Energy Commission Won’t Reconsider Russell City Project

By Published On: November 9, 2007

Calpine’s plans to build the 600 MW Russell City Energy Center in Hayward moved a step closer to reality this week after the California Energy Commission unanimously voted to deny petitions to intervene and reopen the proceeding in which the agency approved the project. The vote could clear the way for the plant to become operational as early as 2010. On November 7, the commission heard petitions by Alameda County, the Chabot-Los Positas Community College District, and a collective of homeowners and others who wanted it to reconsider its September 26 approval of the power plant at an 18.8-acre industrial site. Specifically, the petitions sought to reopen the administrative proceeding and the evidentiary record, as well as ask for reconsideration of the commission’s decision and for a stay on construction of the plant. The petitioners argued that the commission did not give enough notice on the matter and that numerous parties, including Alameda County officials, had not received prior notification. “The County is telling you that the process that led to this has been flawed,” assistant Alameda County counsel Brian Washington told the commission. However, an attorney for the project applicant argued that notice had been sent to seven different Alameda County governmental agencies. Commissioner John Geesman pointed out that the power plant had been written about at least 20 times in the Oakland Tribune since it was first proposed more than five years ago. Yet, in its intervention petition, the community college district argued that it should have received formal notice, but did not. The district asked for a 120-day stay in the commission’s decision to license the project. Commissioners voted against the stay after William Chamberlain, commission chief counsel, contended that Chabot College, which is about 1.5 miles from the proposed plant site, did receive some type of formal notice about the project. “No one can argue that this [process] wasn’t very public,” said Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, commission chair. The commission originally approved the facility in 2002, but it was tabled because of an inability by its developer, Calpine, to secure a power purchase contract. Calpine and GE Energy Financial Services have since entered a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric. Also during the meeting, the Commission unanimously approved its Final Joint Committees Strategic Transmission Investment Plan. The report identifies and recommends actions aimed at executing transmission investments to ensure reliability, relieve congestion, and meet future growth in load and generation, including renewable resources. “I think we need to make this a prominent part of our next Energy Action Plan meeting,” Geesman suggested.

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