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New Orleans City Council Launches Investigation Into Mass Power Failure During Ida

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Mass power outages during Hurricane Ida contributed to at least 11 heat-related deaths in New Orleans. Entergy's transmission lines failed during the storm. A joint investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that the power company fought efforts to upgrade the city's power grid. Tegan Wendland reports.

TEGAN WENDLAND, BYLINE: The power goes out a lot in New Orleans. Residents like David Nowak, whose mother is a cancer survivor, told the city council it can be a matter of life and death.

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DAVID NOWAK: There are many, many deaths from Ida that were not caused by trees falling on somebody, were not caused by shrapnel from glass being blown out. This was not deaths caused by the storm. It was deaths caused by negligence and the unability (ph) to harden the transmission.

WENDLAND: Residents and advocates have been pushing Entergy New Orleans for years to upgrade its system. The city council regulates Entergy New Orleans. The company's CEO, Deanna Rodriguez, said the system worked as it should.

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DEANNA RODRIGUEZ: And I do understand the frustration and how scary it was to endure. We restored power to over 95% of customers in less than 10 days.

WENDLAND: But residents and council members say it wasn't enough. Climate change is bringing bigger storms, and officials sometimes don't have time to call for mandatory evacuations. The council's utility committee voted to investigate why Entergy New Orleans' systems failed during Ida.

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HELENA MORENO: Please stop acting like you're the victim.

WENDLAND: Council President Helena Moreno pushed back against the company's positive assessment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MORENO: You are the Goliath. You are a powerful Fortune 500 company with all the resources in the world, with record profits last year of $1.4 billion.

WENDLAND: The investigation will take at least a month, and it's not the first time the company has come under fire. But advocates hope it results in making the city safer in time for next hurricane season.

For NPR News, I'm Tegan Wendland in New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.