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NOLA committee votes to investigate Entergy’s response to Ida outages

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans City Council members pressed Entergy New Orleans on Wednesday about its response to the extensive power outages following Ida.

The Utilities Committee agreed to ask the full council to launch an investigation of Entergy New Orleans. They’re also asking for federal and state regulators to investigate Entergy’s transmission lines that were lost outside of New Orleans during Ida but affected the power outages in the city.

After delivering their opening remarks, and as extremely critical public comments were being read, Entergy leaders left council chambers.

“All I thought they were going to do is leave the table. I didn’t realize they were going to walk all the way out the door,” says Councilwoman Helena Moreno.

Entergy leaders were notified and they returned a short time later and sat in the back of the room. Deanna Rodriguez, newly-appointed president and CEO of the utility subsidiary, said she didn’t realize they were required to stay in the chambers.

During the meeting, council members asked if the New Orleans Power Station, which is paid for by ratepayers, worked properly during Ida. Rodriguez defended the facility’s performance.

“It started and it provided first light, power to the city,” said Rodriguez.

Councilmembers also asked about an overall lack of effort to bury more powerlines.

“We do not have those in the underground lines, so we can’t just talk about the storms in terms of the benefits of underground lines,” said Councilwoman Kristen Palmer. “ But we should also talk about outages that happen without reason.”

“We can dust off and find the undergrounding stuff and provide that to the council,” says Entergy.

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“I also think we need a third party to do this, not Entergy, because we need a solution. If Entergy had buried one neighborhood a year since we requested this, we would have ten additional neighborhoods that would have had underground lines,” Palmer said. “So, I don’t buy y’alls answer.”

Last Tuesday, Councilwoman Helena Moreno proposed a myriad of ways to hold Entergy more accountable, including investigating the extensive outages following Ida, filing formal regulatory complaints on the transmission failures, and creating a non-profit or city-owned power company to take away the company’s monopoly control.

In response, Entergy laid out four preliminary options for the future of its New Orleans subsidiary, including the merger or sale of Entergy New Orleans or its equipment.

Entergy says this storm caused twice the damage of any previous storm, and it says it could have done several things better, like improving outage maps, managing customer expectations, and improving their use of social media.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Monday against the company, claiming it failed to properly maintain its infrastructure and facilities, causing “avoidable blackouts.”

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