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.