Opponents dominate Oxnard CPUC hearing on Mandalay power plant replacement

By George Miller

A two-year battle over the Oxnard Mandalay Beach power plant replacement  (Case 1411016) project grinds on. A highly emotional Mandalay 0013 1/2 hour hearing was held Wednesday at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, attended by about 350 people. About 80+% appeared to oppose the project. Opponents were bussed or drove in from out of town.

By law, hearings must be held to gather public input before CPUC (California Public utility) decisions may be rendered. This was the sole such meeting in the area most affected. A previous hearing was held in Sacramento. Administrative Judge Regina DeAngelis presided over this hearing, assisted by court reporters and other administrative people.

She said that the CPUC’s responsibility is to ensure safe, reliable, reasonably priced electric service. She said her task is to understand the proposal and its terms, hear evidence, prepare a proposed decision and submit it to the commission for a vote. SCE filed the application 11-14-14. Since then, evidence by various parties has been submitted, opposition protests logged and a hearing held in Sacramento.

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Administrative Judge Regina DeAngelis presides over CPUC hearing on Oxnard Mandalay Power Plant replacement, 7-15-15. Photo: George Miller, CitixansJoutrnal.us

 Although Oxnard has placed a moratorium on coastal energy development and intends to update the general and coastal plans to reflect that, CPUC must rule on it, too. But, the final decision, by law, is actually in the hands of the California Energy Commission. The rationale behind this is that the overall public welfare must supercede local interests, which tend to adopt a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach. But this also eliminates local self-determination, a source of much irritation locally.

About 80 people spoke at the meeting, which greatly exceeded its planned two hour duration.

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Jesse Bryson – SCE Vice President of Energy Procurement and Management. summarizes company’s case. Photo: George Miller, CitizensJournal.us

Jesse Bryson (sp?), SCE Vice President of Energy Procurement and Management, spoke first to present the project, process and why the decision was arrived at. Actually, multiple contracts were awarded for: promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, Installation of solar panels, energy storage (batteries), refurbishing an L.A. peaker plant, and this project- the Oxnard Mandalay Beach power plant replacement, labeled “The Puente Project” by NRG.



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Oxanrd Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez speaking at CPUC Mandalay plant hearing. Photo: CitizensJournal.us

Government Officials

Several government officials, or their designated representatives, spoke at the hearing. They included Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez, speaking for Mayor Tim Flynn; area County Supervisor John Zaragosa; Brad H., representing CD-26 Congressional Rep. Julia Brownley; Carla, Representing State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson; Dennis O’Leary, School District Trustee (not sure what authority he has in this area); a representative of Jim Tovias of Santa Paula City Council; Art Hernandez, VC Community College Board.

All were opposed to the project.


Public Speakers

We were told that about 80 applied to speak. Without going into every single presentation, the great majority were opposed to the project for varied reasons, including coastal land use, city reputation, health, aesthetics and environment.  A smaller number of people favored it for economic and security reasons and also noted that the environmental concerns were greatly overblown or even ridiculous.

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At least 300 people were at the Oxnard CPUC hearing on the Mandalay power plant replacement proposal by NRG. Photo: George Miller, CitizensJournal.us

Besides local people and govt. officials, there were reps. from various environmental, “social justice” and civic groups. A lot were bussed or drove in from out of town: LA, Santa Barbara, even Orange County.

Almost all unions were pro-project, along with some business and energy industry people. While the Oxnard, santa Barbara and Camarillo Chambers of Commerce favor the project, the “social justice” and environmental organizations were all opposed to it. (this paragraph updated 7-20-15)

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Ed Ellis of Oxnard

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Residents and an activist wait to speak.

To briefly summarize the pro and con points made by each side at this and previous meetings:


– Local grid presence for less likely outages.

– Shorter power transmission distances.

– Plant would be quite clean. Even the current obsolete plant is surrounded by abundant wildlife, with no credible claims of illness, etc.

– Lowest cost and most efficient method available in the area.

– Plant would have smaller “footprint.”

– Need baseload, reliable power. State is already committed to 1/3 renewables for CA in only 5 years- and that is a big stretch.

