The Louisiana Public Health Institute, in partnership with the Alliance for Affordable Energy, conducted an HIA of a proposed natural gas combustion turbine plant in the New Orleans East neighborhood. It would be built on the site of the Michoud Power Plant, a steam turbine facility that was decommissioned in June 2016. The health impact assessment team took neighborhood concerns into consideration to narrow its focus to eight topics: energy reliability, energy resilience, air quality, climate change, subsidence (the sinking or settling of land related to groundwater withdrawal), noise, traffic, and household expenditures.
The combustion turbine plant would give New Orleans more power generation and be a reliable source of energy when transmission lines from other power plants were down, but the HIA found it would be vulnerable to storms and flooding. The assessment also found that emissions from the plant would affect air quality in New Orleans East. Poor air quality is associated with a risk of respiratory illness and asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The groundwater required for power production at Michoud contributed to subsidence at a faster rate than the rest of the city. Subsidence is gradual sinking due to such factors as underground extraction, stormwater pumping, and deep fault movements. The HIA found that the plant would also use groundwater and contribute to continued subsidence, exposing New Orleans East to increased risk of flooding, levee failure, and mold-related respiratory illnesses. The plant would also increase noise and traffic in the neighborhood, but only during the 12 to 18 months of construction. These disruptions could contribute to insomnia, increased blood pressure, air pollution, and accidents. The HIA also found that energy rates and corresponding bills would rise. Higher energy bills limit household income available for food, medicine, housing, and other costs, and can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
The HIA recommended that there be more opportunities for the New Orleans East community to be involved in decisions on the combustion turbine plant, such as public hearings, and urged greater transparency from the New Orleans City Council and Entergy New Orleans Inc. The assessment also recommended that groundwater withdrawals at the site stop immediately and that future projects use surface water while the impacts of power generation using groundwater and subsidence are fully explored and understood.