Who Can Best Serve New Orleans Ratepayers on the Louisiana Public Service Commission?

With ever-increasing environmental racism in Cancer Alley, ongoing dependence on fossil fuels and the escalating cost of utilities coupled with the billions of federal dollars flowing into Louisiana for broadband and other badly-needed services, the upcoming election for Louisiana Public Service Commissioner, District 3 might be our most important LPSC race in the last 50 years.  

The Alliance for Affordable Energy has highlighted seven areas of concern for the candidates including reducing energy costs and burdens, energy efficiency programs, renewable portfolio standard, fair solar policy – net metering, reliability and resilience, transmission and prison phone costs.

It’s abundantly clear that District 3 – which is comprised of almost a dozen parishes from Orleans up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge – needs a strong, independent regulator who will be the people’s advocate and also a bridge builder with other Commissioners so that meaningful legislation can be enacted. Though Orleans Parish’s utilities are controlled by the New Orleans City Council, there is much a fully-engaged District 3 commissioner can do to help ratepayers. The Louisiana Democratic Party has endorsed all the candidates in the race.

Commissioner Lambert C. Boissiere, III, District 3

Having already served on the LPSC three six-year terms, Boissiere says he is still the leader District 3 needs. Yet, the four men who qualified against Boissiere – Rev. Gregory Manning of Broadmoor Community Church, Baton Rouge fiscal activist Davante Lewis, insurance adjuster Willie Jones and Plaquemine, Louisiana civil engineer Jesse Thompson- strongly disagree. Some climate activists including Anne Rolfes claim the Boissiere is a follower not a leader who allows industry “to set the direction to nowhere” which is “a recipe for disaster.” The grassroots organization Justice & Beyond recently held a forum for LPSC candidates.     

Manning called the race “historic” and referred to himself as a “change agent” who will restore “power to the people.” Lewis said people are hurting in part because the rich and powerful continue to “dictate our future.” Boissiere, the acknowledged lead in the race, quickly grabbed the upper hand by pointing out that he and his opponents agree on many issues and that much of what they are proposing is already in the works.  While Manning and Lewis talked big picture issues, Boissiere was able to use the knowledge and experience gained over his almost two decades on the LPSC to drill down on the many complexities and technical aspects of utility regulation.   

LPSC candidate Rev. Gregory Manning received the endorsement of a dozen climate activists earlier this week at an event held on the Mississippi River nature.

“I believe experience and qualifications matter,” said Boissiere who is obviously proud of his accomplishments. “It is so important that everyone in our state has access to the internet. As such, I have led the efforts to provide and expand affordable broadband internet access to rural and underserved communities in our state. I authorized the LPSC to sue Entergy to hold it accountable for its bad business decisions. This suit will result in millions of dollars in savings for customers and lower utility rates.” 

One issue Boissiere cannot talk his way around is his significant financial support from the industry bigwigs the LPSC regulates. More than 50% of Boissiere’s campaign funds have been donated from companies who come before the LPSC including AT&T, Entergy Louisiana, Cox Communications and many others. Thompson is self-funding his campaign. Manning, Jones and Lewis are not accepting donations from businesses the commission regulates. At the forum, Boissiere leaned in as if to make that same commitment. Instead he countered that even if a similar policy was passed at the LPSC, a successful court challenge could follow because state law does not prohibit such donations. 

Boissiere is endorsed by Governor John Bel Edwards, Congressman Troy Carter, former Congressman Cedric Richmond, former Senator Mary Landrieu, New Orleans City Councilmembers Eugene Green and Freddie King, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson, Jefferson Parish Assessor Tommy Capella, and others.   

Manning is well-known in New Orleans and the River Parishes as a passionate fighter and accomplished grassroots organizer who is an especially strong advocate for environmental justice. Founder of the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition, Manning has been endorsed by dozens of area climate activists including the nationally-recognized Goldman-Prize recipient Sharon Lavigne from St. James Parish, along with professor and civil rights lawyer Bill Quigley, social justice advocate Ted Quant, transit leader Valerie Jefferson, Barbara Washington and Rolfes. Retired U.S. Lt. General Russel Honore and photographer Tina Freeman are among Manning’s high profile donors. 

“We have no time to waste. We must now move with urgency into a new era of change,” said Manning who believes that Boissiere has been in office too long. “People don’t know anything about the LPSC. My door will always be open” to help constituents with their problem.  Though Entergy recently created a special fund to give a few eligible customers a $150 credit on their bills, Manning thinks Entergy owes ratepayers much more. He pledges to make sure utility companies are held accountable, that their services are reliable, and that they build on renewable energy sources equitably for everyone in the State of Louisiana.  “Now is the time to invest in our future,” Manning continued.

