The New Orleans City Council Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee today (Tuesday, March 29) unanimously approved an ordinance that would ban contributions to council members and candidates for the City Council from the utility companies it regulates.

The ordinance prohibits contributions or financial benefit from any entities upon which the Council exercises direct regulatory authority. It now advances to a vote at the full Council during at its April 7 meeting.

Last summer, the Committee passed a resolution urging council members to not take campaign contributions from the utility companies they regulate or the consultants that work for them. However, a resolution is essentially a toothless, non-binding statement. If this ordinance passes, it will provide the framework needed to outlaw such contributions.

“The integrity of our regulatory process is paramount – all New Orleanians should have confidence that Councilmembers and candidates for Council will be impartial and will not be unduly influenced by those they regulate,” said Council President Helena Moreno.

A coalition of community have urged the Council to make this change, citing concerns that the Council could not effectively regulate companies or make decisions on awarding utility contracts while those same corporations and firms were able to contribute to their political campaigns.

Moreno, in a statement, directly thanked those organizations, which include the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, to the Energy Future New Orleans Coalition and the Alliance for Affordable Energy, for “leading the charge for this change.”

“Today, the City Council took a bold step to restore the confidence of its’ constituents by ensuring that New Orleanians are protected from its’ regulators being regulated,” said Reverend Gregory T. Manning, chair and founder of the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition and Pastor of Broadmoor Community Church.“Today’s action was timely, necessary, and just.” 

Monique Harden, assistant director of Law and Public Policy at Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, said, ”We thank the Council Utility Committee for taking this important step today to prohibit any undue influence by Entergy and Sewerage & Water Board contractors on renewable energy options, drainage costs, local climate action, and other decisions by the Council that impact our daily lives and our future.” 

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