- The New Orleans City Council last week finalized a $5 million fine against Entergy related to the utility's role in paying for people to show up and support a proposed power plant at local hearings. The plant, however, will still move forward.
- The utility hired public relations firm Hawthorn Group, which contracted with Crowds on Demand to hire actors to pose as citizens supporting the New Orleans Power Station (NOPS) at public hearings. Discovery of that move led the city to reconsider approval of the 128-MW gas plant.
- But ultimately, the city unanimously approved a resolution that closely aligned with a settlement Entergy had proposed, including the city council's largest-ever fine and authorization to go ahead with the plant.
It's not often that a $5 million fine is a good thing, but that is the case for Entergy. The city council largely signed off on a speeding ticket that the company proposed for itself.
"The Council's resolution that was unanimously agreed upon yesterday closely aligns with this settlement offer that we initially proposed to the city in an effort to resolve the matter and move forward," Entergy spokesman Neal Kirby said in a Feb. 22 email to Utility Dive.
Entergy, in a Jan. 30 letter to the city council, proposed the $5 million fine.
Public advocate Happy Johnson, who works with the Sierra Club, told Utility Dive in an email that the city council's "failure to regulate Entergy reveals their commitment to the status quo and indifference to the plight of low income families."
"Substantial doubt remains within the community related to the fairness of these proceedings and the prudence of the decision-making process," Johnson said.
In a statement, Cherelle Blazer, senior campaign representative of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign said the group is "extremely disappointed that the City Council did not use their authority as regulators of Entergy New Orleans to repeal last March's vote and protect the public environmental health."
In March 2018, the city council voted to allow Entergy to go ahead with the power plant, which is designed to provide energy when demand is at its highest.
"We look forward to working with the Council and the New Orleans Community on implementing thoughtful and responsible solutions to meeting the long-term energy needs of the citizens of New Orleans," Entergy said in a statement.