Entergy Fights to Recover from Hurricanes

JANUARY 31, 2006 - Posted at 3:53 p.m. CST

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Faced with staggering damages from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, Entergy Corporation is maneuvering through a maze of challenges, including the loss of much of its New Orleans power market.

The question of federal aid for the utility holding company is up in the air.  Its Entergy New Orleans unit has sought bankruptcy protection.  To increase customer bills, one way to pay for $1.5 billion in damage to its transmission systems from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, it must go through often-skeptical utility regulators.

Entergy is hoping for federal help, similar to the $250 million ConEdison received following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.  It hasn't placed a dollar amount on how much help it would like, or expects.  The company has warned that without assistance, customers in New Orleans could face rate increases of up to 140 percent, a charge that economic developers say would stymie, if not kill, the city's recovery.

Entergy has predicted it will report tomorrow lower fourth-quarter 2005 earnings.

Entergy is the largest electric utility in Arkansas.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)