At a hearing in Sacramento on Thursday afternoon, the California Energy Commission withheld final approval of a new gas-fired power plant to be built on a stretch of southern California coast. The full Commission voted unanimously to send the permit application for the Carlsbad Energy Center Project back to the committee that had granted preliminary approval. The Commission instructed its committee to reopen the record and hear new evidence about greenhouse gas concerns, cumulative air quality impacts, possible alternative project sites and issues related to three other proposed power plants.
The Commission vote came in response to a motion from attorney Will Rostov with the public interest law firm Earthjustice, speaking on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We are pleased that the Commission decided to do a more complete analysis,” Rostov said. “We are at a key fork in the road to California’s energy future. Since California is committed to moving to a system based on renewable energy, the Commission should not continue permitting new natural gas power plants that are unnecessary for the future electric system and that lock in decades more of fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The Center for Biological Diversity was among the many plant opponents who presented their arguments to the Commission in an effort to overturn the preliminary approval granted in May. Commissioners had already heard hours of objections from concerned citizens at a hearing on June 15, only to postpone their decision until June 30. With their ruling on Thursday, the Commission set no date for future hearings.
At Thursday’s hearing, Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall called the plant “a project in the wrong place at the wrong point in time.” He said the plant’s location in the heart of the city is “like having a ring on your finger and you look at it and the diamond’s missing.”
NRG Energy Inc. had planned to build the gas-burning 558-megawatt generator on the same site where an aging power station still operates. For more than half a century, the Encina Power Station has cluttered the Carlsbad shoreline, churning out electricity—and pollution—for southern California. Now that it has reached the end of its lifespan, the citizens of Carlsbad were hoping to breathe easier, and that the property could be developed and the coast reclaimed.
The committee was also instructed to consider land use questions raised in the hearings, and take a look at grid reliability issues as well.
For case documents go to: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/carlsbad/documents