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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2005
Contact: Chris Davis - 916-654-4989

Energy Commission Report Suggests Changes to Blythe II Power Plant Project

Sacramento - The Final Staff Assessment of the Blythe Energy Project Phase II recommends several changes be made in the proposal before the California Energy Commission considers whether to approve it. The staff has concerns related to airport safety at the nearby Blythe Airport, the impact on resources of the proposed facilitys use of groundwater, and the hazards to migratory birds and wildlife posed by evaporation ponds. In addition, the Final Staff Assessment of the Blythe Energy Project Phase II says that an accurate description of how the power plant would interconnect with the electricity transmission system is needed for the Energy Commission staff and the California Independent System Operator to determine whether the power plant would have negative impacts on the regional transmission system.

In each case, the Energy Commission staff offers recommendations that might be employed to allow the project to go forward at an alternate site. For instance, the applicant is asked to provide appropriate transmissions system engineering information and a complete description of how the project would interconnect to the system.

Instead of using water to cool the turbines that would be pumped from an overtaxed groundwater system connected to the Colorado River, the Energy Commission staff suggests that the project switch to dry cooling or to using agricultural runoff that could be purchased from the Palo Verde Irrigation District. In the latter case, the report says that a plan to conserve enough water to make up for the water used to cool the power plant would be necessary. The staff document suggests the alternate approach is necessary because the deep wells called for by the current proposal to cool the power plant could have a significant cumulative impact on aquifers connected to the Colorado River system. The proposed wells could also adversely affect the quality of water for residents of the nearby Palo Verde Mesa area who are dependent on domestic wells for their drinking water supplies.

Instead of exposing birds and wildlife to the high levels of selenium and salt that were recently measured in the evaporation ponds of the power plant that is already operating at the adjacent site, the Final Staff Assessment suggests that the Blythe II project switch to a zero liquid discharge system, eliminating the need for evaporation ponds.

Because the proposed Blythe II project would be located inside the safety zone for Blythe Airport, the Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission has concluded that the power plant would be inconsistent with the Blythe Airport Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Thermal plumes from the power plants cooling towers could present a hazard to small aircraft, especially those with inexperienced pilots. As a result, the Final Staff Assessment recommends that the applicant choose an alternate site for the new power plant.

The Final Staff Assessment for the Blythe Energy Project Phase II is located on the Energy Commission website at:

www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/blythe2/documents

The Final Staff Assessment does not represent a decision or proposed decision on the Blythe Energy Project Phase II. It represents the staffs independent analysis of the projects potential impacts on the environment, public health and safety, the transmission system and compliance with applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards. The document will also serve as the staffs testimony at Evidentiary Hearings to be held by the Committee overseeing this case. Following the Evidentiary Hearings, the Committee will write a proposed decision. The proposed decision would then be presented to the full Energy Commission for a final decision.

As proposed, the Blythe Energy Project Phase II would be a natural gas-fired, combined-cycle, 520 megawatt generation station. The site for Blythe II is 76 acres next to the operating Blythe Energy Project Phase I. While Blythe I is owned by Florida Power and Light, Blythe II is proposed by a separate company, Caithness Blythe II, LLC. Still, the two power plants could share some facilities, such as control, administration and maintenance buildings, a surface-water-runoff-retention basin and access road.

Public participation is an important part of the Energy Commissions power plant licensing process. To find out how to get involved and make comments on this case, contact the Energy Commissions Public Adviser, Margret J. Kim, at (800) 822-6228, or by e-mail at

pao@energy.state.ca.us

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Reporter notes:

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