Louisiana Entergy customers crushed by high power bills

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 6:55 PM CDT
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TERRYTOWN, La. (WVUE) - Back on February 26, Jessica Schwehm’s home caught fire around 3 a.m. The flames took over her son’s room and laundry room, with nothing surviving the disaster.

She says the fire started from a plugged-in space heater that wasn’t turned on. Currently, the home is unlivable, boarded up and whatever could be salvaged was removed months ago.

“I have not been there since,” Schwehm said.

Schwehm has been staying in Marrero while finding a more permanent living situation. In the meantime, she’s been getting billed from Entergy, despite not having any appliances plugged in or even working electricity.

She says the bills have usually been no more than $20 until the most recent bill for June skyrocketed to $715.29.

“When I got it, I was like 700 dollars? I have no meter. What are you reading?” she said. “$700 is definitely a lot more than I normally pay.”

Over in Lafitte, Ashley Clark says she’s also getting crushed with Entergy bills just for doing day-to-day activities with her two-year-old son and boyfriend.

“Last month was $418 and this month is $687,” Clark said. “The electricity bills are insane, absolutely insane.”

She questions how her family could run up the meter that high and sees it as one more hurdle after her old home was hit by Hurricane Ida. Clark says she’s been staying in her “dream home” now but worries about how expensive it’s starting to get.

“It is a challenge, big time. With the price of groceries, gas, house note, rent, it is a challenge,” she said.

Outside of Orleans Parish, the Public Service Commission regulates utilities but Commissioner Eric Skrmetta says the high power bills are an issue for federal officials to fix.

“The problem we have here is not a Louisiana problem, it’s a Washington problem,” Skrmetta said.

He says Entergy bills are high because of the cost of natural gas, high use during the hotter months and the fees customers are paying for hurricane repairs.

“They got a right to recover what they spend on things. They have a right to recover the service that they provide,” he said.

He claims Louisiana has some of the lowest rates in the nation and that our neighbors are getting it worse price-wise and accessibility-wise.

“Texas power is probably 40% more expensive in its unregulated part,” he said. “Yesterday, Texas put out warnings saying ‘Please raise your thermostats. We are short of power and also please don’t charge your electric cars because they are putting a burden on the electrical grid’ None of those burdens are happening here because we have adequate resources here.”

Still, Skrmetta says there’s little relief Louisiana customers might see in the near future until gas prices lower.

“If this keeps happening, the middle class will eventually be poor. And it’s not fun especially when you have kids,” Clark said.

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