Environment

Thursday, June 14, 2018

With investigation looming, Entergy power plant opponents want fresh vote

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 5:45 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

The New Orleans City Council is getting closer to selecting a firm to investigate the use of paid actors who supported Entergy’s construction of a gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East. A selection review committee will evaluate the proposals June 15, and the City Council could take it up June 21. A selected firm will likely have a contract by mid-July.

"I'd rather lean on the side of being thoroughou than fast to get it done, " said At-Large Councilmember and the City Council’s utilities committee chair Helena Moreno June 14. Moreno said the Council’s goal is to first ensure a thorough investigation, and “would then like it done in timely manner.”

But, as reported by The Lens this week, emails between Entergy and a PR firm already begin to reveal how the astroturfing campaign took shape. “I’m not going to be making any comments until the investigation is complete and the facts speak for themselves,” Moreno said.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Youth bootcamp aims to save the world's oceans from plastic pollution

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 12:15 PM

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Finding answers to the world's environmental problems largely will fall in the laps of our children, and the inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in New Orleans June 2-4 will give youth ages 11 to 18 a leg up on developing policies to do that.

The bootcamp, aimed at developing campaigns to reduce plastic in the earth's oceans, will give young people across the world a chance to collaborate on proposed policies to decrease plastic pollution in their communities and worldwide, starting with single-use plastic straws. More than 250 people will gather for the bootcamp in New Orleans, while another 750 youth will collaborate with them online during mini events in other countries.

Youth who attend the event will meet Netflix and Nickelodeon actor Aidan Gallagher (The Umbrella Academy; Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn; Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Audubon Nature Institute's Swamp Exhibit. Gallagher is the youngest person ever to be named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for North America, serving as an environmental advocate for the U.N.'s Environmental Programme: Wild for Life Initiative.

"Our oceans supply up to 70 percent of earth's oxygen," Gallagher said in a prepared statement. "If they die, so does everything and everyone that needs oxygen. Protecting our oceans' health should be our top priority. I believe we can create a generation of like-minded advocates to conserve marine life, and Ocean Heroes Bootcamp is doing just that."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Entergy has June 8 deadline to respond to New Orleans City Council investigation request

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2018 at 6:35 PM

Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction.

Entergy has until June 8 to produce a host of documents and information relative to the New Orleans City Council's investigation into the use of paid actors promoting Entergy's gas-fired power plant planned for New Orleans East.

The practice of "astroturfing," revealed by investigative news outlet The Lens, spurred the City Council to hire a third-party investigator to look into the utility — Entergy has placed the blame with a public relations firm it hired to build a "grassroots" campaign that, Entergy says, hired a subcontractor that paid people to show up at City Council hearings on the plant.

At-Large City Councilmember Helena Moreno — who also is chair of the council's utilities committee — sent a letter to the company May 29 following last week's approval of a motion detailing the information that Entergy now is required to send over. Among that info: a list of personnel involved, all related contracts, all communication related to the matter, as well as anyone interviewed in Entergy's own internal investigation, along with the people who conducted it.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

City Council president Jason Williams to address Entergy 'astroturf' campaign tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 3:34 PM

Demonstrators in March at the New Orleans City Council decrying Entergy's plans to build a power plant in New Orleans East. Last month, The Lens reported that some pro-plant demonstrators were actually paid actors. Entergy claims it had nothing to do with hiring them, and that the "astroturfing" was done by a subcontractor. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Demonstrators in March at the New Orleans City Council decrying Entergy's plans to build a power plant in New Orleans East. Last month, The Lens reported that some pro-plant demonstrators were actually paid actors. Entergy claims it had nothing to do with hiring them, and that the "astroturfing" was done by a subcontractor.

Since The Lens revealed that some of the people at City Council chambers at last year's hearing over a proposed Entergy power plant were actually paid to speak in favor of the power station, the new New Orleans City Council has been debating how to address the practice, known as "astroturfing."

Now City Council President Jason Williams will hold a press conference tomorrow outlining the council's options and next steps.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Entergy, Sewerage & Water Board in New Orleans City Council crosshairs

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

While the New Orleans City Council moves furniture into its offices after its swearing-in ceremonies this week, an astroturfing campaign to mimic "grassroots support" for Entergy's new gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East has prompted one of the first assignments from the new lineup at City Hall.

A report from investigative news outlet The Lens and Entergy's subsequent responses and admissions revealed a public relations firm hired by the utility had contracted with a company called Crowds on Demand that hired actors to fill seats to support the plant — which faced strong opposition from New Orleans East residents and civil rights and environmental groups.

