CARLSBAD — North County residents answered Carlsbad’s call to speak out against the proposed power plant project at a Feb.1 public comment session.
Concerned locals packed the Hilton Garden Inn, 6450 Carlsbad Blvd., to speak before James Boyd and Anthony Eggert of the California Energy Commission, or CEC. With anti-plant pins affixed to their shirts, residents made their desire to move the plant elsewhere very clear.
“This is one moment in time that we have the opportunity to change the vision and the focus of the future,” Councilman Matt Hall, a lifelong Carlsbad resident, said.
The public comment session was preceded by the first day of expert evidence and witness testimony both for and against the project to help in the CEC’s deciding process. The CEC is solely responsible for deciding if the plant will continue as currently envisioned — located just east of the existing Encina Power Plant owned by NRG Energy, Inc. — or if it will be relocated elsewhere.
The community was invited to sit through the expert commentary but had to hold their comments until the 6 p.m. hearing.
Long-time residents and newcomers to the Carlsbad area cited a number of reasons why the power plant should be moved away from the coastline, ranging from health concerns to quality of life in the community.
Stacey Quartarone pleaded before the commission to reconsider the location of the future power plant, citing the existing one as a factor in the death of her 16-year-old son, Chase. For years, the Quartarone family has dealt with black soot and harmful toxins from the plant inside their home, which they believe gave their son non-Hodgkin’s lymphona.
“It’s about the environment, it’s about our future, it’s about our life,” Quartarone said.
Although in the minority, there were meeting attendees that spoke in support of the project moving forward in its existing design. They were met with boos and hisses from the audience as they stood at the podium, causing hearing officer Paul Kramer to say “settle down folks.”
“This plan is very important to the local energy portfolio,” said Patti Krebs of the Industrial Environmental Association, citing an effective and reliable source of energy as a top priority for the area.
The heated debate pitted not only residents but also community leaders against each other. While council members Hall and Keith Blackburn both asked the commission to consider relocating the project, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce President Ted Owen highlighted the extra revenue the plant would bring to the city.
The CEC will continue to consider expert testimonies and public comment before it makes its decision later in the year. Until then, residents will have to patiently wait to learn if their dreams of an undeveloped coastline will come true.