Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
- Community Blog
Chula Vista Peaker Power Plant Expansion
How Important Are Environmental and Social Justice in Chula Vista? You can read with pictures and links to supporting information at www.chulavistaissues.org/CVpeaker
All documents submitted regarding this case can be found on the California Energy commission website: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/chulavista/index.html. On August 10, 2007 MMC Energy filed an application with the California Energy Commission (CEC) to tear down the existing 44.5mw peaker plant located at the end of Albany Ave. in southwestern Chula Vista. The existing plant is on the southern edge of the site.
The existing plant was approved in 2000 by the Chula Vista city council. Teena Dr., Alvoca, and Del Monte are residential Streets with the closest house a mere 350 feet away from the peaker. At the time of approval there were no warehouses just junkyards. Otay Elementary is less than 1300 feet away. Even closer on the campus of Otay Elementary are Albany Headstart and a pre-K. There is a Recreation Center on Main Street about the same distance away as the schools. Click on the picture to see a video of plant in operation. Click to hear a few resident comments at a California Energy Commission staff Hearing about the proposed enlargement. The residents believe and MMC staff confirmed that they want to build here because it would be cheaper to build here than somewhere else. MMC's bottom line is more important than
the health of the residents.
According to the neighbors the original project was never explained to them adequately. Only people within 500 feet were officially notified. Most people knew about it after it was built. The plant was placed practically in the Otay River, which is becoming Otay Valley County Regional Park. It is an ugly gray building visible from Montgomery High School across the river and the bridge between Chula Vista and San Diego on Beyer Way. Montgomery High School is a year round school and we observed the heat waves from this peaker every day during the warm summer months. It was used frequently until the owners went bankrupt. The plant is so inefficient that it costs more to operate than SDGE is willing to pay. In 2001 the owners applied to add an additional plant of 62.4 mw to the site. This was fought by the city of Chula Vista. The city sited among other concerns Cumulative Impacts. These arguments are valid for the current proposal. Those of us living in this section of the Southwest must deal with a large amount of diesel fumes and the particulate matter generated by Hanson's cement making operation in the river bottom. Any additional air pollution is significant in this specific location due to the cumulative effects. The zip code 91911 is number 3 in the county in quantity of criteria pollutants and number 7 in toxic pollutants. Our neighborhood does not deserve any more. It is rather odd that the city is not making the arguments they made against RAMCO again to fight this new proposal. The council authorized the sending of the RAMCO letter on June 5, 2001. Two of the current council members were on the council then. It is difficult to understand how they could now support a 100mw plant in the same spot. The neighbors want to see the existing plant torn down, BUT the owners want to replace it with a new plant of 100mw, which would be one-third more efficient and therefore able to provide a profit if it runs many more hours than the old plant. The new plant would be cleaner per megawatt. The problem is the total pollution per year would be greater because it would run more hours, and the total pollution per hour for four pollutants would be greater. The CEC thinks mitigating this extra pollution by giving the city money to convert some of its cars or install solar is adequate. The residents realize this may make a slight difference regionally but not protect their health at all. The neighbors want the CEC to do a study of existing health conditions in the closest impacted neighborhood. The staff wants to rely upon county Health data, which is inadequate in the resident's opinion. (Click here to hear the CEC staff explaination of Air Quality and the residents' concerns.) This would be a horrible precedent. The old plant already is a horrible precedent. As this table with information about 14 peakers approved in southern CA since 2001 shows. This plant is an anomaly, approved by a council that let the energy blackouts scare it into ignoring the well being of its citizens. The council realized its mistake when a year or so later the owners of the old plant applied to build another peaker on the same site. The council fought it until the owners withdrew their application. The project was called RAMCO. Councilman Jerry Rindone wrote an inspiring editorial for the Union Tribune explaining why the council opposed RAMCO. In this letter he states "Most agree that peaker plants adversely affect the air quality in the location where they are built." We certainly agree with this statement. This time around the city has applied as an intervener but stated that they have not officially made up their mind, because they need more facts? MMC Chula Vista 100mw 3.8 ac. 1200 ft.nearest residence:350 ft. CVESD pre-K 1,200', Albany Headstart 1,228', Otay Elem. 1,338', Otay Rec. 1,164' Montgomery Headstart 2,640', Montgomery Elementary 3,022', Otay Community Health Clinic 2,386', closest home on Date 2,853', Montgomery High School 2,008', closest San Diego house 1,638', Finney elem. 3,361', Loma Verde Elem. 4,067', Otay Apostolic Church and elem. school 2,074', just inside of a mile: MAAC Charter School, MAAC Headstart, Castle Park Middle, Castle Park High, Montgomery Middle, Silverwing Elementary,
As you can see the closest residential to any other peaker is 1,000 feet and the closest school is over 1300 feet. It is outrageous that this peaker was ever approved with 15 schools within a mile and residents within 350 feet. While the city officially has not made up its mind Councilman Rindone wrote this letter to the South County Economic Development Council who to their credit did not want to make a decision without knowing how the city and residents felt. Even more inappropriate Concilman McCann had his aide read a letter with almost the exact wording and his wholehearted approval to the CEC Commissioners present at a Public Informational Hearing at Otay Recreation Center on November 29, 2007. CEC staff has identified Air Quality, conflict with the planned Otay Valley Regional Park, Land Use (the site is zoned light industry), Soil and Water Resources, and Transmission and System Engineering as the major issues. Theresa Acerro, president of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association presented the names of 260 people (living and/or working nearby) who wanted the new plant located further away from residents and schools. She also requested that staff examine the Environmental and Social Justice issues of locating a plant so much closer to residents and schools than is the norm in California. (Demographic data on this part of Chula Vista .) She also asked for a more thorough analysis of the dangers posed by storing 12,000 gallons of aqueous ammonia on site with no evident safety precautions or notification to near-by workers and residents. Hartland Meat Co. has 77 employees who are in and out of the parking lot adjoining the peaker. An explosion or accidental spill or excessive ammonia slip would have the greatest negative effect upon them. A concern about the routing of trucks full of ammonia through city streets to refill this tank was another issue. The fact that the new plant would have two 70 foot tall exhaust stacks was another concern, because even though the prediction is that only the very tips would be visible from Albany Ave. There are residents considerably higher up on Hilltop Drive (within less than 3,000 feet) overlooking this site where they would be very visible. There are also residents 1,638 feet away in San Diego on top of a high bluff at the south side of the Otay River who most likely will be able to clearly see these stacks and the entire facility. This will give our neighborhoods the feeling of a factory town. Ms. Acerro's presentation can be read here or seen on video. The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) is an intervener opposing this project in this location. They agree with the near-by residents that it must be sited much further away from residents and schools. There are a number of other locations in San Diego that would be further from homes and schools. Even though MMC tried to convince everyone there was a specific need for energy in this specific location their engineer Mr. Bleu had to admit that anywhere in San Diego area would suffice . It is predicted that the demand in San Diego County will grow by 100mw per year. This ignores that the Calpine base load plant in Otay Mesa should soon be on line and San Diego has an excellent climate for using more solar and conservation to cut down the need for more than a few peakers that can be located in more appropriate locations than this location. Leo Miras represented the EHC at the Public Hearing on November 29, 2007. He made many important points.