Our Views: Questions at the PSC

If there is one body of state government that has the potential for political dealmaking, it is the Public Service Commission. An elected body that is intended to regulate major industries clearly has an obligation to act in an aboveboard fashion, so that no one gains the impression that the body is acting for political self-interest.

One lobbyist, in an email to clients in the solar energy industry, says PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta demanded that the industry not support a potential opponent. The issue is a compromise measure for the PSC that would help the solar energy business.

The reported exchange involved Forest Bradley-Wright, a consumer advocate who might run against Skrmetta.

“Though he understands that the solar industry cannot dictate to Forest that he run or not, he expects the solar industry to privately and publicly support his re-election. This means not supporting Forest’s candidacy!” wrote Andrew B. Ezell, a Baton Rouge lawyer representing a trade group. “I strongly recommend that the GSREIA board take heed of this caveat!”

The group is the New Orleans-based Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Ezell, the lobbyist, won’t comment on his email. Skrmetta says unblushingly that he does not want an opponent, but that his compromise on solar energy is intended to help the industry.

“I’m not trying to tee something up for an argument as much as I am trying to listen to the troubles that the companies are having,” Skrmetta said. “We’ll still have a discussion on it. If there is support for it, then the PSC will vote for it. If there is no support for it, they will not approve it.”

We don’t think that’s good enough. If the chairman of the PSC is leaning on an industry for political support in the performance of his official duties, maybe the state inspector-general’s office or other agencies ought to take a look at how business is being done at the PSC.