Sacramento runs Mandalay Power Plant hearing in Oxnard

Energy Commission, NRG, outline "Puente" Project, process; Govt. officials and public speak out

By George Miller

In still another of a long series of meetings/hearings in Sacramento and Oxnard, this time, a California Energy Commission (CEC) public hearing was held Thursday evening, 8-27-15, at the Performing Arts Center in sweltering heat. It was to discuss the status and fate of the so-called Puente” (Spanish for “bridge,” because it is believed to be an interim solution until renewable sources are mature enough to handle all power requirements) Power Project to replace the existing 5 decade old NRG Mandalay and Ormond Beach power plants. About 200 people came out to hear and /or speak out on the controversial project to replace three superannuated steam generation plants with a single smaller, newer, cleaner, efficient “peaker” plant.

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CEC hearing on Mandalay power plant “Puente Project,” 8-27-15. Dais contains reps from CEC, NRG. Foreground: Oxnard reps. Background right: EDC, Sierra Club, Env. groups. Photo:

The same battle lines as always were drawn, with advocates touting reliable, clean, local baseline power, generated locally, with resultant economic benefits and removal of old facilities. Opponents cited coastal land use priorities, aesthetics, pollution, “racism,” global warming/sea rise, endangered species, other alleged potential hazards and that Oxnard already has more than its share of heavy industry.

Some had started earlier with a bus tour. The drive-through tour of the existing Mandalay power plant and Puente Project proposed plant site was conducted by NRG before the meeting (see below) at 4:30. Then, attendees with sufficient endurance sat through a 5:30 meeting which ran to 11 pm. It was a full program and over 80 public speakers signed up to speak after government officials, NRG and NGO’s (Non-Government Organization “Interveners,” such as Environmental Defense Fund [see interview, below], Sierra Club, etc.), had their say. Near the end of the meeting, the crowd thinned out from a couple of hundred down to 50 or so. Many public speakers signed up left before they were called on. There is still an opportunity to comment by web, email or US Postal Service.

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New plant would go where “Project Site” appears on photo. Old plant would be removed, along with entire Ormond Beach facility. Source: NRG


State agency officials speak

CEC Commissioner Janea Scott presided. Associate Commissioner Karen Douglas was there. Hearing Officer Raoul Renard said that the hearing would provide information about the project (Application Docket #15-AFC-01), describe the commission process, provide a participation opportunity for officials and the public to be heard and present a schedule. He said that CEC is the lead agency for compliance review per CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). Besides speaking at the meeting, people may also provide input via email and web.

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CEC staff: Eileen Allen, Rhetta Demesa, Commissioner Janea Scott, Raoul Renard. Photo:

The California Energy Commission’s  (CEC) role is to ensure reliable power, avoid disproportionate burdens on people and to ensure that the process is carried out faithfully. Unlike the CPUC, it can also look into the project’s impact and investigate alternatives, as well. Attorney Alana Mathews, CEC Public Adviser, was there to ensure that the process is adhered to and that the public has access to it, as she described it to us. CEC’s page for the project: get info or comment here: .You can see the application at the Oxnard Library, too.

Read other project documents on CEC site:

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Agencies involved in the process. Photo:

Some issues have been identified by or brought to the attention of the Commission as needing answers from the applicant, or mitigation …

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See all slides from the CEC presentation



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Ventura County Supv. for the district John Zaragoza speaks. Photo:

Elected officials weigh-in

After a kickoff by CEC, government officials, such as: aides to State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson Sen. Jackson CEC statement 8-27-15 and CD-26 US Rep. Julia Brownley, Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez, Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza (see text of his presentation- Zaragoza California Energy Commission August 272015 – Speech) had their say. Outside the jurisdiction of the project, a representative of US Rep. Lois Capps (23rd Dist.) and Port Hueneme Councilman Jim Hensley also opined. They were uniformly opposed to the project on stated grounds of: land use, aesthetics, and “environmental racism” a currently fashionable buzzword.

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Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez and Planner Chris Williamson attacked the project. Photo:


Oxnard official weighs in

Oxnard Planner Chris Williamson attacked the proposal as being out of step with a majority of residents’ coastal use priorities and subject to hazards, such as natural disasters and global warming/sea rise and threw in the race card also. He offered four alternative sites in Oxnard and one in Santa Paula, as alternatives, which would not eliminate some of the same alleged deadly environmental hazards he had just warned us about. It is unclear what would be required to make any of those site’s projects happen and what would be the cost and regulatory barriers, but it bears looking into.

Williamson and others mentioned that the 2030 General Plan calls for phasing out power plants and that the Coastal Plan also will when finished. The existing plan doesn’t.There is currently a moratorium in effect on building new plants, although its legal effect is questionable, since the Energy Commission has the final say on such matters. His presentation may be found on the CEC site HERE (Doc.# 205930)

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Oxnard’s Planner Williamson’s presentation: not even a hint of objectivity.

