NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Utility regulators say Entergy Corp. wrongfully charged customers over eight years for a Mississippi nuclear power station that often malfunctioned and was repeatedly deemed unsafe, filing a federal complaint seeking more than $1 billion in refunds to its customers.
The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune reports that the complaint was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the New Orleans City Council and the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The utility regulators argue that $800 million Entergy spent to upgrade its Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Mississippi hasn’t improved the plant’s safety record and performance compared to other nuclear power plants. The utility also charged customers more than $361 million for power it had to purchase when the deficient station was offline, the regulators said in the complaint.
They argued Entergy should refund customers the power costs as well as the cost of the 2012 upgrade, which was passed on to ratepayers — more than $1.1 billion. And the regulators said other potential costs were due to Entergy lapses that “can only be identified upon further investigation.”
The regulators also want the federal regulatory body known as FERC to force Entergy to run the plant more efficiently, and to add a requirement that any major capital improvement be reviewed before it begins.
If FERC agrees, refunds could eventually show up on customers’ bills as credits.
“Entergy customers deserve a full look at the potential imprudent management of Grand Gulf and, eventually, appropriate refunds if it is found that Entergy passed unnecessary costs onto those customers," said Craig Greene, chairman of the Public Service Commission.
The complaint didn’t specify how big those credits might be for all of Entergy’s 3 million customers across Louisiana and Arkansas.
“Grand Gulf is the single largest energy resource for the city of New Orleans and we need it to be operating safely, at full capacity, and at a reasonable cost,” said New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno.
Entergy pointed to investments made at Grand Gulf over the past year and described more recent problems with its operations, but didn’t address past issues brought up in the complaint.
In a statement, the company said: "In late 2020, the plant experienced operational issues related to that upgrade, including unplanned shutdowns and time spent off the grid. We’ve worked to identify the related issues, implemented a maintenance outage and conducted additional training for our team.”
Entergy generates and distributes electric power to customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The utility relies on a mix of nuclear power, natural gas, solar, coal and purchased power to serve customers.
The Grand Gulf station, in Port Gibson, Miss., is the largest single-unit nuclear power plant in the country. In 2012, the 36-year-old station was upgraded in a bid to increase production by more than 13%. But according to the utility regulators’ complaint, the station never delivered the extra capacity promised. Regulators also say its performance in recent years has fallen far below industry standards.
In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that inspects nuclear power plants, targeted Grand Gulf for additional oversight after the plant had unplanned emergency shutdowns earlier in the year.