Four separate groups of environmentalists met with St. Charles Parish Entergy spokesman Doug Rhodes on Sept. 23, to request that the company change its plans to convert its Little Gypsy plant to coal power.
The groups argued that coal is one of the largest sources of dangerous air pollution in the United States.
“The Sierra Club Environmental Group and Tulane’s environmental group filed a lawsuit against Entergy to stop the project,” Rhodes said. “This is not uncommon and it’s not the first time these groups have spoken out about things.”
The project has been halted because of the lawsuit.
“We have to wait 45 days to determine whether or not the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will issue a permit for us to proceed with the expansion,” Rhodes said. “We are using the Shaw Group as our contractors, but if we don’t get the permit the whole project will fall through.”
Alliance for Affordable Energy, one of the groups against the project, expressed concerns that customers’ bills will be higher if the plant converts. Rhodes says that’s not true.
“The customers’ bills won’t be higher,” he said. “The main issue with increased bills right now is the fuel adjustment charge.”
Rhodes says that customers were paying 6.5 cents per kilowatt per hour, but because of the fuel surcharge customers are now paying 8.5 cents for every kilowatt used per hour.
“This is common,” he said. “These same groups have spoken out against every permit we’ve applied for.”
Rhodes received a letter from Norco Civic Association’s President Sal Digirolamo showing support for the expansion, which will impact this area of the parish.
“If we don’t get the permit from LDEQ, we can’t go forward,” he said. “There are about 401 people in the civic association who support the coal plant.”
Rhodes adds that if the bills were going to increase for customers, the Public Service Commission wouldn’t have supported the request.
Nevertheless, the environmental groups are standing their ground and expressed health concerns they had about the process at the meeting.
“Sierra Club wants Entergy to look at cleaner, more efficient energy options that could meet Louisiana’s energy needs instead of the Little Gypsy re-powering project,” a spokesman from the group said. “There are alternative methods to coal, and by looking at our alternatives, we can improve public health, boost the economy, and protect the environment.”
Rhodes says the Little Gypsy Plant will be 80 percent coke petroleum and 20 percent coal.
The environmentalists argue that pollution from coal-fired power plants, like the proposed Little Gypsy plant, cause serious respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease among other illnesses.