Environmentalists Add Their Voice to Those Demanding Accountability From Entergy

The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) and partner organizations in the Energy Future New Orleans coalition asked the City Council today to “hold Entergy accountable” for their performance or lack thereof during Hurricane Ida and the ongoing recovery process.

Specifically, DSCEJ has requested that the council conduct a full investigation of Entergy’s massive power outage that contributed to the deaths of 12 New Orleans residents. They are also seeking an “independent” management audit of Entergy companies and a thorough examination of the costs Entergy bills New Orleans consumers for the New Orleans Power Station (NOPS). When approved by the City Council, Entergy officials promised that the NOPS would be able to start in the event that a hurricane disrupted power to New Orleans. The station was constructed in New Orleans East’s Michoud neighborhood near the homes of Black and Vietnamese-American residents.

DSCEJ claims that Entergy failed to implement best practices on site selection criteria to protect communities from the gas plant pollution, evaluate alternative energy options as ordered by the City Council and provide a credible reason for the gas plant. Supporters of the plant’s construction convinced the Council that the old plant was too expensive to operate and needed significant improvements. Without the new gas-powered station, proponents suggested that New Orleans residents would have been forced to pay higher utility bills during the summer months when demand for electricity is at its peak.  

At that time, many community organizations also advocated for Entergy to invest in solar projects. Entergy is currently operating and constructing solar farms in the region. DSCEJ supports an expansion of solar energy with battery stage at places the serve the public and in neighborhoods that are most vulnerable to climate change.  

Council President Helena Moreno has paused her re-election campaign activities to meticulously analyze what happened to the City’s power grid and why. Across Southeast Louisiana, more than 30,000 poles were destroyed and 36,000 spans of wire needed to be replaced. An additional 6,000 transformers also went down. All eight transmission lines that lead into the city were also destroyed.

Among the questions Moreno’s review will address is whether Entergy did enough to harden its transmission system to withstand storms like Hurricane Ida. Entergy officials have already stated that a Category 4 storm like Ida would cause poles to be damaged. The City Council Utilities Committee will also investigate whether Entergy acted properly or should be fined.

Entergy is looking to recover the costs of rebuilding New Orleans’ power grid. Their initial focus is on potential federal resources but are likely to seek a significant – if not all- of the costs from New Orleans ratepayers who already contributed each month to Entergy’s Storm Recovery Fund. The fund has a current balance of $39 million. Hurricane Zeta power restoration cost $35.8 million in 2020. In 2012 Hurricane Isaac restoration cost $47.3 million. Restoration costs for Hurricane Ida are not yet complete. 

Councilmember Jared Brossett announced today that he has written President Joe Biden requesting that federal funding be used to allow New Orleans to create a more resilient power grid. He suggested an expansion of the Stafford Act or the creation of a Community Development Block Grant program to relieve ratepayers of the billions of estimated recovery costs from the 2020 hurricanes in addition to Ida’s expenses. “Hurricane Ida revealed significant vulnerabilities to our power grid,” Brossett said in his letter. He further explained that the City is still “fighting to get back to where we were” before the storm.       

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