Entergy power plant opponents have their day in court

NEW ORLEANS -- More than a year after the New Orleans City Council approved the construction of a controversial Entergy power plant in New Orleans East, opponents of the project had their first opportunity to bring their concerns before a judge.

The council approved the project a year ago.  Shortly after that, opponents filed their lawsuit to stop it.

The case made headlines when paid actors appeared before the city council to support of the project while many of the opponents were neighbors who have a genuine stake in the process.

Entergy agreed to pay a $5 million fine to the city as a penalty for the use of the actors, but the council also agreed to allow the plant's construction to proceed.

"This was our first day in court to get into the weeds about the ten activities taken by the City Council that violated local ordinances, constitutional due process," attorney Monique Harden told WGNO.  Harden is one of the lawyers representing a list of opponents of the power plant including the Alliance For Affordable Energy, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and the Sierra Club.

One by one, attorneys told Judge Piper Griffin their list of reasons why the court should intervene in the process.  They want the judge to reverse the council's decision to approve the power plant.

Griffin must decide if the council was capricious and/or arbitrary when it approved the project.  Griffin told the power plant's opponents that much of what they wanted to argue in her court had already been covered in previous court filings, and in the interest of efficiency, she didn't want to rehash it all in open court.

"I'm interested in being done," Griffin told the attorneys.  "I'm not interested in not being done."

Opponents' attorneys say, among other things, that the people of New Orleans were cheated out of a fair process, that alternatives were not properly considered, and that the location of the plant is in a an area that is considered by FEMA to be a "high risk flooding hazard area."

Point by point, attorneys for Entergy and the New Orleans City Council countered their opponents.  They say that the council had plenty of information and considered it all before making a decision to move forward with the new power plant.

"The basis of the argument is that the Council did an extremely diligent process," council attorney Basile Uddo told WGNO News.  "It took nearly two years, developed a 2800 page record.  Everybody participated, all parties had an opportunity to participate."

Griffin told them that she considered the matter as submitted and will, "...render judgement accordingly."

There's no word on when she might hand down her decision, but attorneys for both sides felt it would be fairly soon.

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