Oxnard extends power plant moratorium another year; NRG states its case on KADYTV

City never allowed NRG to present its case to public

By George Miller

The Oxnard City Council heard a staff report on the proposed power plant risks and options, debated the plant and what to do about the old plants to be shut down, at the 5-19-15 City Council meeting. The various factions rehashed the issues, which has been done at least a half dozen times before and threw in some new wild cards. Story below.

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting May 19, 2015 07h 00m Agenda Minutes Video

 

The agenda called for debate and voting on extending the city moratorium on power plant construction while the coastal plan is updated, continuing to oppose NRG/Edison’s proposal to construct a new plant, finishing the sea rise study and finding new ways to stop the project (unanimously approved). It was a very emotional meeting, with a solid majority opposed to the project, while local power advocates, business and construction trades favored it.

The next morning, KADYTV interviewed NRG representatives to state their case for what they call “The Puente Project” to replace the old power generation plant at Mandalay beach with a new, hi-tech, much cleaner and more efficient plant.

There will be an evidentiary hearing in Sacramento on 5-27-15 and a local meeting in Oxnard on 7-15-15 at the Performing Arts Center.

 

KADYTV2NRG states its case on KADYTV – 5-20-15  EXCLUSIVE!

Host Peter Godinez interviews Don Gleider and Tony Cordero of NRG

 

Oxnard Staff Presentation 

(Read Counsel’s report and also J-2 Local Coastal Plan Update (pdf  1,744KB)

Oxnard’s Dr. Chris Williamson presented the staff report on the proposed project, highlighting  potential disaster threats of a 500 year  flood, consequences of potential cessation of Ventura Harbor dredging, a catastrophic earthquake on the Ventura fault, leading to a tsunami flooding the area and finally, sea rise due to alleged manmade “Global Warming.”

A 500 year flood already occured in 1983, but the plant wasn’t flooded. However Williamson postulated that more severe flooding could conceivably occur in combination with the other hazards cited. He said that if the Army Corps of Engineers ceased dredging operations at the Ventura Harbor entrance, then sand would no longer replenish the beach south of there, leading to beach and dunes erosion. It is unlikely that the Corps would cease operations, since Ventura Harbor would be rendered unusable. But if it did, then removal of the sand trap stuctures would be the logical response to that, re-establishing the natural movement of sand down the coast.  The latter was not discussed.

The discovery of the Ventura fault line reveals a risk of a significant earthquake, which could potentially cause a tsunami. However, with such a severe quake as feared, some water in the power plant would be the least of our problems, since the whole Oxnard plain would be in jeopardy. NRG has competent engineering staff which assessed the risks before recommending that the company invest hundreds of millions of dollars to replace the existing plant.

The city, state and an NGO are spending a six figure sum to provide a sea rise study, as state policy calls for such assessments. CJ has previously asked why we must largely duplicate efforts already done by 13 other cities on the same coastline of the same ocean and has not received a staisfactory response. The only difference would be mapping various local feaures against a common datum. Could that be done via Oxnard’s own geo-mapping resources? In any case, the various predictive models have vastly overstated what should have already occurred and very obviously has not. People have repeatedly asked for updated forecasts and rationale, since the 6, 10, 20 and more footage rises predicted have not occurred, even with major ice melts, which have now moderated. No estimates were forthcoming, but one public speaker said estimates of .1 to .11 inches per years were made. This would amount to about three inches over the life of  the project, which seems manageable. Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez has previously said that the U.S. Navy takes sea rise very seriously and is warning us and making plans for it. The very low-lying Pt Mugu Naval Air Station and Port Hueneme facilities would  be early candidates for inundation, but we are not aware of their evaucuation activities/plans at this time.

NRG

NRG is the power company proposing the new project to replace the Mandalay plant. At the meeting, they said this is the best proposal for the region because it uses existing infrastructure, provides the best, if not the only, path for demolition of the old plants and other community benefits, lowest cost, jobs, tax revenue, good corporate neighbor committed to the environment, clean power and that a mix of renewable and baseline fossil power is needed. They urged that the City move ahead with formal talks on a community service agreement. They are willing to meet with any members of the community- particularly opponents.

NRG is not opposed to the moratorium extension. For some reason, NRG, the developer, has never been allowed to state their full case to the public, but must make due with these brief snippets of time. KADYTV provided them with a forum the following day. You may view the video below.