– Renewable projects moving slower, less productive, more troublesome, than promised. Major projects have gone belly up.  Unlikely that 33% mandate for renewable energy sources will be achieved by 2020, making reliable baseload power all the more important.

– Sea rise is quite minor, “climate and sea rise models” all discredited, “Global Warming” not linked to any cause and effect. North pole melting has almost zero effect on sea rise and is no longer melting. South polar cap is actually expanding. Climategate. 30,000+ scientist “deniers” signed letter.

– Go with NRG plan, end up with only two plants, old, dirtiest ones disappear.

– NRG would tear down old plants (subject to proposal approval), clean up sites- a huge savings and environmental beautification.

– Economic benefits- construction, operations, supplire jobs, tax revenues.

– CEC (California Energy Commission) makes final decision.

– We should push for beach facilities on site, Current beach already clean, usable, utilized.

– Places like Morro Bay are great tourist attractions, in spite of large old power plant.

– Negotiate with NRG while we still can.

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– Would be four plants in Oxnard (not true, would end up with two after plants demolished in accord with NRG willingness to include this in a community benefit program if project is approved).

– Aesthetics.

– It is the will of the People and Council.

– Dirty, dangerous, “a clear and present danger” (to health)

– Danger of gas explosion

– Discrimination against “brown  people” to build plant here in low income, “minority” community. (While Oxnard is 90% “minority,” the plant is in a neighborhood comprised mostly of Caucasians).

– Would discourage tourism.

– Industry doesn’t belong on coast.

– Tsunami hazard.

– River flooding hazard.

– Subject to inundation via “sea rise” (estimates varied from 10 to 100 years to accomplish this), costing rate-payers much money.

– Fossil fuel emissions would hasten aforementioned global warming and sea rise.

– Should do renewable power instead.

– NRG has a legal and moral obligation to remove the two old plants.

– A copy of the comparative proposals analysis and criteria should be made available to the public.


BackgroundMandalay2 001

The two major power plants in Oxnard (there is a third 45 MW peaker plant at the Mandalay site) were built on the coast 5 decades ago, to take advantage of sea water cooling and fuel delivery by sea. They have since become obsolete as power plant technology has advanced to be come cleaner, more efficient and not reliant upon large amounts of cooling water. The state has also elected to shift to 1/3 renewables power by 2020 and has outlawed sea water cooling due to alleged environmental and sea life harm.

The state called upon Southern California Electric to assess power needs based upon these new realities. They concluded that up to 290 MW of reliable fossil fuel power would be required in “The Moorpark sub-area” (Mostly Ventura County), along with certain projects to encourage less power use, providing alternative means (mostly solar), and power conservation initiatives. The only proposals which received public attention were gas powered plants in Moorpark and Oxnard. Both generated significant local public and government opposition .

Moorpark power plant

Propopsed Diamond Generating Corp. Moorpark power plant

The winning proposal and contract awarded by SCE, which is claimed to be most economical and complies with all laws and regulations, was from NRG. They are the largest power (fossil and renewables) producer in the USA and the current operator of the Oxnard Mandalay Beach and Ormond Beach power plants, totaling about 2 gigawatts total capacity. They would replace this with a single 260 MW, state of the art, hi-tech, cleaner, more eficient plant. However, it would still be within 100 yeards of the oceanfront and have a 188′ stack, almost as high as the old plant. Some have enquired as to whether NRG could adopt the 3-4 story office building style plant proposed (and rejected) for Moorpark.

Meanwhile, the city has fought the proposal, claiming that the plant would harm the health of residents, wildlife, the environment, tourism and the economy. To back it up, the council passed a moratorium on new energy development projects and intends to update the general and coastal plans to reflect that. Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez has also threatened other ordinances which could make it difficult or impossible to run energy plants. They are also looking for ways to force NRG to remove the old power plants, even if they aren’t allowed to build the new ones.

Another issue is the removal of the old plants. NRG did not commit to this in the proposal and there appear to be no legal requirements to remove them. In fact, other empty old hulks of abandoned power plants, such as at Morro Bay, stand in confirmation of this. However, NRG has made it very clear orally and in writing that they are willing to consider this as part of a community service agreement, IF the project is allowed to move ahead. Project advocates have severely criticized the city for failing to conduct good faith negotiations with the city on this and and other considerations.

