The commission is responsible for licensing all power plants in California with generating capacities greater than 50 megawatts and for ensuring that each project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. The state law requires the commission to identify the power plant's significant adverse environmental impacts, to mitigate those effects, and to consider less-polluting alternatives. Analyses under the Act must include a project's greenhouse gas emissions.
"Despite California's mandate to aggressively reduce greenhouse gases, the California Energy Commission is allowing new power plants to be built without evaluating their impacts on climate change," Will Rostov, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, said in response to the commission's inaction on the Carlsbad plant. "The Energy Commission needs to champion clean energy by making sure new energy sources reduce harm to the climate."
At 558 megawatts, the Carlsbad plant will be a major new emitter of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and, potentially, sulfur hexafluoride, a chemical used in transformers and the most potent greenhouse gas known. But the commission has not yet assessed the proposed power plant's potential contribution to global warming and has failed to examine alternatives and require mitigation for its impacts.
Worse, the power plant may use imported liquefied natural gas, or LNG. The total greenhouse gas emissions from LNG can be as high as coal, depending on where and how it is produced, giving LNG a much larger carbon footprint than domestic natural gas typically used in California.
This intervention is one of a series of challenges brought by the Center for Biological Diversity to reduce greenhouse gases through California Environmental Quality Act.
"Business as usual is devastating to our climate and local environment," said Matt Vespa, senior attorney with the Center. "Global warming is already harming Sierra species like the pika and is projected to have a significant effect on the state's snowpack and water supplies in the near future.
"California is so fortunate that the California Environmental Quality Act requires state and local agencies to implement global warming solutions available today," Vespa said. "We will hold the Commission accountable for doing so."
Will Rostov, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725
Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9683, ext. 309