Open Letter to New Orleans City Council and The Council Utilities Regulation Office ("CURO").
While we appreciate the New Orleans City Council for initiating an in-depth investigation into Entergy New Orleans' (ENO) "paid actor scandal", we would like to comment that the Council's Resolution R-18-474 is not sufficient in re-establishing the trust our community has lost.
ENO responded to the lack of genuine community support for a gas power plant, which would benefit only Entergy's bottom line, while increasing the price for electricity considerably for the next 30 years for all of us.
REASONS why we oppose this gas plant.
First of all, this gas plant is not needed. Entergy blatantly disregarded the Council's directive to research multiple options (such as vastly cheaper transmission line upgrades, or energy storage) to deal with our future energy needs. 98% of our 2,599 yearly power outages are due to distribution line failures, the remaining 2% to transmission lines. A power plant would do absolutely nothing to improve Entergy's dismal record. Nevertheless, Entergy repeatedly invoked the danger of "cascading outages" in their scripts given to paid supporters and to community organizations which had previously benefited from Entergy's financial support.
ENO plans to build this plant in a designated flood zone on land that keeps subsiding. Instead of providing "quick start electricity" after a hurricane, it would be under water.
Worst of all, in continuing the legacy of environmental racism, ENO wants to build this gas plant near an African American and Vietnamese community. It is slated to emit tons of ultra-fine particles, laden with toxins, which are capable of lodging very deeply in a person's body.
We are outraged to read how ENO is describing their fight against widespread and vocal resistance in our community as "war". They are here to serve our community; we need a utility company that we can trust, not one that is waging war on us. We wonder what else is buried in the 70 documents ENO are still withholding from the Council despite existing subpoenas.
We are also extremely concerned to hear about a 2015 agreement between the previous City Council and Entergy to pursue a 120MW local gas fired power plant, located in Michoud or Paterson. The document had been buried in an unrelated FERC agreement and was not mentioned in any of the proceedings around the gas plant decision. This gives us the impression that a backroom deal had been struck before any of the official proceedings even began.
The Levelized Cost of Electricity from a gas peaking plant is three times that of utility scale solar. Prices for energy storage options have markedly declined. More and more cities and states are opting for solar or wind, combined with large scale storage. We don't want to be on the hook for an expensive project that's reflecting last century's technology, which will be obsolete before we have finished paying for it and which will endanger the health of our neighbors in New Orleans East.
However, this plant will affect all of us, no matter how far away we live. Predictions about the effects of climate change are increasingly dire, communities all around us are planning for 100% renewable electricity generation. New Orleans is extremely vulnerable to climate change; we have to do our part in mitigating climate change.
Despite the fact the Council's proposed $5 million fine represents the largest fine ever, it is nothing but a drop in the bucket for a company that made a $400 million profit last year. ENO insisted on getting a blank check from ratepayers by refusing any restrictions on the gas plant cost as a "poison pill". The current price tag of $218 million would guarantee ENO a $23+ MILLION PROFIT, and ENO would still benefit after deceiving us and declaring WAR on New Orleanians.
ENO made a mockery of our democratic decision making process. Imposing a fine without fully reviewing the decision that was made based on this flawed process would not make our community whole. Therefore,
We DEMAND City Council:
Insist on access to the 70 documents ENO is withholding
Take back the March 8 vote in favor of the gas power plant
Fully review the decision that led to this vote so the five new Council Members can make an informed decision
Insist on a full analysis of alternative options to a gas peaking plant before any subsequent vote
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