Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed Thursday former state Rep. Damon J. Baldone to the Louisiana Public Service Commission until a special election can be held to replace Scott Angelle, who left for a position in the Trump administration.
“Louisiana consumers will benefit greatly from his years of experience in both the public and private sectors,” Edward said in a news release. He picked Baldone from among four finalists.
“I appreciate his willingness to continue to serve the great people of our state and know that their best interest will be at the center of every decision he makes in his capacity as a commissioner,” Edwards said.
Baldone, a native of Houma, is a lawyer specializing in family, injury and criminal law. He served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2002 to 2012.
The five elected PSC commissioners set the rates customers pay for electricity each month as well as regulate phone companies and intrastate trucking. Two of the members are Democrats and two are Republicans.
The tradition had been that the interim commissioner didn’t run for election. But Baldone told The Advocate Thursday that he planned on running. He had looked at the race when Angelle ran for Congress last year, he said.
Baldone said the phone call from Edwards came “out of the blue” and they never discussed the tradition.
“I want to make sure, especially in south Louisiana, that the utility rates are fair for consumers while at the same time, making sure the utility companies have a fair opportunity to make a profit,” Baldone said.
Baldone is a registered Democrat who had gone to court to register in both the Democratic and Republican parties. The court ruled against him.
“I’m affiliated with both parties,” Baldone said. “I have ideals and philosophies from both parties.”
A Republican has held the PSC District 2 seat since 1996. The district includes Baton Rouge, much of Acadiana and most of the bayou regions.
Though a lot of potential candidates have said they might be interested in the race, the only other announced contender is Dr. Craig C. Greene, an orthopedic surgeon in Baton Rouge. “If we want our economy to flourish, we have to stop over-regulating our businesses, overtaxing our people, and over-spending our budgets,” Greene said in a prepared statement Thursday.
Edwards hasn’t yet called the election, but the first available date would be Oct. 14.
Baldone said he plans to travel to Baton Rouge Friday and meet with PSC staff to get up to date with the issues presently in front of the regulatory commission. He’ll have a PSC office in Houma and possibly in Baton Rouge.
Angelle held the District 2 PSC seat 2013-2017. He had run unsuccessfully for governor in 2015 and for Congress in 2016.
Prior to joining the PSC, Angelle ran the state department that oversees the energy industry under two governors. He was named to head the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in late May. The BSEE has regulatory oversight of oil and gas operations on the U.S. outer continental shelf.
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