Actors scandal, “compromised” process added to lawsuit against New Orleans City Council for violating Open Meetings Law
Lawsuit says approval of Entergy’s gas plant must be voided
New Orleans, LA – On the heels of City Councilmembers declaring a “compromised” process and investigating Entergy’s admission of paid actors to push the company’s gas plant proposal, groups filed new documents with the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
The filing cites some of the Councilmembers’ public responses. One section reads: “In response to Entergy’s revelation, Councilmember Williams stated that “[t]he harmful impact of this nefarious practice is unfortunate, unappreciated and in contravention to true democratic deliberative process,” and “we cannot move forward until this issue is resolved.” Councilmember Williams subsequently stated that “[t]his wasn’t just a perversion of the vote on this plant, it’s a perversion of our entire deliberative process.’”
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Justice and Beyond, Sierra Club, VAYLA New Orleans and 350 New Orleans allege that the Utilities Committee’s February 21 meeting and the City Council’s March 8 meeting did not meet the requirements of the state’s public meetings law. The groups are asking the court to find that, because of these violations, approval of Entergy’s gas plant proposal must be voided – both by the utilities committee, which voted to approve the proposed gas plant at the Feb. 21 meeting, and by the city council, which voted to grant final approval on March 8. The lawsuit was filed on April 19th, weeks before Entergy admitted the company had paid actors to advocate for its gas plant proposal.
"Everyone's first grade teacher taught us a simple rule: do it right the first time or do it over. The Entergy approval was not done right the first time,” said Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans and an attorney on the case. “Fake people displaced real people. Fake concerns did not allow real concerns to be raised. Democracy was undermined. The New Orleans City Council needs to cancel the fake vote and do it over and do it right."
All Entergy customers in Orleans Parish will see higher electric bills every month for 30 years or more if Entergy builds its $230+ million gas plant. Opponents of Entergy’s gas plant maintain that there are less expensive and safer options, including modest updates to a handful of transmission lines or setting the City on a sustainable clean energy path with a mix of renewable generation, battery storage, and energy efficiency technology.
“Real community members were locked outside without a chance to speak,” said Mark Nguyen of VAYLA New Orleans. “All the community wants is for the council to void the Feb. 21 and March 8 vote so that we can have a fair democratic process where the true voice of the community can be heard.”
In addition to the financial risk being placed on New Orleans’ residents and businesses, Entergy plans to build this new gas power plant on a FEMA floodplain within 2 miles of homes, churches, and schools. The communities directly harmed will face thousands of pounds of toxic air pollution and increased flood risk over the life of the plant. Opponents emphasize that dumping a polluting industry in a Vietnamese, Black and Latinx neighborhood is environmental racism.
The Energy Future New Orleans coalition includes Alliance for Affordable Energy, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, VAYLA and 350 New Orleans.
Collection of writings from Public Interest Intervenors DSCEJ, AAE, Sierra Club, 350 NOLA, and VAYLA.