Thursday, July 06, 2006

More Serious Quote of the Day (today's)

About $128 of the bill would be for the electric portion, still much lower than Boston, where the typical electric bill is $207.34, the highest in the nation. Electric costs, however, would still be higher than the rest of the state.

The Picayune on Entergy's request for a 25% rate increase--if it doesn't receive $718M in "federal" aid. The article does mention that rates would still be higher in N.O. than the rest of the state, but it compares N.O. to the city with the highest average electric bills in the nation. It doesn't mention the lowest rates in the nation or median incomes in New Orleans and Boston. Perhaps more importantly, it compares electric bills in the two cities--not utility bills. I've only been to Boston once, but it was in December; I don't recall seeing much gas heating. I suspect that electric bills are a higher percentage of total utility bills in Boston than New Orleans.

This is a more complicated issue than I have time to go into tonight, but today's article gave the impression that Entergy was looking for aid from Washington. Other recent articles make it clear that Entergy is seeking to get that $718M out of the money that the state has already received from Washington--not from new appropriations (the text of the first does, the headline doesn't). We're hearing CDBG lately, not ConEd after 9/11.

Some quick points, the city really seems to understand the value of public/private partnerships where Entergy is concerned. It's sometimes hard to tell whether Clint Vince is representing New Orleans or Entergy. It might be correct that both have decided it would be a waste of time to try to get more money out of Washington, but the city doesn't seem prepared to take an adversarial position with Entergy's parent company. I would hope that, after hiring that kind of legal talent, the city would at least have a contingency plan.

Also, it's been almost two months since we've heard that almost half ($340) of that money is not for repairs, but lost revenues. In the same article, Andy Kopplin, of the LRA, said he didn't expect more than a billion to CDBG money to be available for all of the state's utilities. My guess is that Entergy's plan is try to get CDBG money to cover the repairs, and then people in New Orleans will be relieved to only need to pay enough of a rate increase to cover the lost revenue. But don't worry, Entergy's parent company is helping out, it's making low interest (4.5%) loans available to Entergy New Orleans--well maybe up to $200M worth of low interest loans.

I don't know what the city's course of action should be. However, if you retain high-priced legal talent, have him look at all of your options. It's not like the CDBG money is a bottomless well. That last link is an important one, unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much real reporting on it.

Note: I understand that it would probably be impossible to get the money out of Washington at this point, I just think that it gives an incorrect (or incomplete) impression to say that Entergy is seeking federal aid.

Comments:
My Boston apartment is of comparable size to the New Orleans apartment I lived in during 2003 and 2004. I'd say that my electric bills are about the same that I paid in New Orleans, except in the summer when I'd have to crank the A/C for three straight months. We do pay far more up here, but not for electric, but for gas or oil, the two most popular fuels for heat in my neighborhood.

Thus, I find it hard to believe that Bostonions are really paying that much more in electricity than what Entergy proposes. If you add gas/oil heat, then we're higher, but on electric alone I don't believe it.
 
Well, I thought it was odd that the story only compared electricity bills, no matter what the case, it was slanted to only compare N.O. to the most expensive market.

More importantly, they keep presenting it as lobbying the federal government for that money, when it seems to be lobbying for the $718M out of the state's $4.2B(or is it up to $7b?). I don't know where the money should come from, but the city seems to agree with Entergy N.O. that it should all come from the CDBG money. They're paying the billable hours for a partner with a law firm with offices in New York, Washington, and Boston, and they're not prepared to get adversarial with Entergy inc.--evenas a contingency plan. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't like the fact that it's hard to tell who Clint Vince is working for--the City of N.O. or Entergy, N.o.
 
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