Dec. 15, 2016 11:09 AM

As he recovers from his failed congressional bid, Scott Angelle faces the possibility that both his lucrative board position at Sunoco Logistics and political future are in jeopardy.

Photo by Robin May

While Congressman-elect Clay Higgins heads to Washington to set up his Third Congressional District office, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle has to sort through the wreckage of his once-promising political career.

His stunning loss in the Dec. 10 runoff election was unimaginable when Angelle entered the race following his impressive third-place showing in the 2015 gubernatorial primary. Some would say the seeds of Angelle’s congressional defeat were planted during the runoff when he refused to endorse his fellow Republican Sen. David Vitter in the race against Democrat John Bel Edwards, which Edwards won handily.

Vitter and his protege, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, teamed up to work for Higgins and against Angelle in a bit of score settling and preemption. Vitter was bitter about Angelle’s refusal to endorse him in the gubernatorial runoff, and Landry, who has taken over Vitter’s Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, saw defeating Angelle as a way to remove a potential rival from the 2019 race for governor in which Landry has given every indication he intends to run against Edwards.

Angelle retains his District 2 seat on the PSC. His chance for re-election, should he choose to seek it, will come in 2018, which coincides with off-year federal elections. Had Angelle not run for Congress, he would likely have had an easy re-election bid in the year prior to the 2019 governor’s race. Now, all bets are off. His prospects to hold his PSC seat might well depend on whether he can make peace with Vitter and Landry.

Even the PSC will not be a haven for Angelle. He’s a member of the Sunoco Logistics Partners board, one of the companies involved in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The board job brings with it a hefty $380,00 annual pay package, but a new intrastate pipeline project in which Sunoco Logistics is also a partner could raise some issues for Angelle on the PSC.

The PSC regulates tariffs on intrastate pipelines. Sunoco Logistics, Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 are partners in the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a 162-mile line from refineries in Lake Charles to a terminal on the Mississippi River in St. James. The pipeline operators will submit their proposed fees for pipeline usage to the PSC staff for review. If the companies disagree with the staff’s recommendations, the matter could be kicked up to the full commission, in which case Angelle could face a choice on whether to participate.

It’s not clear that Angelle’s SLP board role would trigger state ethics rules or PSC rules on recusal.

Colby Cook, media relations director for the PSC, says that no conflict exists at this time because the Bayou Bridge pipeline has not been built.

Photo by Robin May

“The LPSC regulates rates and services of liquid petroleum pipeline carriers operating for hire,” Cook notes in a written response to ABiz. “Since this pipeline is only proposed and not in service, it does not fall under the LPSC’s jurisdiction. Once the pipeline is in service and providing transportation of petroleum products for hire, the pipeline carrier will need to register with the LPSC and file a tariff. The Transportation Division staff will accept the registration and tariff. There is no involvement by the Commissioners in that process.”

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would be the southern most leg of the network of pipelines used to move oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to markets. The Bayou Bridge has now drawn the attention of local and national opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have scheduled a public meeting for public comment on the proposed pipeline in Baton Rouge on Thursday, Jan. 12. Environmental and property rights advocates are targeting the event to get significant public turnout in opposition to the pipeline. It’s not clear whether Angelle, as the highest profile local advocate for the project, will participate in the hearing.

Angelle’s seat on the Sunoco Logistics Partners board is at risk due to the merger announced in November between that company and its parent, Energy Transfer Partners. Sunoco Logistics is the smaller company but is technically buying ETP. However, documents provided to investors by ETP’s leadership say that ETP’s management team will run the new company, which will be called Energy Transfer Partners.

Vicki Granado, director of media relations for ETP, says that there will only be one board of directors governing the merged company and that information on the makeup of the board would be filed with the Securities Exchange Commission once those decisions were made. Neither company had filed documents regarding the new board of directors by press time.

Sunoco’s presentations to investors say that members of the Sunoco Logistics management team will be retained but say nothing about the board that will direct the new company. Two individuals currently hold board seats on the boards of both companies, and Angelle’s hope for staying on the Sunoco board might hinge on the need for independent board members, that is, people not directly employed by the company.

With the merger set to close by March, Angelle’s future with Sunoco should be known early in the new year.

Regardless of what happens with Sunoco, however, Angelle’s instate profile will remain high. He’s served on the board of directors for Farmers & Merchants Bank of Breaux Bridge since 2006. And Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Angelle to one of the two District 3 seats on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Angelle’s LSU term will expire on June 1, 2018, according to the board’s website, six weeks before qualifying opens for his PSC seat.

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