Entergy must wait longer for decision on new power plant

Plans for Entergy Plant

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On the site of its deactivated Michoud Plant in New Orleans East, Entergy New Orleans seeks to build a new power generating plant.

"Put simply, our proposal is about our ability to keep the lights on in the city," Entergy New Orleans President and CEO Charles Rice told the City Council's Utility Committee.

Entergy wanted full City Council approval by the end of October, but some who addressed the council committee said a decision shouldn't be rushed.

"All of these need to be scrutinized," said Micheal Brown with the Sierra Club. "At the moment the schedule that Entergy has proposed simply doesn't allow any time for that kind of meaningful review."

Some are concerned about emissions from a new plant.

"We have operated a plant out there for 50 years. We have not had a single complaint, we have not had a single person report that they are sick from any emissions from the plant. In fact, if you read the filing, the scientists will tell you that before the emissions even hit the fence line they would have dissipated," said Rice.

The councilman for that area wants to compare emission numbers from other sources.

"What are we getting out of the automobiles that run up and down our streets?" asked District E City Councilman James Gray.

The debate rages as demand for electricity in the city is forecast to decrease.

"The reduced demand forecast, that, in our opinion, severely undercuts the case for that larger 226-mega-watt facility, as well as, frankly, for the 126 mega-watt plant," Brown said.

"Even though demand may decrease, you still need to have a reliable and dependable grid, and this unit will allow us to have that," said Rice.

The utility has presented two options to the council. The first one is to construct a 226-megawatt unit, the latest is for a less than 130-megawatt facility.

A representative of a local restaurant spoke in favor of the project.

"Last week when they had the bad rain, we had the power flickering in and out. What happens is our point of sale system goes out," said Corey Duckworth, a co-owner of Sassafras Restaurant.

Union workers also showed up in force to back the proposed project.  They held signs saying a new plant means jobs.

"They're going to build it better, safer, more efficient," said Tiger Hammond, of GNO AFL-CIO.

The solar industry weighed in.

"Natural gas and fossil fuel plants at this point are technology that has become obsolete and will continue to become a less viable," said Beth Galante, of PosiGen, a solar energy company.

"The sun shines in Tucson 320 days a year. In New Orleans, it probably rains half the year, so what are you going to do when the sun isn't shining?" said Rice.

Entergy said because of the climate here customers who have solar panels still end up using some of the utility's power.

"Besides, you need electricity to operate solar facilities," Rice stated.

The cost of the new plant would be passed on to customers.

"The average bill will increase roughly $5.84 a month, and as time progresses that will go down," said Rice.

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