JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has decided not to block Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's investigation into a power company that says he has no reason to do probe it.
Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Barbour denied Entergy's request for a preliminary injunction, meaning the Hinds County Chancery Court will determine the fate of Hood's Civil Investigative Demands he issued to the company.
Hood had asked Entergy for information regarding its pricing and fuel buying and selling in the past 10 years. He says the state's Consumer Protection Act allows him to investigate, and that Entergy Mississippi buys electricity and fuel for Mississippi at inflated rates from its sister companies and overcharges Mississippi customers.
"It is a shame that a company like Entergy, which serves hundreds of thousands of Mississippi ratepayers, would want to waste the court's time attempting to hide records they should be proud to release if they did not exhibit self-dealing among Entergy subsidiaries," Hood said.
A hearing was scheduled for Monday in Hinds Chancery Court, where Hood filed an action seeking to enforce the CIDs, in front of Judge Dewayne Thomas.
Entergy had filed suit against Hood in federal court seeking protection from compliance with the demands.
In its complaint, Entergy calls Hood's investigation "a fishing expedition, commanding the production and delivery of great volumes of documents and information, relevant or irrelevant, in the hope that something will turn up, evading regular administrative jurisdictions, processes and protections."
It also claims that it is only subject to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's rules. Hood issued the CIDs to Entergy, Entergy Mississippi and Entergy Services, which has a principal place of business in New Orleans.
Hood said he has reason to believe Entergy has violated state laws because of prior cases in Louisiana. He said Entergy agreed to refund $72 million over similar allegations in Louisiana in 2000 and was ordered to pay $34 million to New Orleans customers in February.
"Once again, we ask the question: If Entergy has nothing to hide in Mississippi, then it should be eager to release the documents we have requested and show our ratepayers that they are not being overcharged, especially during these times of economic hardship," Hood said.
Entergy had filed a rebuttal brief in support of an injunction Thursday before Barbour's decision.
"General Hood's CIDs are unprecedented in so many ways," attorneys for the company wrote. "A generation ago, then-Attorney General Bill Allain aggressively asserted the public interest in electric utility rate regulation.
"But even Attorney General Allain respected the regulatory prerogatives of the (Mississippi Public Service Commission), subject only to judicial review."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.