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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEWORLEANS- Many New Orleans metro-area neighbors are still upset at Entergy and other utility companiesthat were by some estimates, slow to power back up after Hurricane Isaac.

Two local leaders are now floating a controversial idea aimed at holding the utilities more accountable for their performance.

Jefferson Parish President John Young and U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-LA, sent a letter to Governor Bobby Jindal and others calling for a constitutional amendment that would give local governments the authority to force a utility company to sell its assets if it fails to perform.

'The idea is real simple, to inject some competitive pressure into this arena where we think it's sorely, sorely needed,' said Vitter.

'If Entergy is not going to do its job, then we need to have the option of bringing in competition to make sure that we better serve our constituents and our businesses,' said Young.

Right now, only municipalities such as the city of New Orleans have the power to force a utility to sell. But, their ability to do so is limited.

'It doesn't have the power to coalesce with other jurisdictions which our idea would give it,' said Vitter. 'It doesn't have the power to replace Entergy with another private utility which our idea would give it.'

Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell says the idea has more to do with politics than holding utility companies accountable.

'I want to make sure that Entergy does a good job,' said Campbell. 'But, as far as giving it over to David Vitter or whoever he says, I think this is an idea that doesn't have a lot of thought behind it.'

Campbell says he doesn't think forcing a utility to sell will work.

'It's probably pretty good to have them pay attention, but what they're talking about, selling to private companies, privatizing is not the answer.'

Young says getting the power turned back on quickly after a storm is not just a matter of comfort, he says it's also an economic development issue.

'Business people in this area - in Elmwood Industrial Park, LaBarre Industrial Park who communicated to me personally that if they didn't get their power back on they would lose national accounts,' said Young.

Entergy released a statement about the Vitter-Young proposal.

'We stand by the results of our restoration efforts which saw us restore power to customers faster than we have been able to do in any previous hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav or Ike. At the same time, we learn lessons from every storm, and Isaac was no different.'

Entergy also says it welcomes the ongoing state investigation into its performance following Isaac.

The proposal would require both legislative and voter approval.

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