As Arkansas ratepayers brace themselves for outrageous utility bills, Governor Hutchinson works behind closed doors to help Entergy pass consumer rate hikes.
- The Governor appointed Ted Thomas to regulate Entergy
- Entergy is Arkansas’ largest energy provider and is a monopoly
- Mr. Thomas does his job, angering Entergy by ruling against them
- Entergy goes to State Senator to overrule Mr. Thomas through legislation
- The Governor– who appointed Mr. Thomas – puts his thumb on the scale and pressures other lawmakers to get on board with Entergy’s demands
- Who is Governor Hutchinson interested in protecting: Entergy or Arkansans?
As chair of the Public Service Commission, it’s Ted Thomas’ job to regulate Arkansas utility companies. An appointee of Governor Hutchinson, he and other commissioners strike a balance between revenue for utility companies and rates for Arkansans. When things get wonky (like in freakish weather events) the Commission investigates. During February’s historic snowstorm, the unthinkable happened: Temperatures plummeted. Pipelines froze. Residents cranked their thermostats. Utility companies paid extraordinary market prices to distribute power, which will be reflected on consumers’ bills. “Costs ultimately get passed to ratepayers. The costs from this are going to be ugly.” Thomas told Joint Energy Committee members. “We have folks who spent more [money] in ten days on gas than they did all of last year.”
Protecting Arkansas Ratepayers
Arkansans will be shocked when they see future bills. Chairperson Thomas stressed to committee members that his Commission will ensure ratepayers are not slammed with outrageous bills all at once. The Commission will investigate and likely recommend breaking up the cost of the storm over a stretch of time. This way people can actually pay their bills, and that’s good news.
Governor Hutchinson: Employed by Arkansans or Entergy?
But here’s where it gets complicated: Ted Thomas was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to run the PSC. And Thomas does a solid job. Recently, Thomas sided with ratepayers against Entergy, Arkansas’ largest energy company, saying the utility was not entitled to a rate increase it asked for. This was a win for Arkansas consumers. Entergy, though, did not take no for an answer. The utility teamed up with Senator Terry Rice to override Commissioner Thomas and get the rate hike they want.
The problem is that Senator Rice and Entergy have no authority to do this. The ruling of the PSC should stand because that’s what the PSC is tasked to do: regulate utility companies. Even more problematic is that Governor Asa Hutchinson’s staff is contacting other members of the Arkansas legislature, asking them to get on board with Entergy’s legislation. This move by Governor Hutchinson usurps the ruling of the Governor’s own chairperson, Ted Thomas.
What YOU Can Do as a Ratepayer
Our sister project, On AR Watch, petitioned Senator Rice to drop his legislation in favor of Entergy, asking him to work instead for the people of Arkansas. But now For AR People is troubled to hear our own Governor is actively working against the people of his state, and he’s doing it behind closed doors. While his own Commissioner worries about how Arkansans will pay their bills, Governor Hutchinson wants to further hike rates for Arkanasas…during a pandemic and after a historic storm. The people of your state are already suffering, Governor. They don’t need you making backroom deals with Entergy’s lobbyists. Your people need you to work for them.
For AR People calls on Governor Asa Hutchinson to stop looking out for Entergy and start looking out for the people of his state. We demand transparency from Governor Hutchinson and our lawmakers and ask them to listen to their constituents: if you believe our Governor should work for you, the ratepayer, and not Arkansas’ biggest utility company, sign our petition here.
Now more than ever, Arkansas deserves better from its Governor. Demand that our leaders stop caving to lobbyists and protect the hardworking people in our state instead.