Workshop offers info on power plant proposal

CARLSBAD — A recent workshop on a newly proposed power plant generated more questions than answers, said many who attended the informational meeting held Jan. 7and Jan. 8 at the Sheraton Carlsbad hotel.
The Carlsbad Energy Center, to be built along Carlsbad Boulevard on the property of the existing plant, received conditional approval last month from the California Energy Commission.
NRG Energy applied to the state commission to build the 540-megawatt plant on the property of the existing 50-year-old Encina Power Station.
However, many questions and unresolved issues still remain, city officials said.
The workshop, put on by the California Energy Commission, brought together commissioners, city officials and experts from various organizations to comment on the project.
The state Energy Commission will decide the fate of the plant at a later date. If given final approval, the plant is scheduled to be up and running by 2011.
For now, public comment on a preliminary staff assessment is open until the end of the month, and the public was invited to attend the two-day workshop.
The preliminary staff assessment, currently under review, does not include a number of changes to the project.
Of the environmental impacts, air quality, visual impacts and impact on marine life in the lagoon were the three that remained unresolved, commissioners said.
On the first day of the workshop, where much of the focus was on air quality, 19 of the 25 speakers opposed the project.
“This has been a real education for me,” Carlsbad resident Christina Rosenthal said. “What I found out … is there are a lot of unresolved issues regarding the health and safety of the future plans.”
Senior air quality analyst Keith Golden said the state’s review of emissions from the plant shows some pollutants will increase while others will decrease, and that overall it wasn’t easy to tell how much the levels would increase.
The two new air-cooled power-generating facilities are planned to replace three of the five old power-generating units now running at the Encina Power Station. Long-term plans include replacing the last remaining older power-generating units. However, there are no immediate plans to do so and no timeline has been given.
The Energy Commission staff said they wanted more information from NRG on how soon the rest of the old plant would be phased out.
In addition, the plans for the new power plant conflict with plans by Caltrans to expand the freeway. As planned, there would only be 40 feet between the freeway and the plant.
Julie Baker, a member of the new group Power of Vision, which opposes the plant at the location proposed, told commission members at the workshop that the most “logical” thing to do is wait until Caltrans comes out with their EIR before any plans move forward.
However, officials with NRG said they plan to work with Caltrans to come up with a plan that will work.
The city of Carlsbad is opposing the project being built along Carlsbad Boulevard, on the same ocean-view property as the existing plant, and instead has suggested sites further inland. Since the two newly proposed power-generating units will be air-cooled, they will no longer need salt water from the ocean.
City officials have said this is an opportunity to move the plant further inland. City officials have repeatedly said they support a new plant somewhere within city limits, but feel the new plant would create an visual eyesore on the coast and that the property would be better suited for other types of development.
However, NRG West has said the existing plant, and the fact the city’s General Plan has already outlined the use of the land for a power plant, make the current site the best option.

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