Council committee takes no action on Entergy sanctions resolution, moving it to full council

The New Orleans City Council’s utility committee on Thursday chose not to act on a resolution to impose a $5 million fine on Entergy for its role in a scheme to pay actors to support its proposed power plant at council meetings. The resolution will instead be considered at the full City Council meeting next Thursday, Feb. 21.

The resolution represents a punishment, but for plant opponents in the packed chamber, it isn’t justice. Council members had earlier proposed a revote on the plant. But this week, they announced that they would withdraw that measure, instead opting for the fine and a set of conditions imposed on the plant, including a process intended to control construction expenses and required reporting on plant maintenance, emissions and costs.

“Sometimes I wonder what we even come to these public hearings for,” said Mark Nguyen, a resident of eastern New Orleans who was hoping for a revote on the plant. “All we want is a fair process. Hear our voice, go through this with us.”

City Council directed Entergy to pursue power plant in 2015, months before company’s application for Michoud site

Months before Entergy applied for its proposed power plant in eastern New Orleans, and over two years before the New Orleans City Council approved the application, the council directed the company to use “diligent efforts” to develop a new plant in the city.

In November 2015, the City Council passed a resolution that committed Entergy New Orleans to “pursue the development of at least 120 megawatts of new-build peaking generation capacity within the City of New Orleans.” Peaking plants are designed to augment an energy system when demand is unusually high. They typically spend the bulk of the year dormant.

It specifically lists two Entergy-owned facilities as potential locations: A.B. Paterson, which was shut down after Hurricane Katrina, and Michoud, which would be decommissioned seven months later in June 2016. Both were located in eastern New Orleans. The resolution was written and recommended by the council’s utility consultants, who are paid to advise the council in its role as Entergy New Orleans’ regulator.

Mosaic says it can keep wastewater on site in case of breach

Representatives of Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC say they are confident about their ability to preventpotential breach of its gypsum-walled reservoir in St. James Parish, near the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA have been monitoring the site since last month, when the company first reported that the reservoir may be in danger of a breach.

According to the company’s modeling — submitted this week to LDEQ — if a breach were to happen, it would probably be near the top of the north side of the 200-foot-tall gypsum stack. If that were to happen, according to the model, the company would be able to contain the amount of wastewater likely to spill. But LDEQ told The Lens Thursday morning that it wants a “more detailed and complete” breach contingency plan.

Meantime, Mosaic is taking steps to secure the reservoir to ensure that any potential leak of acidic wastewater does not escape from their property north of Convent, company representatives told The Lens.

“Our number one goal is to make sure we don’t have any off-site impact,” said Ron Yasurek, the plant’s general manager, in an interview Tuesday at the plant. “And to date, we’ve had no off-site impact.”

New Orleans schools again push back deadline to finish lead filter installation

The Orleans Parish school district won’t finish installing long-awaited filters to remove lead from drinking water until this fall, as the district’s timeline to install them continues to stretch.

At the end of January, 246 filter systems had been installed at 30 schools, a district spokeswoman told The Lens. That is fewer than half of the city’s public schools. It’s also shy of the district’s plan to complete 33 schools by the end of 2018.

“We estimate that the installing process will continue into the Fall of 2019,” she wrote.

The filters remove the neurotoxin, which young children are especially vulnerable to. Gail Fendley, the executive director of Lead Safe Louisiana, said the delay is unacceptable.

“Where’s the outrage?” Fendley asked.

Behind The Lens episode 19: ‘We no longer can suffer another no-call’

This week on Behind The Lens, the New Orleans City Council’s utility committee chose not to act Thursday on a proposed $5 million fine for Entergy New Orleans. Michael Isaac Stein has details on a long, often angry public hearing (not to mention some late-breaking developments Friday afternoon).

In St. James Parish, representatives of Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC say they’re confident they can keep acidic wastewater from their plant on company property in case of a breach of their gypsum-walled reservoir. But LDEQ has told Mosaic it wants a more detailed and complete contingency plan for a potential breach event. We interviewed company officials this week.

And a new report by the National Audubon Society highlights projects and programs that it says are critical to help the Gulf Coast and its wildlife recover from hurricanes, oil spills and other disasters. Kara Lankford, Audubon’s director of Gulf Coast restoration, talked about the report in our newsmaker interview.

Behind The Lens is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Play and Stitcher.

Opinion ‘Trashforming’ Carnival from a mountain of waste into a recycling bonanza

Opinion columnist Kevin Fitzwilliam on how recycling and Mardi Gras come together:

“For revelers with an environmental conscience, the Carnival season can be a plastics minefield that you have to cross to enjoy the creativity and beauty of New Orleans’ biggest celebration.

That’s very much top of mind as a group of us calling ourselves the Trashformers makes our parading debut this weekend.

For decades, city and tourism officials proudly measured Mardi Gras’ economic success by how much trash we generated. More recently, concerned citizens — yours truly among them — have been trying to raise public awareness of the ecological impact of all that trash.

Last year seemed like a turning point. The discovery of just how many tons of plastic beads wind up in a flood-prone city’s storm drains became a topic of media coverage and conversation over dinner tables and workplace coffee pots all across town.”

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...