For months, the City Council has been discussing whether to hold a new vote on the $210 million Entergy power plant approved for construction in New Orleans East. In fact, during their meeting in January, the council proposed resolutions to “rescind and repeal” the earlier vote approving the plant but delayed action on those resolutions until this month.
However, they now seem to be walking back from those resolutions. On Tuesday, the council released an agenda for the Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee meeting to be held on Thursday, February 14. The main item on the agenda is a resolution that would accept an offer from Entergy New Orleans of $5 million plus other concessions (including a cap on plant construction costs) while allowing the power plant to move forward.
That money would be used to pay for projects at the struggling Sewerage and Water Board, including fixing a turbine that cannot function in colder temperatures. Following a boil-water advisory last year, it was revealed that the turbine powering the city’s water and sewer systems could not function in temperatures below 45 degrees. The turbine was never fitted with a heater, as it was originally intended to be used only as a backup power source only during the hurricane season. Entergy CEO David Ellis has also promised to work with the S&WB to ensure a long-term plan for reliable power to the agency is put into place.
All five members of the committee have signed on to the resolution. In addition, three members of the city council, Helena Moreno, Jay H. Banks, and Joe Giarrusso issued a statement indicating that a vote repealing the approval of the Entergy plant is unlikely.
Building the plant “will certainly not satisfy everyone,” the councilmembers stated, “but taking into consideration the current circumstances, it is a better outcome and avoids the most harm for the people of New Orleans.”
The announcement comes days after Entergy announced that it has already spent around $96 million on the new power plant since construction was approved last March, in spite of the fact that on-site construction hasn’t even begun. Should the plant be canceled, those costs very likely would be passed on to consumers.
Opponents of the plant issued harsh criticisms of the councilmember’s announcement. Logan Atkinson Burke from the Alliance for Affordable Energy told The Advocate, “It would represent a real loss for the people of New Orleans if the council does vote for what is effectively Entergy’s proposed settlement.”
The plant has been unpopular with environmental and other activist groups from the very beginning, but it garnered a lot of negative attention from residents when it was revealed that Entergy had hired paid actors to speak in support of the plant at public meetings. Many argued this tainted the city council’s approval of the plant, which led to the initial resolution which would have rescinded approval.
Abandoning the revote on the power plant could have legal consequences for the city. The Alliance for Affordable Energy filed a lawsuit against the city last year but had planned to drop the case if the council held a new vote. According to Burke, helping the S&WB is something Entergy “should be doing anyway as part of their job.”
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.