NEW ORLEANS — The head of an environmental rights group is praising a judge's decision to let power plant opponents gather potential evidence from an investigation into paid actors disrupting its protest against Entergy New Orleans at a New Orleans City Council meeting in October 2017.
Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, praised Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin’s decision on July 24 to delay ruling on whether the council violated open meeting laws at a more recent council meeting, where security agents allegedly kept opponents out of the meeting room citing fire code restrictions.
Wright told the Louisiana Record that she believes Griffin’s decision to delay the ruling shows that she “recognizes the seriousness of the situation and recognizes that this probably has two sides.”
At issue is the use of paid actors, hired by an Entergy subcontractor, to block dissenters at an October 2017 city council meeting protesting a proposal to develop a $210 million, 128-megawatt gas plant on Old Gentilly Road. The new gas power plant would replace an aging plant on the site.
Wright called the subcontractor’s actions “unethical,” but not illegal. She alleges that the actors created a misperception of the public's view on the issue.
Neighboring community members and energy advocates maintain that the new plant would “increase pollution and utility bills,” according to a May article on WGNO.com.
Some opponents believe that the 6-1 council vote in March to allow for development of the new plant should be voided. Bill Quigley, law professor at Loyola University, said in a July 24 Times-Picayune article that the situation is grounds for Griffin to dismiss the vote.
“We don’t really know the impact,” Wright told the Louisiana Record about the restricted access of the opponents, and whether their actions affected the outcome of the council vote.
Wright said she believes that the delay in the ruling is in the best interest of the community and that the information collected will be helpful in informing the city council’s next move.
“The community’s side should be heard,” Wright said.
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