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‘No more Easter egg hunts’

Law would keep utilities from sponsoring frivolous events with customers’ money

Last month, the state agency that regulates public utilities voted to consider tightening rules that have allowed utilities to be reimbursed by customers for donations made to charities.

At a Tuesday (Dec. 7) public meeting, the Mississippi Public Service Commission discussed a proposed rule requiring that public utilities:

>> limit their donations to groups that promote energy conservation and efficiency;

>> match with shareholder dollars the charitable contributions made with customer dollars; and

>> provide equal credit to customers for donations made.

An October Mississippi Business Journal story highlighted the donations of Mississippi Power Company and Entergy Mississippi to schools, civic organizations, arts event, chambers of commerce and other organizations totaling more than $3 million over the past three years. These donations were charged to customers.

Mississippi and Louisiana have laws permitting this practice, while states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia do not.

Commissioner Brandon Presley proposed tightening the laws on charitable contributions after reading the MBJ story. Utilities, citizens and other interested parties are invited to file written comments on the proposed rule, which will then be taken into consideration before the Commission votes on passing the measure into law. This process is standard Commission procedure.

After the proposed rule was read at last Tuesday’s meeting, Presley said, “In other words, no more Easter egg hunts.”

Commissioner Leonard Bentz followed with: “I don’t think any Easter egg hunts have been allowed (in rate base).”

Public Utilities Staff director Bobby Waites, who heads the office that reviews contributions submitted for reimbursement, said, “Didn’t see any egg hunts.”

But according to public records, in 2008 the Public Utilities Staff did recommend that a $250 Gulfport Annual Easter Egg Hunt sponsorship be charged to customers. The Commission approved the recommendation.


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