The New Orleans City Council voted 6-to-1 Thursday to allow Entergy to build a new $210 million gas-fired power generating plant in New Orleans East, despite hours of public comment, much of it against the proposal.
Protesters holding signs dominated the packed audience in council chambers.
Rowdy protesters frequently broke out in chants and songs and were repeatedly admonished by City Council President Jason Williams, who often used his gavel to get protesters' attention.
Supporters of the proposal showed up though in lesser numbers.
Entergy said that power generation inside the city limits for electricity is a must to achieve reliability and sustainability.
Two years ago the utility closed its Michoud Power Plant in New Orleans East. The new plant would be built on that site.
Opponents, along with some environmental groups, contend the plant would not be safe for the community.
Some retired Entergy employees who worked at the old plant said their health was never compromised.
"Listen to the families who showed up at 5 a.m. last week to get help to pay for their electricity bills and cannot bear the impact of this plant," said Logan Burke, Exec. Director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy.
"I stand here in support of the new Entergy power, it's a necessity, it is a necessity in a city that has been riddled with disasters, many crises," said Tangie Wall, a New Orleans East resident.
Councilman James Gray, who represents District E and lives in New Orleans East, made it clear before the vote that he would side with Entergy on the plant.
"This is a city that we want to run and I want to really make sure that when somebody flips the lights on, they come on. When someone's hooked up to a breathing machine they're going to have the power to do that, so our concern is not about profits and we're weighing everything that you say today," said Williams.
Council-at-Large Stacey Head said the plant does not preclude the city from developing solar and other renewable energy.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry said she could not vote in favor of the plant. Ratepayers will foot the cost of it over 30 years.
Williams called it a difficult decision.
Opponents urged the council to delay the vote so that new council members who come on board in May would make the decision.