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Winning bidder NRG Presents

At the hearing and the prior site tour, NRG stated its case, which is to conform with the state’s energy policy of mixed 1/3 renewables power, with 2/3 “baseline” conventional power.  The state is attempting to change it to 50-50 by 2050. Southern California Electric performed an energy requirements study and concluded that up to 290 megawatts of baseload conventional power were required in our region. To accomplish that, SCE put out bid requests for solutions. The SCE solution addresses six areas, which are summarized in our previous report, on the July PUC hearing in Oxnard. NRG’s Mandalay proposal, labeled the “Puente Power Project,” won for the regional baseline power category. Their proposed plant would be natural gas-powered, since the state wants no more nuclear or coal plants. So far, we have not seen a comparative analysis of alternative proposals or other ideas. It would provide jobs, tax revenues and stable local grid power.

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NRG team at hearing (L-R) : Mike Carroll, Dawn Gleider, George Bianca, Ann Connell.  8-27-15. Photo:

NRG says the plant will meet all requested needs and meets or exceeds all laws and regulations, eliminates use of seawater and cuts potable water use by 80% (they currently purify city water before using). NRG would retire nearly 2000 megawatts of obsolete facilities at Mandalay and Ormond Beaches and would also remove them, if the project is approved: Puente -Proposed Terms 2_18_2015Cover letter to Oxnard City Council 07-22-14. The plant is designed to handle peak load situations and is projected to run no more than 28% of the time, probably about 10%. With a very rapid start-up time of only minutes, it could  quickly react to changing  power needs.


The Public weighs in

The rest of the hearing was devoted to public commentary. 84 people were signed up and given up to three minutes each to state their views on the project. But, many left before they were called on, due to the length of the meeting and the sweltering heat in the meeting room. The roughly 60 remaining speakers mostly fell into several main categories: school children/students- all opposed except for 2; local residents opposed, local residents in favor; business interests/chambers of commerce- almost all pro-project; environmental groups- opposed; NRG employees and construction unions- in favor. More than 2/3 of speakers were opposed to the project.

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About 200 attended the 8-27-15 Oxnard CEC meeting. About 60 members of the public spoke. Photo:


Aaron Starr. Photo:

There was quite a bit of variation in the comments by public officials and private citizens. For example, Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza described the project as an “environmental disaster.”  Later on, former Oxnard Council candidate and current Controller of Haas Automation, the largest regional manufacturer, implored the Energy Commissioners to remember that lies repeated often enough don’t make them true and to rely upon facts and real science to make decisions, not the emotional appeals and “demagoguery” he observed at the hearing and elsewhere.



Dozens of public speakers made their views known ….

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Not many stayed for the whole 8-27-15 CEC hearing- after 10 PM scene. Photo:


Reasons pro or con

We compiled reasons heard in favor or against the project at this and numerous previous meetings. They really haven’t changed too much over the last two years, but tactics have. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been hearing ….


– 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. Uses same fuel as a home stove, hot water heater, gas dryer.

– 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.

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

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

– Negotiate with NRG while we still can.



– 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

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

– Would discourage tourism.

– Industry doesn’t belong on coast.

– Earthquake/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, jeopardizing vital resource.

– 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 even without new plant approval.

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


Keep in mind that there haven’t been any major tsunamis in the region in recorded history and that sea rise has been negligible since the plants were built, in spite of dire predictions to the contrary.


Original meeting notice:

Public Site Visit, Environmental Scoping Meeting and Informational Hearing – Puente Power Project



Bus Tour of Mandalay Power Plant- 8-27-15

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A fleet of buses chartered by NRG await participants for the Mandalay Power plant bus tour, 8-27-15. Photo:

Some people started off with a prior NRG-run guided bus tour of the existing Mandalay power plant. Participants were not allowed to get out of the busses and look up close, since management and government rules made it cumbersome to accommodate so many people simultaneously. They had to settle for glimpses and photo-ops through window glare, a canned oral pitch and a short handout. Although seven buses were idling, with air conditioners running when we arrived, turnout was poor, Many complained that they didn’t know about this opportunity.

What we saw was a large industrial campus, with large boilers, generating units, piping and a 202 foot high stack. There is a surprising amount of infrastructure to support that, including tanks, piping, auxiliary machinery, electrical apparatus, such as transmission lines, capacitors, reactors, storage tanks, ponds, natural gas equipment, channels, and more. Reuse of this equipment is one of the main justifications for remaining on this site. It would also avoid the environmental disruption of a new “greenfield” site which would require extensive development on the new site and feeding infrastructure. However opponents would prefer to see this site restored to its original, presumably pristine condition.

