Article originally published on The Goldman Environmental Prize website
Shoutout to Sharon Levigne of Rise St. James, who has won the Goldman Prize for 2021! We're honored and excited to have worked alongside Sharon for years advocating for local Louisiana communities. The work is not done. With your help we look forward to being a part of the continued push to advance environmental justice in the South.
Read more to learn about the amazing success Sharon has had mobilizing grassroots opposition to the $1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant that was set to be constructed alongside the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana.
City Council will decide on consulting contracts for advice on Entergy.For decades, the Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee of the New Orleans City Council has relied on a handful of primarily out-of-state contractors to provide technical advice and counsel on regulatory matters involving Entergy New Orleans. Different iterations of the Council have come and gone, yet the same familiar personalities have occupied the seats reserved for these contractors at committee and Council meetings.
At an annual sum of nearly $7M, the contracts of the Council’s utility advisors are the most lucrative that it awards. The firms that currently hold these contracts -- including Washington, D.C.-based law firm Dentons and Denver-based technical advisory firm Legend Consulting Group -- have done so for almost four decades, while New Orleans continues to battle high bills and unreliable service. Ideally, the utility advisors would lend a critical eye on the utility’s filings before the Council, but in recent years the advisors have supported Entergy’s unpopular and costly decisions, such as the construction of the gas plant in New Orleans East, which will cost New Orleanians upwards of $650 Million over 30 years. Meanwhile, advisors are free to contribute to the political campaigns of hopeful Council candidates, while their expenses are paid for by New Orleans ratepayers.
The advisor’s current contracts expire at the end of 2021 and will be opened for a Request for Qualifications this year, as they are every five years.
From February 14th - 18th, 2021, Louisiana and Texas experienced extremely cold temperatures, relatively unusual for the region. Referred to as Winter Storm Uri, or most recently as The February Arctic Event, the freezing cold temperatures pushed our electric infrastructure to the brink of mass failure. Electric generating units failed due to the freeze, ice-covered tree branches took down power lines, gas supply could not meet demand, because of the nature of gas used in the region, the pipelines themselves could not withstand the temperatures, and the demand for energy to heat our homes was at an all time high. This created a Maximum Generation (or Max Gen) event within our electric market, MISO, and did lead to rolling blackouts for Louisianans.
Now that that extreme weather has passed, and Louisiana was spared the worst of it, our utility regulators want answers. Simple ‘supply and demand’ principles mean that that Max Gen event is going to come with a hefty price tag, but for who and when? The high fuel costs, recovered through the Fuel Adjustment Clause (FAC) will likely be spread out over 6-12 months, while costs associated with damaged power plants and transmission & distribution lines can be securitized with long-term bonds.
The New Orleans City Council, which has regulatory authority over Entergy New Orleans (“ENO”), has opened a docket (UD-21-01) in order to conduct a prudence investigation of ENO’s decision-making during the winter storm.
Yes, the puns are endless, but AMPs can be a lifeline to help folks get back on track. An Arrearage Management Program (AMP) is a program that helps you pay past due utility bills, packaged with energy efficiency and bill forgiveness, and we’re working to bring it to Louisiana!
Here’s the general idea. Say a customer has accrued $1,000 in electric bills over the past year. Given the record number of job losses and extreme weather, this isn’t unusual. The customer is getting back on their feet, just as our hot summer months are quickly approaching. Maybe they can keep up with current utility bills, but just can’t get over the hump to clear the past due amounts. Here’s where an AMP comes into play.
A well crafted AMP will allow for a customer with a past due balance to enroll in a payment plan, say they pay $25 extra a month to cover their past due balance. At the same time, they get an energy efficiency audit to see what programs may be available for them to lower their energy usage (and bills!) without sacrificing indoor comfort. Said customer can now stay current on their bills while continuing to pay towards the past due amount. Following a certain amount of time, a year for example, of staying current on monthly bills and the payment plan, the remaining past due balances are forgiven.
