Not too long ago, Entergy New Orleans drew quite a bit of unwanted attention to itself. Last year, the sole electric provider for the Crescent City attempted to get a proposed gas plant approved by the New Orleans City Council. Despite many groups also putting forward plans that included generation from renewable sources such as solar power, Entergy stuck to their guns. In the hopes it would help the gas plant be approved, the company hired paid actors to sit in at meetings and even testify in favor of the plant. The hope was that this would convince the Council to approve construction of the plant.
When this deception was discovered, the backlash against the company was tremendous. Entergy New Orleans attempted to put the blame on a marketing agency that they had used. Entergy New Orleans claimed that they had never been consulted about the plan, and had no involvement in the hiring of the actors. Email correspondence however showed that this was not the case. Emails with the address of several high-ranking executives in the company showed them discussing the strategy, and the pricing for hired actors. Entergy New Orleans CEO at the time, Charles Rice, was demoted in August 2018.
Despite these blatantly dishonest actions, the gas plant was approved by a 6-to-1 vote, although Entergy New Orleans was fined $5 million for their actions. But Entergy New Orleans didn’t get off the hook so easily. The Alliance for Affordable Energy (AAE), the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), 350-New Orleans, and the Sierra Club, issued a lawsuit against the electric company due to their actions. Their argument was that Entergy New Orleans attempted to influence the Council members with the presence of the “supporters”. Because of this, the Council’s vote was invalid. Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin seems to agree, and has overturned the City Council’s original vote in a ruling over the issue.
This means that the New Orleans City Council, which first voted on the issue in March 2018, must now vote on it again. Many of the groups who opposed the gas plant the first time are hoping that Entergy New Orleans will be more receptive to other options for power generation now. Specifically, renewable energy such as solar power. Suggestions for power generation from sources such as solar panels are among some of the many green options that were presented to the council previously.
Making a new gas plant is simply delaying the inevitable. Fossil fuels, even gas, are becoming more and more pricey. They’re difficult to harvest, and difficult to refine, and when they’re used to generate electricity they cause pollution. On top of having to deal with all that, customers are forced to pay higher and higher electric rates to cover the utility company’s costs. With solar panels in New Orleans, people can avoid rising costs. Other utility companies have started to install massive solar farms capable of powering thousands of homes. It’s time that Entergy New Orleans joined the club and started generating their power from clean sources like solar power. Hopefully, the New Orleans City Council will see that the Crescent City doesn’t need fossil fuels to keep it bright.