The following is a press release from the
The ballroom was full Monday night with members of the public who joined Carlsbad officials in voicing their opposition to a second power plant on the city’s coast. They also asked the California Energy Commission to stand by its recommendation to require the old Encina Power Station be torn down if the new one were approved.
Following an all-day hearing Monday, Mayor Matt Hall called on two commissioners to retract an earlier recommendation to build the new 540-megawatt plant.
"This land should not be condemned for another 50 years for another heavy industrial use," Mayor Hall told the two commissioners who make up a committee reviewing the project application.
He noted that when the original power plant was built in the 1950s, it was necessary to build near the coast, to draw water from the ocean to cool the generators, but that is no longer the case. The proposed plant would be air-cooled.
He also said that Carlsbad has emerged as a top tourist attraction, which is an important part of the local economy.
“This project is not consistent with our local coastal program, our Coastal Rail Trail, our redevelopment plan,” and other city laws, the mayor said. He said that the plant's design does not provide enough space for firefighters and safety personnel, should a major emergency occur at the plant.
“At the end of the day, this is the California coast,” Hall said, "and generating power (on the coast) of any city, not just Carlsbad," is a poor use of a precious regional resource.
The California Energy Commission has sole authority to license power plants. The city has opposed construction of the new plant since it was proposed in 2007.
City officials, community members, environmental groups and leaders from throughout the region have joined to oppose the plant. The proposed project is a natural-gas-fired combined-cycle power plant that includes two nine-story buildings and two 14-story smokestacks towering over Interstate 5 on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Two groups – Power of Vision and Terramar – have also become active in the review process and have filed testimony and legal briefs with the Energy Commission opposing the proposed plant.
Carol Scurlock, a local resident, was one of about 100 people who attended the hearing's public comment session.
"A very small percentage of land in this world is coastal land," Scurlock said. "The power plant will occupy coastal land that will never be replaced. Please, no power plant at this location ever."
The city believes that placing a new power plant on prime coastal land would severely limit future opportunities to redevelop the land in a way that enhances beach and lagoon access. It also believes the proposed plant does not conform with the California Coastal Act.
The developer of the proposed plant, NRG Energy, has said it plans to operate two generating stations on the same coastal property simultaneously, which City of Carlsbad officials and residents say would turn their shoreline into a zone for heavy industry.
The demolition of the old plant was one of several topics that the commission members heard evidence about at the all-day hearing.
Another is the apparent lack of demand for the proposed plant’s electricity. San Diego Gas & Electric has signed agreements to buy electricity from three other proposed plants in San Diego County, casting doubt on the need for a new coastal power plant. SDG&E has also said it will not need Encina’s electricity after the end of 2017, questioning the need for that 57-year-old plant as well. NRG has no plans to sell the power from the proposed plant in the San Diego region.
Even if the Energy Commission were to ultimately approve the project, that decision would be no assurance that the plant would be built. NRG also will need a permit from the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. And it will need a certificate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying that the plant’s emissions will not significantly degrade the region’s air quality.
The committee's presiding member is expected to issue a new recommendation on the plant in the middle of January. That decision will be followed by a public comment period, after which another hearing will be held.
The Energy Commission is expected to issue a final decision on the plant in early 2012.