Leslie March recaps the Sierra Club's campaign against the Little Gypsy Repowering:
This fight started when Sierra Club attorney Sanjay Narayan called Maura Wood (previous Sierra Club regional manager) and myself as Delta Chapter chair during the summer 2007 to let us know about the plans for Big Cajun II
and Little Gypsy power plants. Due to being sidetracked by Katrina-related issues, we were totally unaware. We switched gears quickly to put these two new coal plants high on our priority list.
Prior to Katrina, there was an alliance between the Delta Chapter
, the Alliance for Affordable Energy
, and the Gulf Restoration Network
, called Say Yes to Clean Energy
. We reactivated the Alliance and began to lay out our strategy working with Sierra Club attorney Joanne Spalding and the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic
. With their assistance we were able to intervene with the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) and argue our case that the proposed plan to convert Little Gypsy from a natural gas peak plant (used when demand is high like hot days in the summer) to a base load coal burning plant was both uneconomic and damaging to the environment.
An intervention is similar to going to trial, only lawyers are allowed to testify. In this case, since we were using the services of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, we were required by state law to find Sierra Club members that met financial need standards for the clinic to represent. Fortunately we had a very willing member, who lives in the shadow of Little Gypsy. Despite the testimony of highly credentialed expert witnesses that were presented by very able lawyers, the LPSC voted unanimously to allow Entergy to go forward with the design process however the members of the commission elected to have the matter of CWIP or Construction Work In Progress delayed to a later date. The CWIP would have allowed Entergy to charge its customers for costs of development upfront. While the commissioners argued that the state needed more diversity in fuel sources, they left the door open for us to educate rate payers about increased utility costs for a plant that might never open.
Our campaign included small group meetings with Sierra Club members around the state, direct mail pieces, and articles in the chapter newsletter. We held rallies at the LPSC meetings and at the state capitol. We organized email actions and call-ins. We were fortunate to have Eli Rosenfeld, a Green Corps intern, help with organization. Our lobbyist, chapter activists, and alliance partners met with state officials, commissioners and New Orleans City Council members. We researched and commented on every air and water permit related to the plant unfortunately without success. It appeared that that this plant was getting fast tracked.
Ultimately the project was stopped by the Sierra Club legal team's victories in cases relating to mercury and carbon dioxide, which resulted in Entergy pulling back and declaring they needed a redesign. During this delay, the economy shifted, natural gas prices decreased, other coal plants have been defeated, and Obama was elected President. Basically Entergy must have determined that the next four years were going to be hostile for any new coal plants. Another point of good news is that the former chair of LPSC (doesn't believe in global warming) didn't run for re-election.
The result of this campaign against Little Gypsy is that our leaders and members are much better educated on what the Public Service Commission does and how they operate. We continue to get legal and organizing help from the national coal campaign with the goal of stopping Big Cajun II and to get progressive renewable energy portfolio standards adopted in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
Heywood Martin, the current chair of the Delta Chapter, has taken over as volunteer point person for this campaign, and Jordan Macha is working full-time on coal and renewable energy.