CEC Could Approve Oakley Plant Next Month

By Published On: April 1, 2011

The proposed 624 MW Oakley Generating Station, which stumbled through preliminary assessments by the California Energy Commission staff in recent months, might now be poised to win commission approval. The fossil-fuel plant is controversial due to its cost, ownership, and environmental impact. In the latest evidentiary hearing in the case, March 25, commission staff recommended that the project be approved. Staff provided evidence supporting its case, including multiple assessments and compliance by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Staff noted that under the proposed certification conditions, the plant wouldn’t cause any significant adverse environmental impacts--a reversal of the findings of a two-part preliminary staff assessment released in December and January, 2010. “The siting committee reviewing Oakley plans to publish the presiding member’s proposed decision in April, with the intent to bring the proposed decision to the full commission in May,” Sandy Louey, CEC spokesperson said. Last year, commission staff wrote that they were unsure if the project would conform to all applicable air quality laws or cause significant impacts to local biological resources. But since then, the applicant, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Danville-based Radback Energy, modified its plans to address commission concerns. The plant is to be owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. “Staff reviewed public health and safety in all of the applicable technical areas, and in each section concluded that the Oakley Generating Station would not adversely impact public health and safety,” commission senior counsel Kevin Bell said. A boost to the project’s chances for approval came during a March 15 public hearing in Oakley where numerous residents and public officials, including Mayor Jim Frazier, testified that they supported the plant because of the jobs it would bring to the city. During his comments, Frazier said the project was “absolutely critical” to Oakley. In testimony to the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee March 14, California Public Utilities Commission president Mike Peevey explained to legislators that regulators were persuaded to support the facility despite controversy, in part due to local support. The $1.5 billion project was approved by the CPUC in December 2010 on a 4-1 vote after initially being rejected last July as unnecessary. The subsequent approval was due in part to the applicant pushing the plant’s projected online date back by two years to 2016. Multiple environmental and ratepayer groups, including the Division for Ratepayer Advocates, have asked the CPUC to reconsider its approval.

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