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Mandalay power plant photo taken from tour bus on 8-27-15 (We weren’t allowed to leave the bus). Photo:

At least a hundred yards of beach and dunes (25-34′ high) are on the sea side, providing unrestricted public access from the south and somewhat more difficulty of accessing from the north. The “Edison Canal borders the South side, with the Edison Peaker plant still south of that. 

The new 262 megawatt gas-fired peaker plant, as currently planned, would not be any further from the beach, but would have a smaller footprint, be far cleaner and more efficient than the existing plant, which would be torn down, along with the Ormond Beach plant, if the project is approved. NRG has promised this in writing. The new plant site is on the north side of the parcel, due to geographic and existing equipment considerations (existing unit would be left there in operation until new one is commissioned).



8-28-15 CitizensJournal (George Miller) Interview with “intervener” Linda Krop, Chief Counsel, Environmental Defense Center (EDC) , Santa Barbara, CA

EDC is acting as an “Intervener” in the review process for the Puente Project at Mandalay Shores. Linda Krop has been with the EDC for 26 years and is Chief Counsel for the firm on this project.  She became an environmental activist while at UCSB and has devoted her entire a career to this work, starting off as a law clerk for EDC. EDC’s clients for this assignment are The Sierra Club- Los Padres Chapter, Environmental Coalition of Ventura County and EDC itself.

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Official “Interveners” (L-R) Linda Krop, Owen Bailey and Cameron Goodman-,of EDC, at 8-27-15 CEC hearing. Photo:

She felt that it was a great meeting, that the process is working, was happy that it was held in Oxnard, that residents were given a convenient opportunity to participate, hear and be heard. She felt that the comments were reflective of the community, which she said doesn’t want the plant or any power generation or heavy industry on the coast, that long-time residents have worked hard to fight it and especially to take beaches back. (The beach there is actually open for public access, but beachgoers must walk in from the south side to access it.) To reinforce that point, she referred to the general plan which calls for phasing out power generation and the in-process coastal plan which avowedly will as well.

Ms. krop opined that the costs to decommission the plant are part of the cost of doing business. NRG has expressed its intention to decommission the plant, but said that they would only demolish it and remediate the area if the Puente Project was approved. They have stated this orally and in writing, No one has been able to cite any legal requirements for demolition. She said that Brian Segee of their Ventura Office is looking into that.

She noted that a big difference between the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) and CEC, is that the latter’s charter also allows looking into alternatives, which opens up more possibilities.

She lamented the environmental hazards which the plant would bring to the region, the beach and the city majority of “minority” residents.  Hazards cited were: sea rise, floods, noise and air quality. When I mentioned that the project claims to meet or exceed all government requirements, she said that pollution offset credits were inadequate, that clean energy alternatives should have been employed instead. The overall state energy plan, including the Southern California Edison Energy study, recommendation and awards is  said to be in complete compliance with state energy goals. Many believe that conventional baseline power will still be required for a long time, because of its higher reliability and ability to work when solar and wind alternatives are not. Energy storage technology (batteries, et al) is still far too expensive to handle that.

Ms. Krop also pointed out that not everything goes according to plan and that accidents (she mentioned the Gaviota oil spill) and natural disasters can still occur, even with laws and regulations in place.

When asked if moving the project off the beach would eliminate a lot of objections and potential hazards, she said it would ameliorate the hazards significantly, but the pollution and greenhouse gases would still be an issue (Global Warming).

Most environmentalists buy into the “man-made, or anthropomorphic global warming” theory, which holds that man-made carbon emissions will trap heat in the atmosphere and cause the earth’s atmosphere to heat significantly, changing the climate, melting icepack/glaciers, causing major sea rise and creating great disruption for human and many other life forms on earth. They further believe that the only solution is immediate, drastic cuts in emissions, So far, all models have been disproven and predictions have all been incorrect, and data anomalies have been detected by opponents, although the earth is definitely warmer than it was 50 years ago. Both cause and extent are “hotly” disputed.



Answers to some of our questions to NRG Puente Project Manager Dawn Gleider, received via email Monday:

Why can’t the low profile design be used, similar to the Diamond proposal?  

“In the course of preparing our offers for SCE competitive process we evaluated many technologies. And even submitted bids for several. The CPUC identified a need for up to 290MWs of energy. The lower profile design I believe you are referencing is a technology called a LMS100.  This is a simple cycle aero derivative combustion turbine. That has a nameplate capacity of approximately 100MWs per turbine. One item that is particularly problematic is building a project within the needed range of MWs with this technology. Two (2) of these units would produce only 200 MWs while installing three would produce too many MWs.

Additionally, all energy generating equipment has it pros and cons. One very large con of this technology is that they use significantly more water than the GE 7HA.01 that Puente will use.”

How much more would it cost to replicate that infrastructure on a new site?

