NEW ORLEANS — The fallout from Entergy's paid-actor scandal that was uncovered last year continues.
City Council members announced they will submit a resolution this week that represents a potential settlement with the power utility over the controversy surrounding their new power plant in New Orleans East.
According to a release from Councilmembers Helena Moreno, Jay Banks and Joe Giarrusso, a resolution will be brought up this week to have Entergy pay a $5 million fine that will predominantly be used to tackle the power crisis at S&WB and commit to a number of improvements to the NOPS plant.
This resolution is aimed at ending boil water advisories and power outages in New Orleans.
According to a statement from Moreno, Banks and Giarrusso, the resolution “imposes cost protections for the ratepayers, ensuring that customers do not shoulder out-of-control costs during the construction process” and will have Entergy “submit to stipulated and rigorous maintenance requirements to ensure the plant doesn't decay as Entergy's distribution network has.”
Entergy would also have to commit to reoccurring, focused reviews of new technology to modify the plan, such as battery storage or other peak-demand measures as they become practical and cost-effective.
CLANCY'S COMMENTARY: Support Entergy's power plant in N.O. East
The Council voted 6-1 last March to approve the plant. Former Councilmember Susan Guidry was the lone dissenter.
"I would love for Entergy to prove me wrong but I've watched for more than eight years now as they use the same strategy over and over and they do a pretty good job of getting their way with it," Guidry said.
On Tuesday, Entergy New Orleans released a statement to Eyewitness News saying that the power plant remains the cornerstone of the company's plan to address an urgent need for preventing power outages. Without it, they say the city is at risk. -- something Guidry calls fear mongering.
"I would hope that this plant would never be built! And I would hope that, that we would dive headlong and deep into making this a clean energy city. Especially given how fragile our city is," Guidry said.
The power plant will cost about $210 million, paid for by Entergy customers in their bills over the next 30 years.
The gas-fired power plant will replace the Michoud power plant on Old Gentilly Road, which was shut down in 2017. It will be composed of seven natural gas-fired engines that will support the grid when power demand is high.
Officials say it would use much less water and emit less pollution than the former plant.
The scandal rose from Entergy’s use of paid actors at City Council meetings revolving around the 128-megawatt power plant, which would be New Orleans’ only major, local source of power.
Entergy places the blame for the paid actors on Hawthorn Group, a contractor they hired to drum up support for the plant, who then used California-based Crowds on Demand to pay the actors filling seats at City Council meetings.
Heavy opposition was present though, with people who said the power plant would pollute their neighborhood and urged Entergy to instead invest in renewable power sources and upgrade their current infrastructure.
A month-long investigation followed that led City Councilmembers to the conclusion that “Entergy knew or should have known” that the utility hired actors as part of an astroturfing campaign. The council called for a $5 million sanction against Entergy.
Read the full resolution below:
On Jan. 30, Entergy New Orleans officials sent a revised settlement offer in a letter to City Council. In the letter, Entergy New Orleans president and CEO David Ellis offers to comply with the demands.
In defense of the power station, Ellis' wrote the following:
"It provides a source of local power exactly where a much larger, older, and less environmentally friendly plant was located for the past 60 years. NOPS remains the cornerstone of ENO’s plan to address an urgent and current need to ensure grid reliability and stability, preventing widespread outages, and avoid an additional hurricane season without local generation for restoration support. Without it, the City and its citizens are at risk. With it, a baseline level of grid reliability will be established, clearing the way to pursue increases in innovative technologies without the need to be concerned about high-impact, widespread outages or the lack of a generating unit for hurricane responses.”