The vote approving the power plant was among the last controversial measures adopted by the outgoing City Council.

But with five new members sworn into office this week, the new group is likely to bring Entergy back to City Hall to determine the depths of the campaign and whether it impacted the public hearing process.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Entergy: power plant 'grassroots support' actors were paid without company's 'knowledge or approval'

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 12:25 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

Entergy claims that paid actors who appeared at public hearings to support construction of a gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East were hired "without Entergy’s knowledge or approval."

A report from investigative news outlet The Lens found that dozens of orange shirt-wearing supporters who appeared at New Orleans City Council hearings concerning Entergy's construction of the $210 million plant were paid through Crowds on Demand, which does what it sounds like.

According to a statement from Entergy, Crowds on Demand was hired by the public relations firm that Entergy hired to organize "local grassroots support" for the plant. That firm, The Hawthorn Group, was contracted to mobilize "up to 75 grassroots supporters, 10 of whom would speak, for the October 16, 2017 public meeting and up to 30 grassroots supporters, including 10 speakers, for the February 21, 2018, public meeting," but "the contract with Hawthorn did not contemplate or authorize that any of these supporters would be paid for their attendance."

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

'So much depends on it': Al Gore issues environmental call to arms at Collision

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 1:01 AM

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The man who was almost president has a message for the entrepreneurs, investors and other tech-adjacent professionals milling about this week's Collision conference in New Orleans: he needs you on board.

"I'm not here to just give you information," he says. "I'm here to recruit you. We need your help to win this struggle. We need your help to solve the climate crisis."

In a 30-minute speech to a packed-to-the-gills house (people sitting in the aisles, on the floor in front of the stage), former vice president, Nobel laureate and venture capitalist Al Gore exhorted conference-goers to sign on to what he says will be the defining battle of our lifetimes — the struggle to turn back the clock on an ever-warming, ever-more-meteorologically volatile planet whose climate has been disrupted by human activity and fossil fuel emissions.

"The world that you will grow into," Gore told the young-skewing crowd, "will be shaped by the decisions we make about this today."

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

New Orleans City Council approves Entergy's gas-fired plant in New Orleans East

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 6:20 PM

New Orleans East residents appeared in City Hall to oppose construction of an Entergy plant. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • New Orleans East residents appeared in City Hall to oppose construction of an Entergy plant.

Dozens of New Orleans East residents filled New Orleans City Council’s newly opened chambers in City Hall to challenge Entergy’s plans to build a 128-megawatt, gas-fired power plant in Michoud.

After six hours of public comments and contentious exchanges, the New Orleans City Council approved those plans by a vote of 6-1.

Councilmembers hoped to address immediate concerns about the city’s inability to generate power after routine power outages have underscored a need for local power, particularly when demand is high. But opponents said construction of a new plant is not guaranteed to solve ongoing issues with outages, while residents foot the bill for its construction and fear pollution and other environmental impacts.

Guidry was the only “no” vote against the resolution at the Council’s Feb. 21 Utilities Committee meeting; she also was the councilmember to vote against it among the seven City Councilmembers at today’s meeting.

“I have watched Entergy drag their feet over and over again,” said Guidry, illustrating an energy monopoly that refuses to invest in anything but “traditional power” and has put the City Council into a corner when it doesn’t agree to the Council’s regulatory demands. “We have been given one option by Entergy: a fossil fuel plant.”

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Orleans, home of the largest oil and gas lease sale

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM

COURTESY BUREAU OF SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT
  • COURTESY BUREAU OF SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT

In 2018, nearly 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico will be up for grabs in what's likely to be the largest-ever oil and gas lease sale in the U.S.

The sale opens to offshore-drilling oil companies water off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida, as well as previously unleased areas in the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf, encompassing an area the size of New Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The sale is scheduled for March 2018 in New Orleans.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

State of emergency issued for New Orleans as Tropical Storm Nate prepares to enter Gulf of Mexico

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 6:40 PM

Tropical Storm Nate's trajectory as of 4 p.m. Oct. 5. - NOAA/NWS
  • NOAA/NWS
  • Tropical Storm Nate's trajectory as of 4 p.m. Oct. 5.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared a state of emergency for New Orleans, which could endure heavy rains and winds as Tropical Storm Nate moves into the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane.

By early Saturday morning, Nate is expected to move into the Gulf, where the National Weather Service (NWS) expects the storm will strengthen to Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall on Sunday.

City officials expect the storm to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain over the weekend, and the NWS warns "the threat of direct impacts from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall is increasing from Louisiana through the Florida panhandle." A hurricane watch and storm surge watch will likely be issued Friday.

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