Note: a similar project in Calsbad was just was approved by Public Utilities Commmission: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150521006501/en/

Public speakers

About 30 speakers, pro and con voiced their opinions. Mayor Flynn urged speakers to yield time to other spokespersons and cut the individual speaking time allocation from 3 to 2 minutes per speaker. 

Those in favor cited economic benefits of jobs, taxes, local power, using existing infrastructure (which would avoid the very expenseive alternative and major environmental impact of creating new rights of way and infrastucture), demolishing the old plants and other possible community benefits to be contracted for with NRG. It was pointed out that the plant beachfront at Mandalay is public accessible and that Ormond would be further opened up by the demolition of the old plant down there. They also urged talks/negotiations to get the best possible deal for the city if the project should move ahead. Some cited that the proposed plant is far cleaner, exceeds all legal/regulatory requirements and would provide the cheapest alternative as well.

Opponents cited aesthetics, city image and desired use of land for recreational purpose instead and environmental concerns. Some also insisted that NRG demolish the old plants for no consideration in return, citing that NRG’s position that they will only demolish the old plants if the new project is approved is “extortion.”  Project opponents supported the  extension of the power plant moratorium. While the energy Commission can overrule this, it is believed by some that the moratorium, new ordinances and a Coastal Plan forbidding these would influence the Commission’s decision in their favor. Some also want additional obstacles erected, in the form of restricting water usage at a plant and forcing demoliton of the old plants. It is unclear whether such legislation would be upheld.

Moorpark power plant

Proposed Moorpark power plant

There was some disappointment that the plan includes a 188 foot tall stack. We wonder why they couldn’t propose something like last year’s Moorpark proposal (see rendering).

The complaint advanced by the Sierra Club, among others, that we already have 3 or 4 power plants and don’t want more, is invalid, since the existing Ormond Beach and Mandalay plants would be demolished.

 

Analysis

It’s obvious that the Council and most of the public don’t want the old or new plants and want someone else to pay for removal of the old ones. Of course, the public will pay in any case, since the cost would ultimately show up in power rates if NRG pays, or alternatively, taxes would pay for a publicly funded removal. NRG proposes to tear them down if the new plant is approved, but of course those costs are “baked into the cake.” It is the easiest way to get it done,

The people should have the ultimate say in what development and usage takes place in their jurisdiction. However, the state, in its infinite wisdom, has reserved the decision for the Energy Commission to rule “for the greater good” and to eliminate the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) factor. But, local people will attempt to influence that decision by making it clear that they do not want it.

We need electrical power, Some 1/3 of it will come from renewable sources, by law, if these projects are successful. Renewable power will be much more expensive, but public policy mandates it for environmental purposes.  The other 2/3 of power will come from baseline, primarily gas-fired fossil fuel plants. New plant technology is far cleaner and more efficient than the existing half-century-old dinosuars by the beach.

The argument that gas powered plants polute the environment and contribute to global warming is not a valid reason to not use the Mandalay site, since blocking it there it would only move the pollution source to another location. In any case, 1/3 of power generated by 2020 is mandated to be renewable. Why not 100%? Cost, risk and continuity. Renewable sources are sporadic and unpredicatble, while fossil, nuclear and geothermal are more consistent and controllable.  It is unclear whether California will actually achieve the 1/3 renewable mandate by 2020 and what the true costs will be, although future technology improvements will likely reduce current very high costs.

The sea rise argument is not supported by the facts. Actual sea rise is far, far less than predicted and would likely cause no problems during the useful life of the facility.

So the main argument- and it’s a strong one- against the project is aesthetics and coastal access.  The natural disaster scenario seems far-fetched, but not impossible.

The Puente power plan is the lowest cost solution for baseline power in the region. However, there is dispute on the tradeoffs in quality of life and disaster risk. Some regard it as an eyesore, toxic pollution site and symbol of corporate and racial oppression of our community. Others see no problem with a lowest cost clean plant operated by a good corporate neighbor, providing jobs and tax revenue, eliminating the old power plants, freeing up Ormond beach for future use and continuing to provide access to Mandalay Beach.

~~~

 

The second section of our weekly newscast, “Good Morning Oxnard, done in partnership with KADYTV, also addresses the power plant situation:

 

Some previous articles:

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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