California Energy Commission (CEC) Public Advisor Alana Mathews, an attorney, showed up at the 7-14-15 Oxnard City Council meeting to announce that she was assigned to help ensure that the state decision-making process was fair and complies with the law. She also showed up to monitor the 7-15-15 hearing at the Performing Arts Center.


Keep in mind that much of what is going on is political theater. Both sides are doing what they can to affect the CEC ruling, which could be influenced by testimony. But the final decision is CEC’s, which hopefully will rule in the overall best interests of the people, which may or may not be the majority preference,.


Just some of the many CitizensJournal.us articles on the power plant issue:

Hearing on Oxnard Mandalay power plant replacement

Event Announcement The California Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing to gather Citizen opinions on the proposed new power plant to replace the existing 5 decade old Mandalay Beach, Oxnard 560 MW plant with a newer, cleaner, regulatory-compliant gas-fired plant.   6 PM Thursday, July 15, Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, Ventura […]

Oxnard Council votes to protest SCE Mandalay power plant award to NRG

Oxnard Council votes to protest SCE Mandalay power plant award to NRGBy George Miller In a special  meeting on Tuesday night, Oxnard Council members followed through on their promise to authorize the Mayor and City Manager to take actions to protest the October contract award by SCE (Southern California Edison) to NRG to build a new, much cleaner, high efficiency, quick start, low footprint  262 Megawatt power […]

Mike Barber responds to Mike Stubblefield on the Oxnard Mandalay Beach power plant replacement

Mike Barber responds to Mike Stubblefield on the Oxnard Mandalay Beach power plant replacementBy Mike Barber Editor’s note: This is Mr. Barber’s response to a letter from Mike Stubblefield of the Sierra Club, which appeared in another newspaper, regarding the proposed replacement of the Mandalay Beach power plant.  You can figure out most of what it said from Mr. Barber’s words in this letter..   I read Mike […]

NRG wins SCE contract to build power plant at Mandalay Beach, Oxnard

NRG wins SCE contract to build power plant at Mandalay Beach, OxnardBy George Miller The contract  award by Southern California Edison (SCE) doesn’t necessarily mean that  NRG will be building the power plant- only that their bid to do so has been accepted. It would have to go through other approvals.  The California Energy Commission has final authority on any decision to build or operate a power plant […]

Future of Power Plants on our Coast, please join your neighbors

Future of Power Plants on our Coast, please join your neighborsMeeting Date: June 13th, 10am Location: The Yacht Club at Channel Islands, 4308 Tradewinds Drive, Oxnard Purpose: Our purpose is to share Information, Questions, and Discussions so that our Community is better informed regarding the issues and decisions that face our City. In July of 2014, Oxnard City Council adopted a moratorium expiring June 30, […]

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

Oxnard extends power plant moratorium another year; NRG states its case on KADYTVBy 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 […]

NRG files application to build Oxnard power plant

NRG files application to build Oxnard power plantBy George Miller NRG, which operates the Oxnard Mandalay and Ormond Beach electric power generating plants, has filed an application to build a new, hi-tech, low footprint, low emission plant at the Mandalay Beach site. This would replace three current, obsolete 5+ decade-old plants providing peak generation capacity of nearly 2ooo megawatts, with a much smaller 267 […]

Oxnard Council passes moratorium on new power plants

Oxnard Council passes moratorium on new power plantsBy 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 […]

Oxnard power plant operator tells its side of the story on proposed plant

Oxnard power plant operator tells its side of the story on proposed plantBy George Miller NRG Corp. is the operator of the power generation plants in Oxnard, totaling over 2000 MW (Megawatts) capacity and the only generation plants in Ventura County.  Today, they stated their case to build a much smaller, new technology and “greener” (EPA-compliant gas-fired, air-cooled)  replacement unit at the Mandalay site. Tony Cordero, Public […]

