The environment plays a big role in the race for Louisiana’s utility seat

Baton Rouge, La. political action and utility companies.

Lambert Boissiere III, who has comfortably held a seat on the Louisiana Civil Service Commission for 18 years, faces his toughest reelection on Saturday in a runoff against newcomer Davante Lewis.

Environmentalists have increasingly focused on the commission, which regulates power companies and sets electricity rates, in a state that has a front row seat to the effects of climate change. Louisiana has been rocked by destructive hurricanes making landfall more frequently, coastal areas have been plagued by erosion, subsidence and sea level rise, and more recently the Mississippi River has reached record high water levels.

Additionally, Louisiana shares its southern border with the Gulf of Mexico and has tens of thousands of jobs related to the oil and gas industry. In 2021, Louisiana ranked third among the top natural gas producing states – accounting for nearly 10% of US natural gas production that year, behind only Texas and Pennsylvania.

For years, the commission has resisted calls to require power companies to get a certain share of their electricity from renewables, The Advocate reported. But activists hope their stance will change.

The winner of the election will serve a six-year term representing a district that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans on the five-member commission, which has regulatory jurisdiction over utilities providing electricity, l water, sewage, natural gas and certain telecommunications services. in Louisiana.

Boissière, 57, was first elected in 2005 and hopes to secure a fourth term. Lewis, a 30-year-old progressive policy advocate, says it’s time for a “new generation of leaders.”

Both candidates are Democrats with matching priorities, including the expansion of renewable energy in Louisiana. However, regardless of the outcome of the second round, Republicans will still represent a majority on the commission, 3-2.

Although Lewis and Boissière had similar views, major utility companies and outside political action committees poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race.

Keep the Lights On, an affiliate of the Environmental Defense Fund, spent the money hoping to overthrow Boissière. In addition, the licensee received campaign contributions from utility companies regulated by the commission, including Entergy, Louisiana’s largest electric utility. While these types of contributions are legal in Louisiana, they have come under intense scrutiny.

In the November primary, when there were five candidates, Boissière obtained 43% of the vote, which did not reach the 50% threshold necessary to win. Lewis received 18%.

Louisiana polls are open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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