Entergy New Orleans CEO Charles Rice, at left in grey suit, listens as protesters noisily oppose the $210 million gas-fired power plant that Entergy has proposed for New Orleans East. The council approved the plant with a 6-1 vote after an hours-long hearing in March (Kevin Litten, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune).(Kevin Litten)
Entergy New Orleans confirmed Thursday (May 10) that paid actors appeared to testify in support of the company's proposed New Orleans East power plant before the City Council, but the company said it was not aware a consultant had hired them.
The company, releasing the results of an internal investigation, said a consultant hired to organize "grassroots support" for the power plant had paid the actors to testify. Entergy identified its "grassroots support" consultant as The Hawthorn Group, a national public affairs firm, which it said hired a company called Crowds on Demand to "pay individuals that it recruited to appear and/or speak at those two meetings."
The Lens first reported last week that Crowds on Demand had been involved in organizing paid testimony during hearings on the Entergy plant over the last six months. The City Council voted 6-1 in March to approve the power plant, which Entergy said was needed to supplement power generation during periods of peak demand.
The power plant was highly controversial, resulting in a well-organized opposition that included the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Affordable Energy and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. Opponents of the plant have led demonstrations at City Hall since the vote, and had warned council members they believed paid actors were involved. Opponents are challenging whether the council's utilities committee violated public meetings law during a committee meeting in February.
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