Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell says its time the PSC uses a special act the Legislature passed in 2001 to declare an energy emergency to help out seniors and low-income utility ratepayers deal with escalating energy bills. Campbell is calling for a special PSC meeting in August to vote on declaring the emergency, made possible through the Louisiana Emergency Relief Act of 2001, which enables the PSC to require that utility companies offer certain customers the option of deferring payment of charges that go higher than their normal utility bill when those higher charges are caused by fuel adjustments in response to the rising cost of natural gas. The Louisiana Emergency Relief Act has never been put into use by the PSC.
Campbell also is calling on Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature to use part of the states $1 billion surplus to supplement federal home energy assistance aid, which he says has been decreasing since 2005.He also is urging state lawmakers to increase funding available to help weatherize Louisiana homes for low-income residents. This time last year, natural gas was trading at $6 per thousand cubic feet. Earlier this month it was $13, he says. When we have a budget surplus in Louisiana, in large part due to rising revenue from oil and gas taxes, we need to put some of that money into energy assistance for our neediest citizens.