Heated PSC race between Boissiere & Lewis to be decided on Saturday

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:24 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On Saturday, voters in 10 parishes in southeast Louisiana will decide a feisty race for the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The PSC regulates public utilities that provide electricity, water, natural gas, and some telecommunications services across the state.

The contest between incumbent PSC member Lambert Boissiere, III, and challenger Davante Lewis is hot to the finish. And a political action committee is spending big to hurt Boissiere’s reelection bid.

But Boissiere is fighting back.

In a campaign spot, the announcer says, “So why are radicals in New York spending a million dollars attacking Lambert Boissiere? Because they want their puppet, Davante Lewis to push reckless policies that will only result in job losses and higher utility bills.”

While a Lewis campaign ad says, “Davante Lewis is a proven champion for reforms who refuses donations from utility companies. He knows that together we can build an independent energy future that’s clean, affordable, and dependable.”

Orleans, Jefferson, and parts of the river parishes help make up the 3rd PSC district. And for 17 years Lambert Boissiere has represented those areas on the PSC.

He says he wants to continue the work he has been doing.

“I’ve championed things like renewal energy, solar energy, wind energy for the state, and in addition to that I’ve controlled the things that we can at the LPSC like rates,” said Boissiere. “We don’t control fuel and so it’s more difficult to control the end result of the bill but as far as rates go Louisiana has been near the lowest rates in the nation, either the lowest or near the lowest since I’ve been on there.”

Lewis, who is director of public affairs for the non-profit, Louisiana Budget Project wants to unseat Boissiere.

“He’s only telling you the half true. Louisiana does have a lower rate per kilowatt but that’s not all you pay. Your utility bills are extremely high because Louisiana has some of the worst excessive late fees, our maintenance fee,” said Lewis.

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration Louisiana is among 11 states with the lowest average retail price per kilowatt hour.

Boissiere says he understands the frustrations of ratepayers because he too pays utility bills.

“I live in the state of Louisiana, I pay utility bills, too so I feel your pain. When the bills go up I pay higher bills, too,” said Boissiere. “During COVID we’ve put a moratorium on disconnects because we understood that people were quarantined.”

But Lewis thinks he would do a better job representing the district’s constituents.

He talked about his priorities if elected.

“The first is my ratepayers’ bill of rights which would put a moratorium on disconnections for utility non-payments but would also examine the excessive fees that we see on our utility bills,” said Lewis. “Secondly, I am going to tackle corruption, I believe that it is long time that we pass an internal rule at the Public Service Commission that sitting commissioners cannot accept campaign donations from the entities that they are supposed to be regulating.”

Entergy rates for the city of New Orleans are not regulated by the PSC but rather by the city council.

While on the PSC, Boissiere says he has worked to bring the internet to more areas of the state.

“Into underserved areas, poor areas and even in areas where there is broadband like New Orleans and Baton Rouge to make it more robust so that people can go to school during COVID, people can have interviews and shop online and stream; as the world is changing the commission wants to be able to upgrade and I’m proud of that work and there’s more to do to,” he said.

Lewis and the PAC “Keep the Lights On” which is based in Washington, according to its campaign finance filing, attack Boissiere for accepting campaign donations from utilities.

FOX 8 asked Boissiere to respond to those criticisms.

“I’m glad you asked that question. First of all, taking money means campaign donations is what you’re asking about. Every campaign donation we receive is legal and ethical, it is above-board by the state ethics committee, we follow the rules completely,” said Boissiere.

But Lewis says the practice of PSC members getting campaign donations from utilities needs to end.

“As my great-grandmother used to tell me just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. And while the law of Louisiana allows this ridiculous loophole, I believe leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard,” said Lewis. “And that’s what I’m doing this campaign, I’m not taking a single dime from a company, or an executive, or a PAC associated with anything that would be regulated by the Public Service Commission.”

According to the PAC’s campaign finance report covering October 20, 2022, through November 20, 2022, it had total receipts of $622, 310.33.

Boisserie says it is an attempt by non-Louisianans to influence what happens in the state.

“This is just an out-of-state radical group of dark money PAC, the progressive radical agenda that just wants to come down here and control Louisiana,” he said.

Lewis says he has no affiliation with Keep the lights on.

“His record is why people are getting involved in this race,” said Lewis. “There’s been two PACS that have donated to my campaign and both of them were at the request of local Louisiana chapters, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund.”

Lewis also responded to the claim he would be a puppet for out-of-state contributors if elected to the PSC.

“I would be nobody’s puppet. I am a people’s fighter.”

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