Confronting the myth of carbon-free fossil fuels: Why carbon capture is not a climate solution by Dana Drugmand & Carroll Muffett
Article by Dana Drugmand (CIEL) and Carroll Muffett (CIEL)
Originally published by Environmental Working Group (EWG)
April 22, 2021
Carbon capture and storage technologies are not only unnecessary to the rapid transformation required to keep warming under 1.5 degrees centigrade, they also delay that transformation, providing the fossil fuel industry with a license to continue polluting.
Fifth in a series.
New Orleans City Council Utility Chair Moreno urges action on regional grid as key to clean energy path
Shortly after the New Orleans City Council passed standards requiring 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050 and 90 percent within two decades, Council President Helena Moreno followed up with an immediate action to help pave the way for the city to succeed on its policy mandate.
In a May 24, 2021 letter to Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) CEO John Bear, Moreno underscored the importance of long-range transmission planning at MISO needed for “upgrading and expanding the wholesale transmission system to increase the access to low-cost, renewable energy resources.”
Today the full New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to adopt R-21-182, establishing a Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standard (RCPS) for the city of New Orleans.
After over two years of work on a policy to get polluting and fossil fuels out of New Orleans’ energy mix, thanks to petitions, symposia, community meetings, online town halls, and your input, the New Orleans Council has voted to approve the first Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standard in the Gulf South. Today New Orleans joined the now 32 states and three US territories that have established renewable energy mandates.
By Stephen Wright, Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association
When two million people suffer power outages like we saw across our region last month, no stone should be left unturned in assessing what happened--and what needs to change.
CIEL Supports the UN's Statement Denouncing Environmental Racism in Cancer Alley, and Calling for an End to Petrochemical Expansion
Originally published on Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, human rights experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council released a statement raising “serious concerns” about further industrialization of Cancer Alley in Louisiana, saying that the “development of petrochemical complexes is a form of environmental racism.” The statement comes after years of campaigning by Louisiana residents and the submission of a letter led by Loyola law students to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance late last year.
As we've reported in the past, in 2020 Louisiana's Governor kicked off a Climate Initiatives Task Force along with clear goals for reducing emissions to "net zero" across Louisiana over the coming three decades. The 23 full Task Force members represent the decision-making body; their work is divided across 6 Committees and 4 Advisory Groups, each composed of both task force members and additional relevant expertise. A full list of all Task Force Committee, and Advisory group members can be found here.
Much of the Task Force represents the interests of the "incumbent" power: oil and gas trade groups, manufacturing and business interests, and utilities, while a smaller portion of members represent environmental justice advocates, clean energy experts, and equity-focused allies. In order to ensure the work of this Task Force and climate efforts to come are informed by real Louisianans, we are working with organizations across the state to support public input and engagement. We know that climate action must be equitable, otherwise we will only double down on Louisiana's social and environmental injustices.
The Alliance is part of the region-wide people-powered effort called "Gulf South for A Green New Deal", which is a collaborative of grassroots organizations across the five states across the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana's efforts are focusing on the Climate Task Force, and also improving fair housing and the development of renewable energy across the state.
Over the next year, we are meeting regularly with anyone who is interested in building a people-centered set of recommendations to the task force and various agencies. Join us won't you!?
Let us know if you want in.
Our infrastructure was not designed for the new world we face.
In six months we’ve seen two black swan weather events cause an energy crisis. As we reckon with the systems engineering impact of extreme weather, energy resilience will undoubtedly emerge as an essential underpinning of our future grid.
The first of these events was in August of 2020. A multi-state heat wave led to blackouts in California when the power system operator couldn’t secure adequate generation to meet immense air conditioning loads.
The second event is happening as we speak. A massive winter storm is delivering crushingly low temperatures across much of the US. Texas, most of which currently does not have power, is being hit the hardest, not necessarily in absolute temperature, but relative to their typical winters.
