As southerners emerge from last week’s arctic temps and record-breaking snowfalls, utility companies like Entergy are sitting fat and happy. Here in Arkansas, Entergy—Arkansas’ largest electric provider— is trying to change the rules to line the pockets of their shareholders. Meanwhile, one Republican lawmaker aims to legislate rate increases for already struggling Arkansans.
Monopolies Like Entergy Will Monopolize, So We Have to Regulate
Utility companies are monopolies, and there isn’t much Arkansans can do about that. Monopolies and government have an agreement: government lets monopolies be the only game in town for certain services. In return, monopolies agree to be regulated by the government. It’s a tit for tat arrangement with regulators playing judge. Regulators are the ones balancing what’s fair to utility and what’s fair to consumers.
Here in Arkansas, it’s the Public Service Commission’s job to regulate Entergy. The Governor appoints commissioners (regulators) to serve for 6 year terms. The PSC is the only body that adjudicates how Entergy can make a buck without screwing over Arkansas electric consumers. And the PSC does its job well. It’s run by level-headed moderates who work in service to the public. Commission Chair Ted Thomas has served with the PSC since 2015. A former Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the 20th Judicial District, Thomas also served as Administrative Law Judge at the Public Service Commission as well as Budget Director for former Governor Mike Huckabee. Recently Thomas and the PSC ruled against Entergy (the utility wants to go back in time and take more money from Arkansans’ pockets). Entergy didn’t like the ruling and is attempting to overrun the Commission by passing special language legislation to supersede the Commission. Essentially, Entergy thinks it’s entitled to what it wants ($$$) while Arkansans struggle to pay their electric bills after a once-a-century snow storm.
Winners and Losers
Scared to get your electric bill for the month of February? Us, too. The cost of electricity is rising, and electricity rates affect every aspect of our economy. Think about it: who doesn’t use electricity? Electricity prices affect our schools, small businesses, and our wallets. So why is one republican trying to legislate a rate increase for Arkansas electric consumers amid a pandemic and after a hard-hitting winter storm? The people in our state are already trying to make ends meet. Lawmakers shouldn’t make paying our bills even harder.
Entergy tapped Republican State Senator Terry Rice to run their special language legislation so the utility can overthrow the PSC’s ruling. To simplify, Entergy is trying to change the rules—rules they agreed to— so they can take more money out of Arkansans’ pockets. And they’re doing it through the Arkansas Legislature. Senator Rice, who sits on the state’s Joint Energy Committee, has taken money from utility companies and energy PACs throughout his career as a politician. Is Senator Rice beholden to Entergy at the expense of his constituents? Sure looks that way.
Get Loud and Demand Better from Entergy and Lawmakers
The special language Entergy and Sen. Rice want to sneak by Arkansans is in the draft stage. If filed, it will end up in the Joint Energy Committee, on which Sen. Rice sits. What can you do as an Arkansas consumer? First, you can make some noise. Entergy is skulking this legislation along, hoping no one will notice they’re trying to rig the system in their favor. Share this post and tag Entergy (Twitter: @Entergy, @EntergyArk). Let them know changing the rules to make a buck is unacceptable. Second, Tell Senator Terry Rice to drop the special language legislation he has drafted on behalf of Entergy. Senator Rice needs to do the bidding of his constituents, not Arkansas’ largest energy monopoly. Sign our petition here.
Lastly, you can follow us as this unfolds. We’re committed to holding our elected officials to account, but this only goes so far. We’re here to inform you when our lawmakers behave badly and to empower Arkansans to take back ownership of their government. You have the power to hold Sen. Terry Rice and Entergy to account. You have the power to elect a representative that puts Arkansans first. Remember this on Election Day 2022.