NEW ORLEANS, Monday, January 6, 2020 —Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Honorable Judges James McKay, Paula Brown and Dale Atkins heard oral arguments on appeals of Judge Piper Griffin’s two judgments that included a decision to void the New Orleans City Council’s approval of Entergy’s gas plant for open meetings law violations. Entergy joined the City Council in arguing against New Orleans community and public interest organizations, who were represented by attorneys from the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Green Justice Legal and Loyola Law School.
Former Councilmember Susan Guidry, who voted against Entergy’s proposed gas plant at the contentious February 21, 2018 Utility Committee Meeting and May 8, 2018 Regular Council meeting, attended today’s hearing. "New Orleans does not need a gas plant in New Orleans East,” said former Councilmember Guidry. “I was shocked to hear the same misleading arguments today that I heard two years ago from Council attorneys. I thought we had put this to rest: there were no alternative studies done, and I personally called MISO, who manages our transmission grid, and learned of Entergy and the Advisors' false claims about upgrades. What New Orleans needs is leadership willing to stand up to Entergy's demands."
“We’re in court because the Council failed to follow the law and has done a poor job of regulating Entergy,” said Monique Harden, attorney at Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “The Council has to be held accountable for not upholding democratic principles, if not by the courts, then by the voters.”
If the Court of Appeal upholds Judge Griffin’s ruling to void the New Orleans City Council’s approval of Entergy’s gas plant, Entergy would have no authority to bill residents and businesses for the company’s $900 million blunder.
“I find it appalling that the Council’s attorney argued that the law should not get in the way of Entergy’s and the Council’s desire for a polluting and costly gas plant in New Orleans East,” said Dr. Beverly Wright, Executive Director of Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.
“This is an unholy union between the Council and Entergy to attack the right of residents to participate in the Council meetings,” said Rev. Manning of Justice and Beyond, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “We hope the Judges saw that clearly today and will stand up for the rights of the people of New Orleans,” he said.
At the Council meetings, many of the New Orleans residents who were denied the opportunity to comment were African American and Vietnamese American residents of New Orleans East, where Entergy planned to build the gas plant. The gas plant would annually release more than one million pounds of toxic air pollution and more than 700 million pounds of greenhouse gases.
“The City Council lost control of its public meeting and denied people the right to have a say over what happens in our community and our city,” said Dawn Hebert, President of the Lake Willow Neighborhood Association in New Orleans East, “The court hearing made clear that the Council was not an impartial decision maker, a fact that was not disputed by the Council’s attorneys.”
Today’s hearing lasted two hours, and the judges gave no timeline on when they would release a ruling.
Timeline of Open Meeting Law Case
The Energy Future New Orleans Coalition is: