Five Temporary Power Plants Being Considered for San Francisco Bay Area
Fair Use Statement
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Back a few months ago I saw folks wearing "NO MORE URBAN POWER
PLANTS" t-shirts at a meeting where they were discussing problems associated with the proposed CISCO facility in South Santa Clara County. One person quoted in the following article says that power plants should
be built in unpopulated areas. Interesting reactions!
I think it's about time that we stop externalizing the costs of
over consumption. Stop exporting pollution to "unpopulated" areas and make others pay the price. Stop environmental injustice.
These "unpopulated" areas are populated by all sorts of non-human
animal and plant life -- do they count? Some of these "unpopulated" areas are populated by American Indians -- do they count? Not likely.
living next to a power plant can be hell. I now live within 12 miles of one that has just been approved for a large increase. Years ago I lived within 3 miles of the nuclear powerplant in Eureka when it was still operating. Not fun.
Power plants belong close to the source of consumption for a couple of
reasons. It's more efficient as there is less line loss. It's more
equitable. Once we stop externalizing the consequences of power use and suffering the consequences ourselves we may think harder about simple alternatives like less consumption (smaller houses, fewer appliances, turning off the damn computer when it's not being used, not buying monitors that are bigger than your desk, resisting upgrades, etc.). I have to laugh when I see an ad showing a 4,000 sq. ft. "baloon" house that uses 25% less energy. 25% less than a 1,000 sq. ft. house? I don't think so! We might think harder about some of the viable non-fossil fuel alternatives that are doable right now as well. I know - fat chance.
Five Temporary Power Plants
Some residents oppose Bay Area
Alan Gathright, Angelica Pence, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, October 26, 2000
Sparking neighborhood opposition, five temporary
power plants are being proposed at Bay Area sites
in an effort to boost energy supplies by June and
avoid a repetition of last summer's brownouts.
The California Energy Commission said it has
created a rigorous approval process for the small,
``temporary'' natural-gas-fired plants. But residents
living near proposed urban sites are worried about
air and noise pollution. They also point to a new
state law that allows the temporary facilities to be
replaced with larger, permanent cleaner-burning
``I'm sure there will be litigation over these plants,''
said Nettie Hoge, executive director of The Utility
Reform Network (TURN) in San Francisco.
``People aren't just going to sit back and let them be
put in their backyard. The siting problems are going
to be legendary.''
Calpine Energy Corp. went before the Energy
Commission yesterday to ask for expedited
approval of four plants in San Mateo, Brisbane,
Newark and Santa Clara, each providing enough
power for about 90,000 households. The fifth Bay
Area plant is being proposed by El Paso Merchant
Energy, which wants expedited approval to build a
smaller plant at San Francisco International Airport.
But only Merchant Energy's SFO plant proposal
was given the go- ahead to begin its environmental
review process, according to Claudia Chandler, an
assistant executive director with the Energy
Because of the goal to have the plants operating by
June, Calpine faces a Tuesday deadline to win the
commission's initial approval of their construction
plans and environmental data. If the commission
deems Calpine's data ``adequate,'' the agency then
has 25 days to hold public hearings and complete
the expedited review.
Rolling brownouts this summer throughout the state
emphasized the need for California to shore up on
Gov. Gray Davis signed a law in September
requiring the Energy Commission to conduct four-
month, ``fast-track'' approval of the temporary
plants. The law requires the Energy Commission to
certify that the plants will not have a ``significant''
adverse environmental impact or harm the public
But the biggest hurdle could be placing a
91.2-megawatt power plant at the bayside Coyote
Point Park, the most popular park in San Mateo
County. The plant consists of four jet-enginelike gas
turbines with air-pollution controls that will feed an
adjacent Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation
with enough power to supply 91,000 homes.
``We looked for sites that could put in a plant to an
existing source of power,'' said Lance Shaw, a siting
project manager for the Energy Commission. ``The
process is much quicker that way.''
The single-cycle turbines used at the ``temporary''
plants are twice as polluting as a full-size natural-gas
plant, emitting 5 parts per million of nitrogen-oxide
particles compared with 2 parts per million at
Calpine's controversial plant planned for San Jose's
Coyote Valley. The San Mateo plant would operate
12 hours daily, five days a week from June through
October until 2003, when it will close, according to
San Mateo resident John Poultney said he was
stunned to get a notice in the mail Saturday telling
him that the plant could be built within 1,000 feet of
his home and near Coyote Point Park's popular
bayside bike trail, marina and a San Mateo golf
``This is not a good place to put smokestacks -- not
that there is any good place,'' said Poultney, 36, a
telecommunications magazine editor. ``It seems kind
like a no-brainer: They should build these plants in
unpopulated areas and then spend a little more
money building extra transmission lines.
``I sure as hell plan to talk to my neighbors about
Bill Highlander, a spokesman for San Jose-based
Calpine, said while the smaller plants ``do not run as
clean as the engines we use in our bigger power
plants,'' they are far less polluting than the diesel
generators many firms use during power blackouts
``I think if people take the time to try to understand
the impact and benefits of these (energy) solutions,
their concerns will be eased,'' he said.
But residents' bigger concern is that the state law
says the temporary plants must cease operation
after three years -- unless they're replaced by
bigger, cleaner-burning plants.
``It's been my experience that once they set up
something like this, it doesn't just go away,''
Poultney said. ``We've got a growing need for
Highlander said Calpine sees a market for four
major power plants in the Bay Area and is
proceeding with two, including a 880-megawatt
facility under construction in Pittsburg and the
proposed 600-megawatt plant in San Jose. He
stressed that the company has made no commitment
to transform any of the five proposed temporary
plants into a bigger permanent facilities.
One thing for sure, Californians need to agree on
stopgap energy solutions -- and soon.
``We're facing a pretty dire situation where we had
one rolling blackout in the Bay Area this year, and
the numbers are looking worse for next summer,''
said consumer attorney Mike Florio of TURN.
``There's the (energy) cost considerations, the
environmental considerations, and then there's the
keeping-the-lights-on considerations. Trying to find
a workable solution within those constraints that can
be done in nine months is a hell of an undertaking.''
E-mail Alan Gathright at
[email protected] and Angelica
Pence at [email protected]
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A21
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