JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood recently said the power provider he has been battling for months is "kind of like the mafia."
Hood made the remarks in a Thursday report by WLBT in Jackson regarding the state Public Service Commission putting many of its workers on furloughs to save money. Hood blamed lobbyists for Entergy Corp. for misinforming lawmakers on how many employees the PSC and the Public Utilities Staff should be kept, the report says.
Last week, the PSC and Public Utilities Staff were not told their budgets at the end of a special legislative session.
"It just shows you Entergy's kind of like the mafia -- 'if you try to regulate us we'll shut you down.' And that's what happened," Hood said in the report.
"They have shut down the actual functions of the PSC to a bare minimum and they've shut down the agency that assists them completely. From what I was told, senators and Gov. (Haley) Barbour were right in the middle of the shutdown. I guess he's carrying the water for Entergy."
Hood and Entergy have been locked in a war of words since last year.
Hood feels that Entergy Mississippi is buying gas at an inflated cost from the other Entergy companies, driving prices up for Mississippi consumers.
Entergy called Hood's civil investigative demands a "fishing expedition" and feels the Attorney General's Office has no business investigating utilities.
A ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court this year reinforced the fact that utilities should be regulated by the proper authorities, Entergy Mississippi vice president of customer operations John Mullins has said.
The New Orleans City Council decided in 2004 Entergy had to refund $7.2 million to customers, but that amount was increased to $34.3 million by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals when plaintiffs claimed that Entergy New Orleans had recovered certain costs through its fueld adjustment clause instead of its base rates.
The Supreme Court ruling reinstates the original $7.2 million amount.
"In this case the Supreme Court confirmed the findings of the New Orleans City Council, Entergy New Orleans' regulators," Mullins said.
Hood has cited the case publicly as support for his standing to bring suit, even calling the claims made by him and those made in the New Orleans case "the exact same allegations."
Only 12 of the PSC's 73 employees will keep working through the furloughs, and Hood wrote in an opinion that the Public Utilities Staff is only an advisory agency and that its 30 employees need not be paid because they are not vital to the PSC carrying on its duties.
Entergy responded to Hood's lobbyist remarks in a statement quoted in the report.
"The Attorney General's allegations are false and highly irresponsible," it said.
"We have not intervened in the PSC funding issue. If the PSC could not operate in a normal and efficient manner, it would have a negative affect on our company and our customers."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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