Thirty year-old Davante Lewis is Director of Public Affairs and Outreach for the non-profit Louisiana Budget Project. He ran unsuccessfully for East Baton Rouge Metro Council and while still a teenager for school board. He is well-liked for his enthusiasm and commitment for fighting for a more just society. Lewis has been endorsed by Baton Rouge State Rep. Denise Marcelle, the Alliance for Good Government, IWO and the Forum for Equality. Earlier this week Lewis tweeted that the LPSC “can and should end utility shut-offs TODAY.  We should be in the business of helping low-income Louisianans keep basic necessities, not taking them away and putting them further in debt. The public service commissioner has the power to make our utilities affordable and reliable. But, our current commissioner spent the last 18 years letting costs soar and the grid fall to ruin.” 

Lewis says the LPSC “can break up Entergy’s monopoly and make them work for the people not shareholders. Everybody deserves a cool house in the summer, a warm house in the winter, and to trust that their power grid can weather increasingly common devastating storms.” A graduate of McNeese State University and a former member of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, Lewis’ has a history of servant leadership going back to his high schools years in Lake Charles. Lewis also considers himself a leading voice for equity in education and previously taught at a suburban Atlanta elementary school.


Willie Jones, who previously ran unsuccessfully for state representative and Lt. Governor, entered the race because he believes that incumbent has been inaccessible. “For a long time, our commissioner has been standing on the wrong side of the utility companies,” said Jones this week. “I want to be an advocate, the choice of the people. I am part of the community. I suffer like they do every day.” Jones has been erecting campaign signs across the district and talking with voters one at a time. “No one knows Boissiere, no one knows what the LPSC does. No one knows why their utility bills are so high and what they can do about it,” Jones continued. 

Jones feels that Boissiere could have done a much better job of communicating with the voters through town hall and public meetings, quarterly updates and public service announcements. “He should be explaining to ratepayers about extra fees Entergy has placed on the bills for Hurricane Ida or that because Grand Gulf has been offline so frequently that Entergy is buying natural gas at higher prices which also makes our bills rise. Entergy is a monopoly and treats us like we are a third world country. Every additional cost is charged to ratepayers.”  In addition to the state party, Jones counts among his endorsements the New Orleans East groups NOEL and HIP.

Iberville parish resident and PSC candidate Jesse T. Thompson is unknown to most New Orleans voters. Thompson is a civil engineer with 25 years of experience – much of it in the public sector. As such, he is extremely knowledgeable on a broad range of utility issues.  Unlike the other candidates in the race, Thompson says there is nothing wrong with Boissiere and calls him “a fine man.” Yet, Thompson says that “people are ready for a change. Special interests won’t control this election. The people will.”

Jesse. T. Thompson

“The ratepayers should be treated just and fair,” explained Thompson. “Right now utility rate are high as hell. I can think of 1000 things that can be done different, better, and more affordable for ratepayers.” Thompson’s first suggestion was that the LPSC develop a plan to create more choices for electricity service.  He believes that Entergy’s profit margin of 9.5% is too high and that the company should be willing to accept a lesser amount based on the volume of customers they serve. “It should be a linear profit margin,” Thompson explained.   

Thompson cites his experience in bidding jobs for the State of Louisiana and numerous Louisiana municipalities where the profit margin is based on the dollar value of the contract.  The higher dollar contracts have a lower profit margin. “Entergy has enjoyed record profits. The LPSC should be looking out for ratepayers’ best interests and renegotiate a profit margin that is more reasonable.”

Thompson understands the trend for green, clean and renewable energy. He also believes the majority of ratepayers would accept the cheapest, safest, most reliable energy source. “Other candidates have been telling the voters what they want to hear, rather than what they need to know. Natural gas is the most cost effective and most reliable energy source to produce electric power today. We need to get our (U.S.) markets in order to operate in an affordable way.”

Thompson claims the race is a “popularity contest” in which almost 1 Million people get to vote for their favorite candidate. “I get up every day to make the community better. I do the job I am supposed to do. Government can’t do everything for everybody all the time, nor should it,” Thompson concluded.

The Alliance for Affordable Energy will hold an in-person candidate forum in the District 3 LPSC race on Thursday, October 20 at 6 p.m. in the Innsbruck Room of the UNO Center. The forum will also be available to view on the Alliance’s Facebook page. The deadline to register to vote in person or by mail is October 9. Online registration continues until October 19. Early voting begins October 25 and continues through November 1. Requests for absentee ballots will be accepted until November 4 at 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the Registrar of Voters by November 7 at 4:30 p.m. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.        

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