Oxnard Council passes moratorium on new power plants
By George Miller
The City Council voted unanimously to impose a 45 day moratorium (renewable twice up to two years total) on new power plant development, even though the California Energy Commission can do what it wants in that regard. The logic was that they don’t usually override the will of communities and also that it will buy time to update the coastal plan and related ordinances to make it even harder to build new power plants. Councilman MacDonald, who was leaning the other way (and is running for Mayor) clearly did not wish to be the odd man out on this 4/5 required vote, with it already being decided even without his vote.
The majority of people present at the meeting wanted the moratorium. 55+ people weighed in with opinions, either directly, or via proxy speakers. Speakers included the power company (NRG), city officials, beach area residents, Sierra Club, environmental organizations, commissions, trade unions, attorneys, Chamber of Commerce, community organizers, other candidates for office and members of the general public. it was said by Mayor Pro-tem Ramirez to be one of the larger crowds ever at a council meeting, although 3000+ once reputedly showed up for a non-council meeting rally against the LNG offshore terminal project.
|City Council Meeting||July 1, 2014||04h 23m||Agenda||Video|
The meeting was highly emotional, with various factions stating their cases at times passionately.
Our previous relevant articles:
What triggered all this was NRG announcing its intention to bid on supplying power to Southern California Electric via a new generating plant in the region. They searched around and claimed they couldn’t find another suitable site. Since they already have two sites and three plants in Oxnard, they suggested building a new 290 megawatt plant at the existing Mandalay Beach site and tearing down the two old ones as part of the package. The old ones would need major upgrades (borderline practical) to continue operation or be shut down by the end of 2020.
The city had previously expressed a desire to be rid of coastal power plants and put this in the 2030 General Plan. We were told it did not place sufficient safeguards in the coastal plan and city ordinances to block plant construction. Even if they did, The California Energy Commission has the power to overrule that, but takes into consideration the desires of the community.
The City Council wanted to vote on a moratorium on plant construction, which would afford them time to update their coastal plan and related ordinances to forbid new plants. Mr. Williamson presented the city’s proposal which was to pass the moratorium and provided various rationales and justifications.
Read the city meeting package:
|K.||REPORTS- Development Services Department|
1. SUBJECT: Interim Urgency Ordinance Prohibiting the Expansion of Existing, or Development of New, Electrical Generating Facilities Integrated with the Independent System Operator Grid and with Generating Capacity above 25 MW within the Coastal Zone Until the Oxnard Local Coastal Program Update is Completed. (001)
RECOMMENDATION: Adopt an interim urgency ordinance prohibiting the expansion of existing, or development of new, electrical generating facilities integrated with the Independent System Operator grid and with generating capacity above 25 MW within the Oxnard Coastal Zone pending studies and changes in the Local Coastal Program (LCP), land use plan and implementing zoning ordinance, and other applicable regulations.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Chris Williamson/ Phone: 385-8156 Steve Fischer 385-7483Document: Item K1: Coastal Zone Interim Urgency Ordinance – REVISED (this was the presentation)Document: Staff Report (pdf 1.46MB)Document: Nature Conservancy Letter (pdf 232 KB)Document: Coastal Letter (pdf 239 KB)
From NRG, the company wanting to build the new power plant …
The company says it will build a state of the art, “green,” far cleaner, far smaller, 290 megawatt gas-fired plant and tear down the 2 oldest ones, which is a huge expense. It is providing operating jobs and will provide many more jobs during construction and tear down. It provides millions in economic benefit to the community and supports various social programs. They believe that residents/council didn’t have all the facts and that some false statements were being made and urged a continuation of dialogue.
The great majority of speakers were against the proposal, variously saying that:
- Plants are unsightly
- Take up desirable beach front
- Plants are toxic, polluting
- Are being forced on less politically powerful Oxnard by other communities
- Can’t trust NRG to run a clean operation and tear down old plants
- The jobs issue is invalid
- Sea rise will make it impossible for safe plant operation
- NRG should pay to tear plants down even if they can’t build a new plant
- It is the city’s desire not to have power plants along the coast
- NRG hasn’t formally promised anything
- There are parallels to Halaco (toxic waste area) and LNG (huge Liquified Natural Gas offshore facility) proposal.
Project Proponents position:
- We need electric power
- Having it close by is better for security of supply
- Economic benefits to community- jobs, franchise fees, contracting.
- NRG has been a good neighbor
- Plant would be far smaller, cleaner and set back from beach than existing units
- Most infrastructure already in place, which would avoid huge expense and additional environmental despoilage.
- NRG will dismantle plants and clean up sites.
- Mandalay plant is located behind 25′ sand dunes on an 11′ pad (Per Tony Cordero- NRG). Plot is very deep, goes far back from ocean.
- Beach is available for use by public (possibility of beach facilities development?)
- Even with 33% renewable power, which will be very difficult to have in place by 2020, CA still needs conventional baseline power to make up the difference and provide far higher reliability and lower cost.
Some public comments:
Mayoral candidate Larry Stein said he’s not opposed to the project but the city should have fixed the coastal plan. “Somebody has to pay,” and said it would ultimately be the public, not NRG. Tim Nielson was against the moratorium, said it is a STATE power project, nukes and hydroelectric are being shut down, renewable energy availability looks problematic, we should negotiate in good faith now or state may override us then we get a much worse deal. Joanne A, LULAC: Oxnard a dumping ground for things other communities don’t want. Jobs will be elsewhere in Ventura County if not here. Julie Pena: Demolish old plants immediately, no cost to taxpayers. NRG only one to agree to move. Steve Nash: Promised jobs a “red herring.” “Jobs go to the Kilowatts.” Plant could be there 50+ years- no maximum timeframe.
City Council positions
Padilla: Energy reliability important. Jobs important, but wants moratorium.
MacDonald: City now lacks ability to eliminate power plants. Work with NRG to create a contract to take down plants. Local coastal plan needs to be modified. SCE is driving this program. Must make provisions for canal from Harbor to power plant to ocean.
Ramirez: This is an emergency-plan could go forward if we don’t act now and Oxnard might have nothing to say about it. Before, we were almost saddled with LNG project. Get it in writing. There will be jobs, we will have power, even if somewhere else. #1 issue will be sea level rise. Should not “armor” beach. Hueneme armoring will affect Ormond adversely. Not a good business decision to do this project. Then she quoted Matthew 7:24-27- “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice …against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. … not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
Perello- This project would never fly in Santa Barbara. We are forced to act now. If we had updated the coastal plan, we wouldn’t be in this fix now and Oxnard would not be the recipient of such problems as another power plant. NRG must shoulder risks such as need upgrades,m decommissioning, etc. The proposed project labor agreement sounds good but not at the expense of Oxnard people. We also have the peaker plant because we had no updates coastal plan. Profit not a dirty road, but there’s aright way to do it. West of Harbor will be declared a flood zone. Plant would be in danger as would sewer and wastewater systems.
Flynn: Existing peaker plant could supply all of Oxnard. The other 2 need to come down. Never heard an actual proposal from NRG. Flynn said he was formerly a car salesman, knows about negotiation and card-playing and he’s calling their bluff- “let me see your cards.”
If the moratorium was passed, it is likely that the city would put in additional barriers to plant construction, There is nothing to prevent negotiations with or without a moratorium.
Nancy Williams of SCE wanted to make it clear that no city action could void the arrangements to keep the McGrath Peaker plant (Also at the Mandalay site) operating.
Most of the evenings’s speakers on the moratorium proposal are shown below …
George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.