Lawmakers and the Murdoch media target wind and solar but grid operator says fossil fuel generators suffered biggest problems
The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that “the power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
While some wind turbines did freeze, failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as renewables, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which operates the state’s power grid, said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Also gone were the state’s energy efficiency programs, which had saved consumers and corporations millions of dollars. When citizens tried to organize a referendum to repeal the bill, FirstEnergy indulged in various dirty tactics to thwart this democratic opposition.
Karen made notable contributions as an officer in the League of Women Voters and cofounder of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. Propelled by a strong sense of civic duty and the common good, Karen advocated for the rights of utility customers and promoted energy efficiency and progressive energy policies in New Orleans and across the country.
Desiring to be closer to family, she moved to St. Augustine in 2015 and became actively involved in the lives of her grandchildren. Karen touched many lives, as evident in the vast variety of friends she made. Her bright spirit lit up every room she walked into. Karen's family will host a Zoom-assisted celebration of her life in February. Anyone who knew Karen and is interested may contact a member of the family.
We are grateful for Karen's vision, leadership and commitment to the Alliance.
If you would like to make a donation to Karen Wimpelberg's special memorial fund please use the button below. Karen’s mentorship was vital to so many in keeping the mission of the Alliance going. Therefore we will direct any donated funds to support our internship program to maintain that spirit.
With all of this hubbub about the potential loss of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana due to new Federal policy, it makes sense to dig a bit deeper into the actual job numbers. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) claims 48,000 jobs will be lost, yet the most recent report by the Louisiana Workforce Commission claims only 1.5% of Louisiana’s jobs are in oil and gas. So what gives??
The Alliance is hiring a full time Climate Coordinator to support organization-wide efforts to combat climate change through organizing, regulatory policy, and litigation. Commitment of a minimum of 40 hours per week is required. Due to the nature of the Alliance’s work, it is understood that additional hours may be required and that some flexibility in daily hours may be required. This position reports directly to the Executive Director.
The Alliance is hiring a full time New Orleans Policy Manager to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and consumer protection, within the New Orleans regulatory environment. Commitment of a minimum of 40 hours per week is required. Due to the nature of the Alliance’s work, it is understood that additional hours may be required and that some flexibility in daily hours may be required. This position reports directly to the Executive Director.
Updated March 4, February 8, 2021
Originally Posted January 29, 2021
In New Orleans, at least part of the bill spike is due to the Fuel Adjustment Charge more than doubling, plus the charge for the new gas plant, all on top of the higher usage from the cold and being home due to Covid. Entergy sent a letter to the City Council back on December 18th (attached), to let them know about some of these changes, as they are required to alert the Council if the fuel charge has a significant increase.
The Fuel Adjustment Charge gives us insight into the bill impact when power plants are down and gas costs spike. This charge (also called a Fuel and Purchased Power rider on bills) is based on what was happening in energy markets two months prior and it is always on this two month lag.
Back in November 2020 (think way back!) three things happened that all impact this one line item.
Sierra Club Report Exposes ‘Dirty Truth’ about Electric Utilities’ Climate Pledges: Entergy New Orleans and Entergy Louisiana Receive Worst Ratings in State
The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges
Report by Sierra Club, John Romankiewicz, Cara Bottorff, Leah C. Stokes
January 25, 2021
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- The Sierra Club released a groundbreaking report and research tool today that grades utilities based on their plans to retire coal plants, stop building new gas plants, and invest in clean energy. The tool gives the public the power to judge each utility’s climate progress based on its stated carbon reduction goals and how that compares to what science actually demands. Sierra Club will update the scores in this analysis on a regular basis.
“Entergy New Orleans and Entergy Louisiana each received the worst possible grade because the utilities plan to invest in new fracked gas power plants while making very little investments in proven and affordable options like energy efficiency, wind, and solar power,” said Dave Stets, Delta Chapter Chair from New Orleans. “Utilities could save $1.1 billion annually if Louisiana’s remaining coal plants retire by 2030 and replaced with energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
Sky High Electric Bill? Here's Why! Interview with Our Executive Director Logan Burke by Jennifer Crockett