with kingdom-building and relinquish the city’s control over electric utilities with an affirmative vote for transfer.