PSC elects chair, vice chair

The state’s board of elected utility regulators Wednesday chose Commissioner Eric Skrmetta as its chairman for 2013.

The Metairie Republican replaces Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish.

The five elected members of the PSC then elected Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, as vice chairman.

Skrmetta said that as chairman he wanted all consultants to visit with commissioners prior to presenting their reports to the PSC. He also said he wanted the hired experts, usually economists and accountants specializing in utilities, to sign that they had no conflict of interests in preparing the reports for the commission.

Skrmetta also ordered the PSC staff to get estimates on the length of presentations to be discussed by the members at their monthly meetings, then set the agenda based on those estimates, with those issues taking the shortest duration going first and the longer, more controversial issues going last.

Outgoing chairman Campbell said he was concerned because often witnesses fly in to Baton Rouge to testify. “It’s not fair to make them wait until after lunch,” Campbell said.

Skrmetta said his general rule could be changed, if necessary, but those decisions would be considered individually as they occur.

He then asked that commissioners to take up an issue that was not on the public agenda and to discuss it in executive session. The commissioners unanimously agreed to both motions.

The commissioners met behind closed doors for about 15 minutes, then reconvened publicly to announce suspension of a case, called a docket by the PSC, until the end of 2013.

The docket to which Skrmetta referred when calling for the executive session was about the separation of Texas and Louisiana services areas in the Entergy Gulf States Louisiana LLC territory, according to public filings. A series of agreements involved the sale of power and the costs of making power at Entergy Gulf States generating plants in Texas and Louisiana and how to allocate those costs between the customers in the two states.

In Texas, regulators had raised concerns that Entergy customers in that state would be saddled with too much of the cost once the Entergy subsidiaries joined a cooperative that would handle transmission and generating decisions on a regional basis.

Skrmetta said after the meeting that the concern was about the impact on all the states involved in Entergy’s “system agreement” and how similar contracts between the utility’s subsidiaries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas would be affected by joining the regional transmission organization called MISO. The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., of Indiana, would decide how and when to transmit electricity made by utility companies from the Hudson Bay shores in Manitoba, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico shores in Louisiana.

“We want to open discussions with Texas,” Skrmetta said.