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Lawsuits seek to block Entergy power plant in eastern New Orleans

16th April 2018   ·   0 Comments

Opponents of Entergy New Orleans’ plans to build a 128-megawatt, gas-fueled power plant in eastern New Orleans have filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court

The plaintiffs are asking the court to prevent Entergy New Orleans from moving forward with its construction plans until the New Orleans City Council decides whether to honor their request to reconsider the project.

The plaintiffs also contend that the New Orleans City Council violated residents’ due process rights by failing to seriously consider alternatives to the proposed plant, which Entergy has estimated will cost about $210 million to construct.

Listed as plaintiffs in the case are the Alliance for Affordable Energy, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and 350 New Orleans. Opponents of the proposed power plant have spent almost two years protesting the proposed power plant in mostly Black New Orleans East, an area that has been largely ignored by post-Katrina recovery efforts.

“The right of New Orleanians to have a fair process was denied in this council’s decision to approve Entergy’s gas plant,” Monique Harden, an attorney representing the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, said last week.

“The council has a chance to get this right by reversing its decision, removing … biased advisers from decision-making, and examining critical evidence that shows that Entergy’s gas plant is not needed and will harm New Orleans.”

Opponents filed two legal actions on April 9, an appeal of the New Orleans City Council’s approval of Entergy’s gas plant in Louisiana District Court and a petition to the City Council requesting a “rehearing” to reconsider the March 8 Council decision.

One of the lawsuits filed last week asserts that the council committee’s vote on Feb. 21 violated the state’s open meetings law because security guards refused to let dozens of protesters into the meeting.

The second lawsuit challenges the validity of Entergy’s power plant proposal.

The New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to allow Entergy to build the new power-generating plant in New Orleans East, despite hours of public comment, much of it against the proposal.

Two years ago, Entergy closed its Michoud Power Plant in New Orleans East. The new plant would be built on that site.

Opponents of the proposed plant accuse the City Council’s consultants of carrying out “the conflicting roles of advocate and fact-finder” in advising council members to vote in favor of the plant.

Council President and Utility Committee Chairman Jason Williams refuted claims by the Alliance for Affordable Energy and 350 New Orleans that accuse the Council of violating the Louisiana open meetings law during the February meeting at which the committee endorsed the plant, saying that the council granted everyone who was present an opportunity to address it during the eight-hour meeting.

Entergy New Orleans officials have maintained that the city needs to replace the Michoud plant it closed in 2016 and that proposed alternatives would not provide enough power.

Critics of the proposed power plant have accused Entergy New Orleans officials of paying people to show up at City Council meetings and express their support for the new plant, of hosting luncheons and other gatherings to seek to cajole Black ministers to support the proposed plant. Entergy New Orleans was also widely criticized after ending its sponsorship of WBOK radio station because of its coverage of the power plant issue. Entergy reportedly canceled a check it had presented to WBOK for $20,000.

Eastern New Orleans residents and community activists have used the Black-owned radio station to voice their opposition to a new gas-powered plant being built in the majority-Black area.

“Entergy New Orleans has been a WBOK sponsor over recent years,” Charlotte Cavell, an Entergy spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The continued misrepresentation of facts and discussion of untruths about multiple Entergy matters recently have driven the decision to decline the interview and discontinue the partnership.”

“I guess this was an effort to show that they could bully us, but we will not be bullied,” WBOK General Manager Susan Henry told The Advocate in an interview last month. “The people have a right to know what is going on in politics and how it will affect them.”

This article originally published in the April 16, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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