Entergy joins fight in D.C. for lower fuel prices

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

RESERVE – Entergy Louisiana, Inc. employees and advocates for low-income residents headed to Washington D.C. recently as part of a national campaign to convince Congress the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) needs an immediate infusion of money to help the elderly, disabled and low-income families with children offset this year’s higher energy costs.

More than 150 representatives of nonprofits, community action groups and utilities from across the country were on Capitol Hill as part of the National Fuel Fund Network’s Washington Action Day for LIHEAP. Entergy Louisiana employees are participating in the annual event as part of their commitment to help low-income customers. LIHEAP is the primary tool to help families of the working poor and low-income elderly and disabled residents pay energy costs.

“Rising energy prices affect everyone, but low-income consumers are particularly vulnerable. That’s why we strongly support approval Congress taking action to increase funding for LIHEAP and making sure all states receive their fair share. It has several options that would accomplish those goals,” said Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate social responsibility for Entergy Corporation.

  “Among them are an amendment to increase LIHEAP funding by $800 million and a $3.66 billion increase for LIHEAP in an economic stimulus package expected to go before Congress in the near future. Congress also has the opportunity to look ahead and appropriate $3.4 billion for LIHEAP base grant funding for fiscal year 2009,” said Riddlebarger.  “We’re thankful for the $2.6 billion Congress has already allocated to the program, but it’s simply not enough to do the job.

“As it’s funded now, LIHEAP only reaches 15.6 percent of eligible households across the nation. In Texas, the percentage of eligible families that were helped in 2007 was only 6 percent, and Louisiana saw less than 10 percent of its eligible population receive assistance. Demand for help is only going to continue to rise in line with the increase in energy prices and the economic downturn many predict,” Riddlebarger said.

Fewer households received LIHEAP assistance in 2006 than when the program started in 1981. In 1981, 20 million were eligible for LIHEAP and the needs of more than 12 million went unmet, or 60 percent. By 2006, 35 million households were eligible, and the needs of almost 30 million, or 84 percent, went unmet, according to testimony before a congressional committee.

Media attention oftentimes focuses on the needs of the Northeast, Midwest and other areas hit by winter weather.

, but studies show heat waves cause more deaths annually than all other weather-related phenomena.

“As Americans get older and more and more people move to warm-weather states, home cooling becomes more essential,” Riddlebarger said.

Under the $800 million amendment proposal, Louisiana would see its grant go from the current $17 million to $36 million.

The amendment to an economic stimulus package would increase funding even more, Louisiana to $85 million, based on estimates of the impact of the current proposal.

“We believe Congress should first address the urgent needs this year, but it also must look ahead to fiscal year 2009 and appropriate at least $3.4 billion for the base grant portion of LIHEAP,” Riddlebarger said.             

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.6 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and approximately 14,500 employees.