Monday, February 19, 2018

In the Mail: Opposition to New Orleans Power Plant

Usually, when I send a letter to my elected officials, I feel calmer at the end of the process, because I have participated in my democratic institutions. For this one, I was angrier by the end of the letter than I was when I sat down to write it. 

Sent to the Utility, Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee (UCTTC) of the New Orleans City Council:

As someone who works and lives and pays a power bill in Orleans Parish, I would would like to go on record in opposition to the proposed New Orleans Power Station in New Orleans East. My opposition is founded in the unjustified higher cost of living approving the power plant will create for residents, a lack of demonstrated need for this power plant, and the environmental concerns made plain by the July 22 and August 5 flooding in my neighborhood.

One of the biggest issues of last year’s election cycle was the ever-increasing cost of living in Orleans Parish, and how these increasing costs are constantly squeezing residents. Despite our already-high power bills, residents and businesses also endure an unacceptable number of power outages every year. Entergy blames a shortage of local power generation, but the truth is that our power transmission infrastructure is simply not up to the standards of most American cities of New Orleans’ size.

I’ve lived here long enough to remember the Storm Restoration Charges that were supposed to assist recovery from damage done by Hurricanes Gustav and Isaac and improve our transmission lines, but those additional charges to consumers never seemed to translate into more resilient infrastructure. Looking forward, how much will rate-payers be asked to increase their bill in the inevitable event that a power plant in New Orleans East floods due to storm surge or a rain event? Rate payers will be stuck with the triple cost of Storm Restoration Charges, paying for the new power plant, and then paying additional money to repair future damage to the power plant. That’s a whole lot of money ratepayers could be stuck with, without a whole lot to show for it.

When it comes to this civic decision-making process, Entergy is a regulated monopoly. Rate payers like me do not have another option to choose when it comes to electricity delivery, and the only recourse we have is for our elected officials to hold the company to the highest possible standards. I have been following the issue as closely as I can in my free time, and I feel that Entergy has not made convincing case for this power plant. As my elected representative, I ask that you consider our needs and research in making this decision.

I also believe the decision is moving forward without adequate civic notice or understanding of the issue. While you may feel this is being done by holding the minimum required number of public meetings before Council committees – I’ve read various media reports that the process has been going on for over a year – many of my neighbors do not understand what decision is being made and how it will impact their cost of living. This feels like yet another public decision where the New Orleans City Council serves as a final arbiter of whether Entergy gets to stick us with a higher bill for this power plant, while few New Orleanians even know this issue is being discussed.

Workers in this city should not have to arrange to take time off work to attend the few hosted meetings while attempting to understand intricate impacts of a new power plant, especially when we are the ones being asked to foot the bill for a wealthy corporation. For a capital expenditure of this nature, Entergy should be required to make presentations to citizens across the city, and the City Council and Mayor’s Office should help facilitate those meetings. We know Entergy has the time and money for such meetings, as we can see their endless advertising on social media. I got yet another email from them today. It’s insulting to see Entergy use our hard-earned money to advertise a project with a guaranteed return on investment of 11% (from

My savings account doesn’t get that good of a rate.

Finally, there are numerous environmental concerns with the project. For a city that strives for resiliency in policy making, I’m not sure how the City can justify the location of a new power plant in the environmentally fragile area of New Orleans East, which is experiencing the highest rate of ground subsidence in the Parish. Power plants are major users of groundwater, a use that is unregulated in our state but that we know contributes to subsidence. We should be seeking to keep as much water in the ground as we can, not extract millions of gallons for a fossil fuel-dependent plant that will exacerbate climate change and relative sea level rise.

 City leaders constantly refer to New Orleans as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to both our environmental risks and our innovations in sustainability; our risks from climate change and global warming, today and in the future, are existential crises. To green light a new fossil fuel-dependent power plant—to ask New Orleanians to pay out of their pockets for increased environmental risks—is unacceptable.

Thank you for your consideration,