Tens of Thousands At Risk of Disconnection As Entergy Resumes Shutoffs Tomorrow

Credit: “Look Up Fondren Entergy substation lit up” by Tate Nations is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Entergy announced last week that they plan to resume disconnections on November 1. According to information released by the utility, over 20,000 accounts are at risk of disconnection, prompting local advocacy groups to push the city council to take steps to extend the current moratorium.

“Even assuming each account represents only one person – and that number is almost assuredly higher – that is still tens of thousands of New Orleanians who face disconnection of service just as the weather is beginning to turn colder,” said Jessie George, New Orleans Policy Director for the Alliance of Affordable Energy in a letter to the council. “That is, tens of thousands of children and elders who will be left in the dark on this Council’s watch unless you act on behalf of your constituents.”

Entergy says that skyrocketing energy costs over the summer are the driving force behind the number of late accounts.

“(Natural gas prices) were 200% higher this summer so that did impact our customers,” said Sandra Diggs-Miller, vice president of customer service. The utility is encouraging anyone who has a past-due balance to reach out to the company for assistance. “We don’t know what we can do to help you unless we hear from you,” said Diggs-Miller. “There are things that we can work with customers on, but they have to reach out to us so that we can understand their personal situation and then what we can do to help.”

According to George, asking New Orleanians to rely on help from Entergy simply isn’t a good solution, and only delays a problem until later, when cold weather could make the situation even worse for struggling families.

“Telling vulnerable people to rely on ENO’s subpar customer service to apply for a three or four month deferred payment option is not a solution,” George said. “At best, its kicking the can down the road, as methane, or natural gas prices remain high and ENO has applied for approximately $170M in costs related to Hurricane Ida will drive up bills further.”

Last week, the Council agreed to consider Entergy’s request to raise rates on customers as a way to cover the $170 million in costs the utility racked up after Hurricane Ida. The proposed rate hike would add an additional $4.40 to the average customer’s monthly bill. The storm knocked out 921 distribution poles, 297 transformers, and 1,344 cross-arms, in addition to the eight transmission lines that feed power into New Orleans, though those are under the control of Entergy Louisiana. Entergy Louisiana has already received permission to charge its customers an additional $12 per month for those damages.

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