PSC candidates discuss LC Cogen

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's a three man race for Louisiana Public Service Commission District 4 to fill the unexpired term of Dale Sittig who resigned. The man elected will represent much of central Louisiana on the board that oversees utility businesses such as electricity, telephones and trucking.

The candidates are former U.S. Rep. Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill; State Senator Joe McPherson, of Woodworth; and former State rep. Gil Pinac, of Crowley. It's the PSC's job to regulate utilities-- a role increasingly important for consumers struggling with higher rates and concerning economic development.

The PSC was recently asked to take up the issue of Lake Charles Cogeneration, a $2 billion development for the Lake area, and the apparent impasse as the company attempts to get utility companies to buy the substitute natural gas it will make.

The commission refused to open a formal case on the matter, which McPherson says was the wrong decision. "A project that's going to put over a billion dollars into the economy immediately that has the potential to do hundreds of jobs and the advocates say will save rate payers $400 million, I think that's a good precedent to set. I think if there was ever a case for opening a docket and setting a precedent that this would be it."

At a recent forum Holloway and Pinac said they want to do more research. Said Pinac, "The utility companies are saying that the cost of the generated power is more than what they could buy it for on the open market. There's questions as far as whether that is correct. I would like to find out some more information about that. "

Holloway said, "I have not made a decision on supporting or not supporting but it will be the number one agenda issue when I get on the commission to look at it, to study it, to find out. If it was a one way street it would be easy. Whoever's elected could play a key role in deciding the PSC handling of Lake Charles Cogeneration.

Another key issue for the future includes improving the infrastructure that supplies power especially considering what the state goes through in the aftermath of a hurricane.

To win Saturday, a candidate must get more than half the votes cast. If there's a runoff the top two vote getters will face off Saturday May 2nd.