Preparing for More Costly Gulf Storms

Entergy Texas Inc. and Lamar University sponsored the Southeast Texas Coastal Resilience Forum last week, bringing together experts to discuss how to make harden coastal communities against more intense storms.

Panel discussions at the April 12 Southeast Texas Coastal Resilience Forum in Beaumont examined the economic impact of recent hurricanes to hit the region, as well as ways to make communities less vulnerable in a period when more intense storms are expected as weather patterns change.

Lamar University and Entergy Texas, Inc. sponsored the event.

"A healthy Gulf Coast that can survive and recover from the storms we are prone to is key to a developing economy in southeast Texas and the nation," said Joe Domino, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, Inc. "The petrochemical industry here is our economic engine, and it is also a vital supply point for the rest of the United States. Entergy has taken a keen interest in understanding how storms impact the Gulf Coast. We recognize the need for a framework and fact base to quantify risks and develop economically sensible investment approaches to address the risk and build a resilient Gulf Coast."

Shawn Corkran, the utility's director of transmission and distribution, said Entergy Texas would "storm harden" the Port Arthur area -– increasing protections for transmission, distribution and substation facilities in phases, such as by replacing poles, upgrading highway crossings with steel poles, and adding storm guys -- if the city becomes the company's pilot project for that type of activity.

The improvements are likely to be needed. Jeff Williams, director of climate consulting for Entergy, presented a report developed through a partnership between Entergy and America's Wetland Foundation: It identified $2 trillion in assets at risk from storms. By 2030, the average annual loss in the Golden Triangle region of southeast Texas is expected to rise by 100 percent from today's losses, according to the report.

Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Seventy of its sites had earned OSHA VPP Star status as of 2011, when the company's 15,000 employees had the lowest number of recordable safety incidents in the utility's history, according to Entergy.

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