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New Orleans Becomes Energy Policy Leader by Conducting First Health Impact Assessment on Energy Production in the Gulf South

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On October 5, 2016, the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) and the Alliance for Affordable Energy publicly released a health impact assessment (HIA) about the proposed replacement of the Michoud natural gas power plant located in New Orleans East. As the first completed HIA on energy production to be released in the Gulf South, New Orleans continues to lead the way as energy policies evolve and become more transparent to and inclusive of the communities they impact.

This HIA, with input from the New Orleans City Council, Entergy New Orleans (ENO) as well as community stakeholders from New Orleans East, endeavors to bring concrete health costs to the energy decision-making process. While this HIA does not attach dollar values to the health outcomes discussed, it does allow real public health issues to be included in the conversation and final decision-making about new energy resources for the city.

ENO has proposed to build a new natural gas combustion turbine (CT) plant in New Orleans East on the same site as the former Michoud Power Plant, where the former Entergy-operated unit was decommissioned on June 1st, 2016. According to ENO’s proposal, the CT plant would fill a gap in local energy services, principally during the hot summer months when energy demand is at its highest. As the regulatory body, the New Orleans City Council will ultimately decide how to replace the power generated by these plants.

"The New Orleans East community is very concerned about this planned project due to no prior community involvement from ENTERGY and if built, the damaging effects imposed on its residents and the soil,” said Dawn Hebert, an ENO resident.

The HIA sought to determine the potential health impacts of the proposed CT plant in order to help the City Council make a more informed decision. Secondarily, the HIA aimed to formulate recommendations on how to maximize benefits and minimize harms of the proposed CT plant. Third, the HIA intended to study and quantify health data and costs and create a model for how the City Council may capture health costs into the triennial resource planning process, called the Integrated Resource Plan, in order to properly account for ongoing externalized costs related to energy generation.

The HIA resulted in three central recommendations:

1. The City Council and ENO should ensure maximum transparency, offer outreach and education, and create more opportunities for New Orleans East community members to be included and engaged in decisions that will directly affect them.
2. The City Council should direct ENO to include externalized costs in the integrated resource planning process.
3. ENO must immediately cease groundwater withdrawals - if groundwater is still being used at Michoud - and must use surface water for any future projects.

"Historically, the cost of producing energy had a financial cost and a health cost,” said Casey DeMoaa, CEO of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. “The health costs were unfairly born by the lives of African Americans. In the 21st-century, we no longer have to choose between safe energy and affordable energy."

“It is critical that City Council consider the health impacts of the proposed CT plant, both immediate and long term,” said Lisanne Brown, LPHI’s Director of Evaluation and Research. “The immediate risk of subsidence due to groundwater use could increase the risk of flooding, accidents and result in displacement of residents. Long term health impacts could include increased risk of respiratory illness and asthma, and cardiovascular disease.”

This project was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Impact Project, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or The Pew Charitable Trusts.

To access the full report and additional documents that were released, click the links below.

Decision Maker Report
Groundwater (Subsidence) Report
Full HIA Report

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About the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI)
Founded in 1997, The Louisiana Public Health Institute’s mission is to promote and improve the health and quality of life in Louisiana through public-private partnering at the community, parish and state levels. By fostering collaborative endeavors in the areas of health information, public policy, applied research, and community capacity enhancement, LPHI works to develop community-oriented solutions that improve the health of the Louisiana population. For more information, visit www.lphi.org.

About the Alliance for Affordable Energy
Founded in 1985, the Alliance for Affordable Energy promotes fair, affordable and environmentally responsible energy through education, advocacy and policy. From inception, the Alliance has advanced a philosophy that there is no conflict between lower energy costs and lower pollution, between good jobs and regulation, or between serving the public interest and making a reasonable profit. Both a consumer watchdog and environmental advocacy organization, the Alliance’s policy work meets at the crossroads of social justice, sustainable economic development, and environmental protection.