Southern California Edison has decided against building its proposed Puente facility, a new gas-fired peaker plant in the Oxnard area of southern California. According to the Ventura County Star, SCE believes its future energy needs can be better met by a new transmission line coupled with electricity from renewable sources and a battery backup installation.
Previously, SCE had been negotiating with NRG Energy on the construction of a new 262 MW natural gas peaker plant in Oxnard, a plan the city of Oxnard opposed. “Edison is not interested in a long-term contract with a 250-megawatt project,” said Chris Williamson, an Oxnard consultant who has been working on the city’s opposition to a coastal power plant. “The beast is dead.”
The new plan will need approval from the California Independent Systems Operator and the California Public Utilities Commission. It was submitted to the PUC last week. The utility company acknowledges that a new transmission line will be vulnerable to earthquakes and wildfires like the ones that hit nearby earlier this month and claimed the home of CleanTechnica contributing editor Kyle Field. But it believes the new proposal is an efficient use of resources as the new line will be built in a corridor adjacent to other transmission infrastructure. At most, a new peaker plant less than one tenth the size of the one proposed by NRG would be needed to meet all energy needs in the area.
Calpine Corporation is proposing another 275 MW gas-powered plant to be located nearby to Oxnard on the Santa Clara river, an idea that has set off a storm of criticism. In November, a 1,300-page staff report found the new plant would pose significant air quality impacts — despite all the rhetoric from fossil fuel interest that calls natural gas a “bridge fuel” to a low or zero carbon future.
Calling natural gas a “bridge to the future” is a deliberately deceptive and misleading concept dreamed up by fossil fuel companies. It means, “Natural gas is better than coal, so let’s use it while we wait for renewable energy to become commercially viable.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Although natural gas burns cleaner than coal, the fracking needed to get the gas out of the ground imposes significant human health risks on surrounding communities. Fracking also is responsible for massive amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere. Methane is 12 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Unless Calpine can find a source of pollution credits it can purchase, the project appears to be a non-starter.
That plan is also vigorously opposed by the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, which views the proposed plant as a threat to the Santa Clara River and its habitat. “This river is considered a vital life source,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, an Earthjustice attorney representing the foundation. “The Chumash people have been living along this river since time immemorial. There is a real impact to Chumash culture and their connection to their vital life source.”
She believes the time to build a fossil fuel plant has passed. “The state of California is moving away from fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. Mission Rock is out of step with what the policymakers and the state of California want. There is no argument that we don’t need a new fossil fuel resource in that area.”
The same message is pertinent to all government officials who say they support the goals of the Paris climate accords. Fossil fuels in all forms threaten human health and the ability of the earth to support life as we know it. Every effort to eliminate them as the primary source of power for electricity and transportation deserves the full support of every citizen of the earth along with their elected representatives.