Continued from Just Another Thursday in Energy Policy
It’s 1pm, one regulatory meeting down, one to go and about an hour and a half on I-10 to eat my sandwich. What happened at the LPSC was unexpected, a little bright spot in this work, but unfortunately, we know what to expect at the New Orleans City Council and it ain’t looking good. The New Orleans City Council is poised to vote on Entergy New Orleans’ proposed gas power plant and a $5 million fine for hiring paid actors to speak in support of the plant. I see a line of Mardi Gras floats headed westbound on I-10 and wonder if I should just turn around.
The years of fighting this gas plant have included scandals, documented corruption, a disgraced CEO and a city election, turning over all but two City Council seats. There are four pending lawsuits for issues stemming from the air quality permit, restricting public access to public hearings, and two appeals based on a violation of due process. After months of rescheduling and postponing the vote, the outcome of today’s New Orleans City Council vote seems certain. So should I just get a daiquiri, head home and claim that the LPSC meeting ran late? Nah, I’m going to go to City Hall, sign that comment card, support the team, and maybe even catch some political theater from a guy in a chicken suit.
Turns out, I even got a great parking spot.
But the parking spot was no indication of the rest of the day, similarly, Professor Longhair on the radio and the great successes at the LPSC would not be replicated today in Orleans Parish. After four hours of public comment from neighbors living on the fenceline of the proposed plant to environmental advocates; religious leaders, consumer advocates and champions of environmental justice spoke out against the gas plant and the flawed democratic process that got us here. Yet, despite the virtual volleyball match, the Council unanimously approved a shiny, new $210 million gas plant, slated for a community of color, to be used less than 1% of the year.
But here’s the thing, before we all start crying into our Mardi Gras costumes, we must know that we are not defeated. We have illuminated many problems within the New Orleans utility regulatory system and have elevated those issues to a national level. We have empowered the voices of disenfranchised New Orleans East residents. We have demonstrated that Entergy cannot be trusted and needs real accountability in order to ensure they are working for New Orleans. And we will continue to fight for justice, both in the open lawsuits and in the ongoing fight for environmental and economic justice, and a fair and transparent regulatory process. Onward and Upward as we Go To the Mardi Gras to celebrate our Beautiful City and recharge for the fight ahead of us.