Oxnard: status quo budget approved 4-3; residents discuss power plant proposal

Oxnard: status quo budget approved 4-3; residents discuss power plant proposal  By George Miller After months of debate and criticism, the Oxnard City Council on Tuesday approved a budget very similar to last year’s. The vote was 4-3. with Council members Perello, Padilla and Housing Commissioner Vega dissenting.  Even some voting for it conceded its shortcomings, but were worried about the public and bond raters’ […]

Oxnard: Debates coastal power plant proposal

Oxnard:  Debates coastal power plant proposalBy George Miller NRG, the largest independent electric power generation company in the nation and owner/operator of the Mandalay and Ormond Beach power plants, wants to build another one, on the existing Mandalay site and eventually tear down the existing ones. At this point, the city and operator both agree that the old plants are […]

Moorpark nixes new power plant

Moorpark nixes new power plantBy Debra Tash At their November 20, 2013 meeting the Moorpark City Council heard a presentation from representatives of the proposed Amaranto Energy Center.  Amaranto would be a gas-fired simple-cycle power generating facility located just north of the Moorpark West studio project. The gas-fired plant would generate 290 megawatts of power and be next to […]

Good Morning Oxnard Show- 5-20-15

Good Morning Oxnard Show- 5-20-15By George Miller CitizensJournal.us News, NRG power plant; Pablo Ortiz,Oxnard Downtowners; Eileen Tracy of Family Engagement and Re-Entry Program On this segment (5-20-15) of the Good Morning Oxnard Show- Host Peter Godinez interviews George Miller, Publisher of CitizensJournal.us on Oxnard News, consisting of: Strawberry Festival review; Mandalay Power Plant moratorium extended; Hotel tax increased 33 1/3%; […]

Good Morning Oxnard Show- 4-22-15 news segment

Good Morning Oxnard Show- 4-22-15 news segmentBy George Miller On this segment (4-22-15) of the Good Morning Oxnard Show- George Miller, Publisher of CitizensJournal.us does Oxnard News, consisting of: Earth Day (00:30); Lowell Steward, Jr. of Tuskeegee Airmen honored (00:37); Arbor Day (01:42): NRG applied for license to build new Mandalay power plant (01:58);  City marks start of recycled water deliveries to […]

California Public Utilities Commission Approves NRG Energy’s Carlsbad Energy Center

California Public Utilities Commission Approves NRG Energy’s Carlsbad Energy Center—Fast start plant to help ensure reliability while integrating renewables— Editor’s note: This is locally significant because this project is larger than the “Puente Project” proposed by NRG to replace the Oxnard Mandalay Beach plant , CARLSBAD, Calif., May 21, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Today, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the SDG&E Power Purchase […]

Oxnard City Council: Oxnard finances lamented, Tourism promotion; Harbor management and more

Oxnard City Council: Oxnard finances lamented, Tourism promotion; Harbor management and moreBy George Miller Council meeting topics covered were:  3-5-15 Oxnard Community Forum/priorities survey; Oxnard financial situation,  Economic Developmenmt Corp. of Oxnard (EDCO): Simplifying some building permits; Tourism promotion; Harbor management agreement; $200,000 legal expense for opposing new power plant; Street paving status- Channel Islands; Free tax preparation assistance at Oxnard College 3/7 … and more.   Name […]

Ormond Beach development plan presented to Oxnard City Council

Ormond Beach development plan presented to Oxnard City CouncilBy George Miller A long time in the making, an Ormond beach proposed development plan was presented at the Oxnard City Council on Tuesday evening, October 21. 2014. After an introduction by Dr. Chris Williamson, the main presentation was made by Peter Brand on a Development Program Proposal for the Area South of Hueneme Road and East of Edison Drive. […]

Oxnard Council 9/23/14- Street repair financing; $80MM wastewater bond refi; shake-up at City Hall; coastal plan; and more

Oxnard Council 9/23/14- Street repair financing; $80MM wastewater bond refi; shake-up at City Hall; coastal plan; and moreBy George Miller Covered at meeting:  $80MM Wastewater bond refi; new $24MM bond issue for accelerated street repairs; Coastal Plan update, HUD audit of Housing Dept.; Investment activity report; Prison labor for landscaping?  (Wastewater fee increase on agenda- not discussed).     Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video City Council Meeting September 23, 2014 05h […]

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