SB51 is being framed as a simple reform that would provide the LPSC more options. This is false. What it really does is let utilities off the hook for their poor decision-making. Two utilities, Cleco and Swepco, requested this legislation in preparation to side step the LPSC’s decisions to protect customers. This change would allow utilities to request that the LPSC raise monthly utility bills to repay themselves after being forced to issue refunds due to poor business decisions. The fact of the matter is, too many Louisiana ratepayers already can’t afford to meet their basic needs. Now, on top of that, these utilities want Louisiana ratepayers all across the state to pay for their catastrophically poor decision-making and self dealing.
While disappointed by the bills passing, The Alliance looks forward to working with members of the House to make sure they understand what’s at stake in this issue. Customers should not be on the hook for utilities' poor decisions. Period.
In better news, the following week on May 2, the Natural Resources and Environment Committee passed HB267 - which places a moratorium on carbon dioxide sequestration (CCS) projects on Lake Maurepas and the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area. The Alliance is thrilled to see the Legislature advance a bill that will protect the communities around Lake Maurepas from this dangerous, expensive, and unproven technology. We will continue to watch as this bill moves to debate on the House floor.
On the flip side, that same day the Committee also involuntarily deferred HB454, which would have required a local election for the approval of CCS within a parish. The Alliance is disappointed by the involuntary deferral of HB454, which essentially kills the bill for this session. HB454 would have given voters the power to decide whether or not CCS projects belong in their communities. Removing communities' voices from the process and allowing oil, gas, pipeline, and chemical corporations to force these projects on communities, whether they want them or not, will further harm people already overburdened by industrial pollution and leave taxpayers on the hook when things go wrong.
CCS is not a climate solution. Carbon pipelines are dangerous and residents will pay the costs. Once a CCS project has begun, it cannot be undone. Every CCS project will need to be permanently maintained to protect against leaks or storage failures. Real solutions for climate change do exist, and are supported by LA communities. Our leaders should focus on strategies that maximize public benefit and ensure a stable and safe economic future for LA and its people. CCS does not fit that bill.
Other bills aimed at regulating or restricting carbon capture, pipeline, and injection projects that The Alliance supports include HB10, HB35, HB120, HB308, and HB312. These are common sense measures that will protect and empower Louisiana’s people while holding industry accountable. All five of these bills have now been heard in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, with different outcomes:
Finally, SB35 was pulled down in the Senate Finance Committee due to opposition by industry and their supporters on the committee. SB35 would have required the installation of air monitoring systems at certain facilities including more than 450 petrochemical plants in Louisiana. There is a compelling and urgent need for this kind of legislation. People deserve to know what they are breathing and The Alliance will continue to fight for these kinds of protections. In response to the bill's failure, the New Orleans City Council issued a resolution, which The Alliance supports, urging the state and the EPA to reinstate air monitoring in the Irish Channel.
The 2023 regular session will come to an end in just a few weeks – though the potential for a special session to finish budget negotiations, or veto session to override the Governor’s vetoes, remain possibilities. The Alliance will continue to educate lawmakers and fight for ratepayers, as well as environmental and climate justice, at the Legislature.