A gas-fired power plant for Carlsbad

Utilities commissioner sides with SDG&E, trumps judge's recommendation

The California Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 Thursday morning (May 21) to approve a slightly scaled-down version of a gas-fired power plant proposed for construction along the Carlsbad coast.

"This decision is just more of the same from the [public utilities commission]. What they did today will lock San Diego into paying for a multi-billion dollar gas plant, a proposal that was drafted behind closed doors," said Sierra Club lawyer Matt Vespa in a release following the vote. "By allowing this gas plant to be built, we are stifling San Diego's clean energy potential, job growth, and ambitious efforts to reduce pollution that exacerbates health issues and climate change."

San Diego Gas & Electric had originally hoped to partner with Texas-based NRG Energy to build a 600-megawatt facility to replace up to 800 megawatts of energy generation lost with the shuttering of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Environmentalists and other watchdog groups quickly cried foul, noting that SDG&E had received numerous bids to replace the lost power using renewable sources, something it had been instructed to consider as a "preferred" option. The utility refuses to release the list of bids it received in a request for proposals before submitting the application for the new Carlsbad plant.

Utilities commission president Michael Picker stepped in following an administrative law judge's recommendation to deny the project and look again at renewables, penning a revised decision (approved today) scaling the facility back from 600 megawatts of capacity to 500, and allowing the project to move forward.

The decision was not unexpected — earlier this month activists and local officials gathered in Solana Beach to protest the proposed decision. Event speakers questioned the motives of the commission and Picker specifically.

"Given the commission's issues with transparency, this turn of events doesn't pass the smell test," said Solana Beach city councilmember Peter Zahn at the time.

Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval cast the lone dissenting vote against the Carlsbad project, stating that more time should be given to consider greener alternatives, including a further downsizing of the gas plant. She indicated her intention to file a dissent, while environmental groups have already hinted that legal action is in the works.

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Dave: You have done a very good job covering this smelly deal. With the CPUC's lack of scruples right out in public view, you would think the commission would be hesitant to overrule an administrative law judge on this one. The commissioners' arrogance suggests they figure they have the backing of the governor, no matter how outrageously they behave. Best, Don Bauder

Thanks, Don, for the vote of confidence. One would indeed think that the CPUC would at least follow their own mandate to look at preferred sources before ramming this plant through. After hearing from some of the players involved, I imagine there will be plenty more wrangling ahead before ground is broken.

Wasn't the Sunrise Power Link supposed to bring supplies of power in from the east and from Mexico? And I recall that it was supposed to make use of solar and other sources of power that were, if not green, at least not based on coal or oil. The link was completed at least two years ago, probably longer, and now SDGE is totally silent on its value and the fact that it should be capable of offsetting much of that lost SONGS power. Nobody at the CPUC is asking questions that should be asked about that costly and controversial power line. Is it bringing in any power? And if it is, from what sources? Questions, questions.

There has been some solar development in the Imperial Valley, though not nearly to the extent SDG&E had projected. Other projects in the Laguna Mountains were cancelled just prior to construction when SDG&E made a last-minute increase in connection fees that killed their viability. There are also some rumblings of building new gas plants just south of the border...

This is yet another case where the CPUC is doing what is best for the Utility and their shareholders instead of what is best of the rest of US, which is why SoCal has some of the highest priced energy (see image) in the USA, despite having some of, if not the best, weather in the USA. If we really had Political over site, then the CPUC would be forbidden from making any decisions until the investigation into their dealing with the Utilities has been completed.

If all this (ratepayer) money was spent installing rooftop solar SoCal would be far more energy efficient and much farther along toward meeting our Greenhouse Gas goals.

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Thanks to the CPUC backdoor dealings, every SoCal Ratepayer is now on the HOOK for $1000 or more because of San Onofre and this will add even greater "debt" upon all of US…

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How about asking SDG&E "on the record" if they knew anything about the CPUC "secret" deal discussions with SCE, since they are trying very hard to stay out of the public discussion. Since they would be a party to any settlement (which include giving ratepayer money to Berkeley) it only makes sense that SDG&E was also a party to these highly suspect discussions, and had full knowledge of them BEFORE the settlement discussions were held in "public".

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The entire process is rigged as the ongoing investigation into San Onofre clearly illustrates. Also remember that even Governor Browns sister is on the Board of Sempra, so that is yet another "connection" that that needs to be included in what I call SanOnofreGate

===> #SanOnofreGate. (This new Twitter hashtag will allow you to keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff). Just enter the hashtag into the Twitter search box: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23sanonofregate&src=typd

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