“In short, millions. In the course of preparing our offers into SCE’s competitive Request for Offers process, NRG did evaluate alternative locations and technologies. Furthermore, other developers submitted offers to SCE for various locations and technologies. However, the contract awarded by SCE for the Puente Power Project is site, and technology, specific. Relocating off NRG’s Mandalay site would have significant costs. It means millions of dollars in land acquisition, new transmission and natural gas lines along with an increased environmental footprint and would not be consistent with SCE’s RFO decision. Locating the Puente Power Project within the boundaries of the MGS site allows reuse of existing infrastructure that would otherwise need to be built on a new site and provides power at a lower cost to ratepayers.”

Did NRG in fact commit in writing to tear the old plant down if project was approved?

“Yes absolutely. NRG is 100% willing to do this. We have submitted two written initial proposals to the city council and staff which represent NRG’s starting point for a legal agreement that would require us to tear down the old plant when Puente is approved, and online. NRG is absolutely willing to execute a legally binding agreement with the City of Oxnard requiring NRG to dismantle the units within an agreed-upon timeframe after the online date of the Puente Power Project. This legal obligation would be backed up by a financial security for performance. In order to actually sign this agreement we need the City Council to officially authorize the city staff to draft the agreement with us. They have not been willing to do that. Once the city staff and NRG draft the agreement, that document would come back to City Council for presentation as a public document. Ultimately, the City council would vote on it. At that time, if they approved it, the agreement would become effective.”

Thank you and Best Regards,

    Dawn Gleiter
Director of Sustainable Development


Sea Rise?

In response to a further question as to whether NRG was planning for a 25 inch sea rise over the 30 year anticipated life of the project, Ms.Gleitner responded: “We are not expecting this level of rise, but we did analysis with the worst case assumptions from the City’s expert to analysis the effect this could have on our particular project site. The reality is that it is difficult to predict so NRG wanted to make sure that our investment would be covered in a worst case scenario. I think the biggest problem with the sea level rise arguments that are being held up as scientific facts is that it is a broad analysis done for the whole coast line for awareness. We are already acutely aware of the effects of climate change and agree that it should be evaluated and closely considered/ planned for but after conducting a site specific analysis we are confident that Puente will be a reliable and safe power generating station at this location.”

NRG Solar plants

We also asked David Knox, Senior Director, Wholesale and New Business Communications, about the NRG solar plants out in the desert and why they weren’t performing to expectations (we have heard it is about half). NRG is also the leading provider of large scale solar power projects. Knox told us that solar boiler technology has never been used on such a large scale before and that much in the way of tweaking the system will be required to attain full performance. He said they never promised full output on day 1 and that the plan was to attain that in about four years.

When asked how that would be done, Kelly said mainly through software refinements, improved training of personnel and not that much was anticipated in the way of hardware changes. He said that hundreds of thousands of mirrors must be continuously adjusted and that those required adjustments are a function of sun position, weather, intensity, power demand and other factors. He said the system must be constantly monitored and adjusted, or the beams reflected from the mirrors could literally burn up the boilers, or alternatively, not provide sufficient energy to them.


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Much of the Mandalay plant infrastructure would be used for the proposed Puente Project. Photo:


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Much of the Mandalay plant infrastructure would be used for the proposed Puente Project. Photo:


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25-34′ dunes west of the power plant, then 100 yards more of beach to the sea. Photo:

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The disposition of the adjacent Edison Canal has not been resolved. Photo:


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We’ll bet you didn’t know about “Plant 3,” a specialty facility used to maintain voltage levels on the grid. Photo:


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The existing SCE 45 megawatt turbine peaker plant would be unaffected by the Puente project. Photo:

Inaccurate report from KEY-TV. We’ll use a reader comment on it that describes the problem:

“This is full of errors. There are 4 power plants, not three. 5 if you include Mandalay Unit #3. The plants were never “slated to be torn down”- that is utter nonsense. NRG didn’t say they’d tear down one, they said they would tear down the two at Ormond Beach and the main one at Mandalay IF the project was approved and they reached a community services agreement with the harebrained Oxnard city council, which refuses to negotiate.

Don’t trust an out of town, biased TV station to report news accurately.”

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6-13-15 CICA Forum:


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

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Rita X Stafford
Rita X Stafford
5 years ago

There are too many brilliant energy innovations to allow such a hideous plant from the last century to destroy any more of our natural world. Many of these new technologies are small scale, more efficient, less costly, have a small footprint, and are built over time as needed, which means improvement and good environmental stewardship. However, this technological model does not bring in the kind of immediate financial gain NRG’s proposed power plant guarantees them. What’s wrong with these people? Can’t we just pay them to go away? Stop this monstrosity now.

5 years ago

Remember that Calpine, a competitor to NRG, is proposing the Santa Paula site. Could Calpine be lobbying behind tbe scene in the event the NRG plan fails to materialize? Curious the Santa Paula site comes up now three times in recent history ..