- The president of the New Orleans City Council on Tuesday called for a probe into Entergy's performance during Hurricane Ida, which knocked out power to the entire city for days, with some residents without electricity for two weeks amid stifling summer heat.
- Councilmember Helena Moreno, chair of the utilities' committee, is concerned with the failure of all main transmission lines into New Orleans and the role played in the days after the storm by a $210 million backup power plant, said Andrew Tuozzolo, Moreno's chief of staff.
- Moreno plans to introduce a resolution calling for an investigation into Entergy's storm response and related issues at the City Council's Sept. 22 meeting.
The call for an investigation by one of New Orleans top elected officials comes as Entergy, roughly three weeks after the powerful hurricane hit, tackles the last remaining outages in Louisiana, with roughly 46,000 in rural communities still without electricity as of Thursday afternoon.
The City Council chief's move also comes as Entergy comes under increasing fire from environmental groups.
Having opposed the construction of the 128 MW New Orleans Power Station (NOPS), which began commercial operation in May 2020 and was supposed to provide "black start" capabilities that would generate power for the city if other systems failed, the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice are now questioning whether the plant performed as advertised.
Meanwhile, if Moreno is able to push her resolution through the council, it would set a number of wheels in motion.
First off, the council would forward the resolution to the Louisiana Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, effectively calling upon both regulators to launch their own reviews, said Tuozzolo, Moreno's chief of staff.
The resolution would also give a green light to Moreno's proposal to commission an independent study of Entergy's handling of Hurricane Ida, with her office prepared to send out requests for qualifications to firms in hopes of getting a report completed in a matter of months, Tuozzolo said.
Moreno is also concerned about the performance of the NOPS black-start plant, and wants more information from Entergy about where the power produced by the plant was sent and whether it provided electricity for communities beyond New Orleans.
The plant itself was paid for exclusively by city ratepayers, Tuozzolo said.
The City Council chief is also concerned about the transmission line failures, and whether proper maintenance was done on this key piece of infrastructure, as well as what needs to be done in the future to harden the grid as the region deals with ever more intense storms, he said.
The downing of the transmission lines connecting New Orleans with the outside world included the collapse of a large transmission tower, which, while not crippling in and of itself, drove home the importance of the issue, according to Tuozzolo.
"We think it's emblematic of the type of concerns we have about maintenance, about reliability, about upkeep, about hardening, and frankly about resiliency," Tuozzolo said.
In addition, the City Council chief would also like to explore whether Entergy, an investor-owned utility, is the right fit for the city. Moreno is interested in looking at other potential alternatives, such as a municipal or consumer-owned utility, or finding a way of introducing competition into the city's electric market.
The resolution also calls for a management audit of Entergy.
"We need to know the answers to important questions about how Entergy's system truly performed and further, what reforms we must make to create a more sustainable, affordable future for New Orleanians," Moreno said in a press statement.
A spokesperson for Entergy said the company plans to attend the New Orleans City Council meeting on Wednesday.
"Entergy New Orleans will be attending the upcoming Utility Committee and Council meetings, and looks forward to discussing these important matters with the City Council," the spokesperson said in an email.