A 30-day comment period during which the public can make its views on the proposed plant known started March 28. The public can also express opinions before the California Energy Commission Thursday, April 19 at 5 p.m. at the in the Wavecrest Ballroom.
The authority to approve or deny the project lies with the state of California, not the .
Carlsbad city officials are urging the public to attend the hearing and make their views known directly to the Energy Commission. The City of Carlsbad opposes building a second power plant on the coast because it will prolong the use of the coast as an industrial zone for another 50 years or more.
The report, called a Revised Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision, recommends licensing the plant on a narrow strip of land between the Interstate 5 freeway and the coastal railroad tracks, south of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
NRG, owner of the Encina Power Station, located on Carlsbad Boulevard just north of Cannon Road, submitted an application to the California Energy Commission in 2007 to build the second plant on its nearly 100-acre coastal site. The proposed plant would generate 540 megawatts of power and consist of two 14-story smoke stacks and two nine-story industrial buildings. There are no plans to sell the power locally.
NRG has made no guarantee that it would tear down the 57-year-old Encina Power Station if the new plant is approved, meaning that Carlsbad would be home to two power plants on its coast.
Since the plant was proposed five years ago, the City of Carlsbad and others throughout the region have raised a number of concerns:
- Today’s smaller, air-cooled plants do not need to be located near water and should instead be built in industrial areas away from the coast.
- Once I-5 is widened, the plant would be dangerously close to the freeway and would be the closest power plant ever to a major highway.
- Fire officials have said the proposed site, wedged between the I-5 freeway and railroad tracks, lacks access for fire engines and other emergency vehicles. A fire at a similar plant in Escondido in December 2011 highlighted this concern.
- NRG does not have a contract to sell the power locally, raising concerns that power generated in San Diego would have no local benefit, but instead be used to power Los Angeles, Arizona or Las Vegas.
City of Carlsbad officials also have pointed out that one of the reasons given to construct the plant — a need for new energy — is based on a flawed analysis. The California Independent Systems Operator, the agency responsible for assuring that the state has enough generating capacity to keep everyone’s lights on — originally testified that a new power plant was needed in Carlsbad to maintain the electrical grid’s reliability. The agency admitted recently that it had underestimated the amount of energy available to San Diego County, and therefore the need was overstated. City of Carlsbad officials believe this miscalculation had a direct influence on the Energy Commission’s recommendation to the license the power plant, meaning that recommendation was made in error.
When the old plant is eventually torn down, city officials have said they would like to see the land improved in a way that increases beach and lagoon access and benefits the community. Building a new power plant there would severely limit what could be done with the site, officials have said.
The full commission is expected to hold a final meeting some months after the April hearing, and decide whether to license the plant. Even if the commission votes to license the plant, the project must receive permits from the U.S. E PA., California State Lands Commission and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
–Press Release by City of Carlsbad