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The Rev. J.T. White speaks during a public comments portion of a meeting of the New Orleans City Council’s utility committee Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at a Pan American Conference Center. White, who said he supports a new power plant, said he may not know the technical side of what keeps the lights on, but 'I do know what's it like to spend three or four days in a hot house with a mad wife.' The committee was hearing comments before their vote on a controversial Entergy power plant proposal in New Orleans East.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

After nearly two years of debate, the New Orleans City Council is moving toward a decision to allow Entergy New Orleans to build a new $210 million gas-fired power plant.

Four of five members of the council’s utility committee voted to approve the plant last week, and if they stick to their guns, that should be enough to carry the day on the seven-member council.

The new gas plant will be more efficient and use less water, replacing the old Michoud steam-electric power station that went out of service last year. The new plant will include high-tech improvements that would allow it to power up quickly in an emergency.

The new 128-megawatt plant won't run at all times but instead will support the grid when power demand is high or other sources are unavailable.

The $210 million plant will cost ratepayers about $6 per month. But we continue to believe that it’s worth it to add to New Orleans’ available stock of electric power, on the sunniest days when the air conditioners are running, or on stormy days when hurricanes threaten the power lines coming into the city.

Critics of the plant said the utility should meet the city’s electricity needs by using renewable sources such as solar panels, upgrading transmission lines and purchasing power from elsewhere on the open market.

Advances in conservation and renewables might allow power to become cheaper and more available. Those would be good things. But it is hardly responsible to hope for the best and fail to act on the basis of today’s available evidence. New Orleans will benefit from a city-based power source that is reliable and available when it's needed.