Energy commission intends to reject Mandalay gas turbine power plant project

By George Miller

The California Energy Commission signalled that it intends to reject the Mandalay power plant replacement application, which applicant NRG has named the “Puente” (bridge) Project. This would be a state of the art natural gas turbine plant to replace the existing 1950’s technology seawater-cooled gas boiler plant. The attached letter says that the Commission has been told that it is technologically feasible to use alternative power sources, but that they have no idea if it is economically feasible, calling for a new process to determine that.

NRG “Puente” power plant project logo

Their own words, in the statement signed by members Janea A. Scott & Karen Douglas:

“Although the PMPD is not yet in final form, it is clear to us that the Project will be
inconsistent with several Laws, Ordinances, Regulations or Standards (LORS) and will
create significant unmitigable environmental effects. This, in turn, requires us to
consider feasible alternatives that avoid or reduce those impacts and inconsistencies.
The September 29, 2017 letter from the California Independent System Operator2
(California ISO) addresses feasibility and informs us that preferred resource alternatives
to the Project are technologically feasible. The California ISO also states that economic
feasibility can only be ascertained through a new Request for Offer (RFO) process, and
stresses that any such RFO would need to be expedited in order to ensure that the
Mandalay facilities retire in accord with the State Water Resources Control Board’s
Policy on the Use of Coastal and Estuarine Waters for Power Plant Cooling.”

– California Energy Commission

Read Energy CommissionLetter: TN221401_20171005T173308_Committee_Statement_re_PMPD_Status

Read California Independent System Operator (ISO) statement: TN221345_20170929T153404_CAISO_Comments_regarding_Puenete_Power_Project



Statement from NRG, applicant:

NRG Vice President David Knox talked to us today and had some comments:

“We are very disappointed that the California Energy Commission has stated its intention to deny the permit for the Puente Power Project. We believe the record fully supports the approval of Puente.  NRG favors California’s move to a carbon free electrical grid, but remains concerned about local reliability during the transition.”

He said that since the statement rejected that plant but didn’t go into the specific points, rationale and backup data that they could not effectively respond until they do. He says that NRG will be “exploring options,” but that they “need to see more data before they could complete that process.”

He wasn’t clear whether another RMO for a new approach would be issued or whether that could even legally be done with the existing one still outstanding. 

He didn’t seem to think that existing battery technology would be cost-effective and feels that the 20 year license application under review “would provide an incredible insurance policy.” “As battery/other technology improve, the Puente plant would be used less and less. But when it was absolutely needed, it would be there.”

When asked what the next steps are, Knox said that the Commission still has to meet again,take public and stakeholder testimony, make any revisions, take  FULL Commission vote ()the statement was by only two members), make its decision on the application, or an alternative decision. NRG would then decide upon its next moves.



Statement from CAUSE, one of the main opponents:

Dear CAUSE friends,
Last night in an unprecedented announcement, the two California Energy Commissioners assigned to review the Puente Power Plant in Oxnard said they will propose to reject the project!
Commissioners Janea Scott and Karen Douglas said it is clear to them that this power plant is inconsistent with laws and regulations, and will result in environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated.  They plan to issue a proposed decision soon rejecting the project, and are giving advance notice for utilities to begin seeking clean energy alternatives as soon as possible
After over three years of organizing our community to stop this power plant, victory is on the horizon!
Click here to thank Commissioners Scott and Douglas for their leadership.
This isn’t done yet.  The proposed decision still has to be approved by the full commission.  But this is our greatest sign yet that the thousands of local residents who have spoken out against the racist legacy of sacrificing Oxnard for dirty energy production, the attorneys and environmental scientists and cleantech experts who argued and testified against this project, our local elected representatives and legislators supporting us from across California, are beating the massive financial resources of NRG, the nation’s largest power plant corporation who has continued to force this project on Oxnard against the community’s will.
Thank you to an incredible coalition of countless organizations, including the City of Oxnard, the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the Environmental Defense Center, the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, NextGen Climate, and so many more.
Most of all, thank you for being part of this fight for clean air for Oxnard.  It looks like the community is going to win.
Oxnard Mayor Flynn weighs in:
Mayor Tim Flynn told us today that “this is the most far-reaching statement to date to indicate that the Commission is ready to reject the site … Our opposition was an enormous gamble by the city and leadership to take on the company (NRG) and the commission.”
He gave Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez much credit for her leadership on this effort.
He feels that an LA Times article exploring the true need for power plants and claiming that peer companies had financial incentives to overbuild gave the opposition a new lease on life.
It’s one thing to be opposed to something, it’s another thing to discuss alternatives for technology and location., which he said City leadership is willing to do.
Flynn’s biggest reason for stopping the power plant is to free up beach real estate. “The beach is the most sought after real estate in California. We want to create Oxnard as a destination system.”  This will free up space for recreation and possibly enhance property values.
He believes that additional jobs for the plant, demolition and reconstruction are not worth the advantages of eliminating the facilities.
When asked about the 2020 existing plant license expiration and whether there should be an extension, since we will be left without a peaker plant, Flynn said that he wants them gone, describing them as “dinosaurs on the beach.” h
He had no ideas about accomplishing demolition of the Mandalay and Ormond Beach plants, which was a condition NRG had agreed to as a condition of project approval. Without that approval, they don’t have sufficient incentive and may not have any legal requirement to do so. But Flynn, in a blast of hyperbole, compared the plants to the toxic Oxnard Halaco site, which is to be remediated.
Now is the time, he said to discuss how we’re going to get rid of those plants and when. He feels that NRG is obligated to demolish them, even though that battle was fought before with no resolution, NRG agreed to do so only if the project was approved. We have heard rough estimates of $100 million (not backed up by quotes) to demolish and remediate the plants.
Carmen Ramírez, Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard, said, “We are encouraged by the statement from the two CEC Commissioners that they cannot approve the Puente project. We know we have more work to do to convince the full Commission, but we are hopeful that the project will be rejected, and that Oxnard will have THE clean energy future we all deserve and that Oxnard will have its beautiful coast back for public use.”
Oxnard Councilman Bert Perello: The risk this Council took to protect the health safety and welfare of all the residents now and those yet to be residents has seemingly bore some fruit . Although the battle is engaged the unanimous support of our Council has shown this City leadership will fight to its best ability for the best interests of the nearly one quarter million residents in Oxnard . That and the merits of our case have made an impact on the California Energy Commission. Vigilance and willingness to protect our Residents must not wane , powerful forces await to overwhelm the weak and ill prepared and uninformed . The battle engaged we must not sit on these small victories and let defeat  be the results of any  signs of weakness .
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George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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