No new natural gas plants for California?

When it comes to cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, California doesn’t take the matter lightly. In this respect, in fact, the state means business – not that other states and places don’t, mean business (in this same sense), that is. As it happens, in the U.S., California is a proven leader when it comes to adopting clean energy policies. This is highly evident in the state being quite forthright in its quest and finding ways to cut its GHG emissions output.

And, up to this point, in this respect an excellent track record the state has. And, there is no reason to not think this good work will continue.

As a case in point, in the Environmental Defense Center’s “Energy Commission Expected to Reject the Puente Gas Plant Project in Oxnard” press release, the organization announced Oct. 6, 2017 that “A Committee of the California Energy Commission issued an unprecedented statement late yesterday stating that it will deny the proposed 262 megawatt Puente Power project in Oxnard because of clean energy’s ability to fulfill the region’s energy needs as well as environmental concerns. This is a major turning point that comes after a three-year battle by residents, advocates, and the City of Oxnard to defeat fossil fuel giant NRG Energy’s proposed gas plant. The proposed rejection of this gas-fired plant marks a turning point in California’s clean energy revolution and marks a trend in re-evaluating the need for gas plants across the state.”

This isn’t the first time something along these lines has come to the fore. In August 2011, published in the Hanford Sentinel was information about a Hanford, California-sited power plant’s decommissioning after 20 years of being in operation. As originally intended, the plant was to burn coal but opposition to that plan ran high among environmentalists, area growers and townsfolk. In response, the company operating the facility agreed to burn petroleum coke instead, this move considered a compromise by the plant’s owner, apparently. With air quality a serious issue among Valley denizens, it is easy to understand why the coal-burning proposal was rejected. Somewhat along the same lines, a Fresno man had proposed building a county-based nuclear power generating station. That proposal has apparently not gone anywhere – this during a time when state-based nuclear power plants are being decommissioned. It is worth noting that the plugs were pulled on both the Rancho Seco facility near Sacramento and the San Onofre plant located north of San Diego, leaving Diablo Canyon on the central coast as the last or one of the last active (operating) plants in state. However, this too is slated to be shuttered in 2025.

So, being California is staying the clean-energy course it has chosen for itself, it then makes complete sense that the Commission would decide to deny Puente an operating permit. “The Energy Commission’s statement follows a letter from the California Independent System Operator (‘CAISO’), the entity charged with maintaining grid reliability, affirming that alternatives to the proposed gas plant are feasible, and stating that only a request for offers (RFO) can determine the cost of such alternatives. It observed that a RFO would need to be expedited if existing Once-Through-Cooling power plants are to meet their retirement dates. This urgency motivated the Commissioners to take the unusual step of publishing their intent to reject the Puente plant,” the Environmental Defense Center affirmed.

Moreover, the organization wrote: “The City and several local environmental groups presented volumes of evidence during evidentiary hearings proving Puente would cause irreversible damage to Oxnard’s rare coastal wetlands and dunes, and further degrade local air quality for a community already burdened with three coastal power plants. Based on the facts before them, the Commissioners stated that they are ‘unwilling’ to override laws and unmitigated impacts.”

The shape of things to come?

To learn more about the decision to reject and what this could mean for California going forward, see: “Energy Commission Expected to Reject the Puente Gas Plant Project in Oxnard: Unprecedented Victory by Environmental Justice and Environmental Advocates Will Provide New Opportunities for Clean Energy in the City of Oxnard Region,” here.

Note: Article updated on Oct. 7, 2017 at 5:19 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Image above: Linda Krop

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