NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A New Orleans City Council committee has set the wheels in motion for a possible new power plant in the East.
The plan to build a new plant along Paris Road is just one of several issues voted on Thursday, including one involving the restructuring of Entergy New Orleans.
Entergy New Orleans said its Michoud generating plant has seen its day.
"The old plant was very old and less efficient," said Gary Huntley with Entergy New Orleans.
It has stood for over 50 years and shut down last month. Now the company wants to build a new one, and opponents are lining up.
"If the application is approved, Entergy would extend this policy of environmental racism," said environmental activist Monique Harden.
Opponents say that 70 percent of power plants in the U.S. operate near people of color, and they say Entergy New Orleans should consider alternative sources of power like wind or solar. There are also concerns about depleted groundwater and subsidence.
"That sinking undermined the New Orleans East levee that failed during Katrina," said Casey DeMoss with the Alliance for Affordable Energy.
But many say with repeated outages, a new plant is needed.
"In order to keep pace with the city's growth, we need a reliable power source," said Darrel Brown of New Orleans East.
The council's utility committee on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a process that may facilitate approval of the new plant.
"We have a lot of work to do on environmental impact, and we're committed to do that," Huntley said.
The council committee also set in motion the restructuring of Entergy New Orleans and the possibility of $25 million in credits over the next five years.
The new plant, and possible future credits, must still be reviewed by the council and its longtime advisers.
"We're trying to give order to the process," said council utility consultant Jeff Wilkerson.
Entergy New Orleans is hoping to have federal approval for the new gas-powered plant by the end of 2018.
"We're not pressuring the council but we just want to point out that there could be additional costs if the time frame is not reached," said Huntley.
The council committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of moving the process forward.
Entergy says groundwater concerns with the new plant are overblown. Meantime, longtime council energy consultant Clint Vince supports the need for the new plant, but he says that so far Entergy New Orleans has failed to fully explain its impacts.