Republished from December 2019
THINK504 Editorial Board
Think 504, today requested from information from Entergy New Orleans and the New Orleans City Council. We requested names of the persons Entergy has paid as consultants during the past eight years. Paid consultants became an issue when Entergy cancelled a check to WBOK radio. The check was cancelled after the station interviewed opponents of the proposed power plant. The issue is whether Entergy uses its money to buy support and stifle dissent.
Who Entergy’s pays as consultants is very important. Especially when Entergy’s contractors try to unfairly influence the City Council. Are our political leaders informed about true public opinion? Or did Entergy present fake public support to influence the City Council. Entergy has every right to try to influence legislators, but deception and distorting reality are out of bounds.
The next meeting of the City Council is today at 10 am. Think 504 encourages all citizens of New Orleans to attend and express any concerns they may have. The next meeting of the City Council’s Utility Committee is on June 14 at 10 am. Both of these meetings should have broad public engagement.
Think 504 seeks to discover whether the Fortune 500 company has used its economic might to corrupt the political process. Rumors abound. Have current members of the new City Council been paid large sums of money for doing little to no work?
For its part, the New Orleans City Council sent its letter demanding information from Entergy. Another local media outlet requested documents from Entergy. Entergy claims it did not know that a public relations company it hired in turn hired paid actors. We know paid actors flooded City Council hearings and testified in support of Entergy’s proposed electric plant. As a result people filed a law suit. Several public interest organizations say Entergy and the actors corrupted the public decision-making process. They say the actors quieted community opposition to the plant.
There are other key issues we must also consider. First the $210 million construction cost. This is just an estimate which Entergy has given the City Council. The price of construction could be substantially higher without penalties for delays. Second, according to Entergy, the plant is only a back up. It would power the city’s grid if a hurricane or some other natural disaster severed New Orleans from the national grid.
SAFETY A REAL ISSUE
But the connection to the national grid is extremely secure and easy to fix in the event of a disruption. Also, some plant opponents say that Entergy should supplement power in such circumstances with environmentally friendly power. Power from alternative sources like solar, wind and power from the Mississippi River.
Third, the plant would be located at the site of the old plant near the Bayou Savage National Wildlife Refuge. There is also a large community of Vietnamese, African-American, and Latinos.
Fourth, the environmental consequences for the plant built in the wetlands are bad. Opponents claim it is disastrous for New Orleans and would increase flooding risks.
There is another major complication. Many of the new council members may have now or in the recent past had financial relations with Entergy; thereby jeopardizing their objectivity.
Entergy gives millions of dollars to non-profit organizations in New Orleans. Many of these groups mobilize their members on Entergy’s behalf on important issues. An unbiased City Council needs to be aware whether groups and individuals, like the paid actors, who come before the council also are paid for their opinions.