This afternoon, President Biden convened a call with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and the CEOs of two of the largest utilities in the Gulf Coast, Leo Denault of Entergy and Tom Fanning of Southern Company, as well as Tom Kuhn, the CEO of Edison Electric Institute, an association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. They discussed the destructive power of Hurricane Ida and its impacts on the energy delivery infrastructure that is a lifeline for communities across the impacted region. They assessed that although crews are courageously racing to restore electricity, the power restoration efforts are going to take some time. During the meeting, President Biden committed the full weight of the Federal Government to providing support and resources wherever needed to help expedite power restoration efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi, noting that in Louisiana nearly one million customers remain without power, including the city of New Orleans. Joining the President and Secretary Granholm on the call were Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and Director of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond.
The White House, senior Biden Administration officials, and FEMA have been proactively engaging with energy sector leaders in preparation for the storm and in the days since Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. To assist with power restoration efforts, the Federal Government is sharing aerial and satellite imagery to support damage assessments, helping with debris removal and traffic control so restoration workers and equipment can get access to downed wires and poles, restoring vital communications infrastructure, and expediting permitting for rerunning of transmission cable across the Mississippi River and for standing up transmission towers. They talked about the essential role of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the President thanked the IBEW for the vital work their members perform, especially during emergencies such as Ida where they run toward the storm while others are being urged to evacuate. More than 25,000 linemen from 32 States and the District of Columbia are on the ground supporting damage assessment and restoration efforts across the region, including in New Orleans, where crews are working around the clock to repair the transmission towers and lines that deliver power to the city. The President has immediately approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Louisiana and pre-disaster Emergency Declarations for both Louisiana and Mississippi.
The CEOs also stressed the need for forward-looking infrastructure policy and investments to harden the grid and enable its resilience against the full spectrum of 21st century threats, including extreme weather events. The President noted the impact that climate change is having on communities across the country, including in storms and wildfires, and stressed the importance of securing broad support for his Administration’s current ambitious infrastructure investment goals and budgetary efforts.