NGOs challenge New Orleans regulatory plan, Entergy peaker
A suit in New Orleans seeks not only to overturn the approval of a proposed power plant but to revamp the way such decisions are made.
Environmental advocates are challenging Energy New Orleans’ proposed $210 million New Orleans power plant by calling into question the process that resulted in the approval of the plant by the New Orleans City Council, which serves as Entergy New Orleans regulator.
- The advocates argue that there are less expensive and more environmentally benign alternatives to the proposed power plant, and that Entergy New Orleans and the City Council should be required to take such alternatives into consideration before making a decision.
Entergy New Orleans may be the only investor-owned utility in the country that is regulated by a city council. That city council in March approved construction of Entergy New Orleans’ proposed 128 MW gas-fired peaking plant.
At the time, Entergy New Orleans said the proposed plant, comprising seven reciprocating engines, would support reliable service and essential grid stability, and help to support the inclusion of renewables into the company’s resource portfolio.
The plant is designed to replace the deactivated Michoud plant in New Orleans East plant that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina.
Opponents of the project, which includes The Alliance for Affordable Energy, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and 350 New Orleans, have filed complaints challenging the project in the state’s Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans and with the New Orleans City Council. The parties are seeking a request for rehearing at the City Council and are asking the district court to recuse the advisors the City Council used on the case and to vacate the decision.
The case is “a start at solving a broken system,” Logan Burke, executive director of The Alliance for Affordable Energy, told Utility Dive. “We see this as part of a needed reform in New Orleans.”
New Orleans is well served having its city council oversee Entergy New Orleans, but the City Council’s practice has been to use outside consultants such as the law firm Dentons and Legend Energy Advisors. Those consultants perform both fact finding and advisory work without benefit of an administrative law judge or an outside perspective, Burke says. The council itself employs only two people in regulatory capacity, and they serve mostly administrative functions, she says.
The advisors’ decisions are not always bad, but “the process leads to a flawed decision making process,” Burke says. At the very least, she says, the city council should beef up its regulatory capacity. Performing that regulatory work in-house would be more effective and less expensive than hiring outside experts, she says. She favors something closer to the Washington, D.C., model where the city has its own in-house commission and staff.
In terms of the power plant itself, Burke argues that putting a power plant in a flood plain is not the best solution to a transmission problem. “We know there are alternatives to this power plant for the needs the utility is claiming.” But Entergy New Orleans has “considered absolutely no other alternative to this [plant] for a long time.”
Asked to comment, Entergy New Orleans replied with a statement. “After a lengthy litigation process, a week-long evidentiary hearing, multiple public hearings and numerous community meetings, the Council determined in March 2018 that construction of a 128-megawatt local generator at the Michoud location is the only viable and executable plan to address New Orleans’ reliability issues. The intervenors were parties in the litigated proceeding and produced no analysis to support their claims, and their latest attempts to overturn the Council’s decision are meritless.”
- New Orleans City Business Entergy gas plant opponents take legal action to stop project
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