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For Immediate Release: August 1, 2007
Media Contact: Claudia Chandler - 916-654-4989

Energy Commission Releases Preliminary Staff Assessment of
Colusa Generating Station Power Project

Sacramento - A California Energy Commission staff report concludes that environmental issues must be addressed before the proposed Colusa Generating Station (CGS) can be recommended for licensing.

The preliminary staff assessment (PSA) indicated that most of the proposed power plant's environmental impacts are being reduced to "less-than-significant" levels. However, issues regarding land use, worker safety and fire protection, hazardous materials, water and electric transmission engineering must be resolved.

The PSA serves as the staff's evaluation of the environmental, engineering, and public health and safety impacts of the proposed power plant project. After the 30-day comment period closes, the Energy Commission staff will respond to all comments and release a final staff assessment (FSA).

At its release, the FSA will provide the foundation for staff's testimony at evidentiary hearings to be held by the committee of two commissioners reviewing this case. Commissioner John Geesman is the committee's presiding member, and Vice Chair James Boyd is the associate member. The committee will then issue a proposed decision based on evidence presented at the hearings. The proposed decision will be presented to the full Energy Commission for a final decision.

The CGS is a proposed 660-megawatt, combined-cycle generating plant that would be situated on a 31-acre portion of a 100-acre parcel of the Holthouse Ranch property, about 14 miles north of Williams in Colusa County.

Each technical area assessed in the PSA includes a discussion of the existing environmental setting; the project's conformance with laws, ordinances, regulations and standards (LORS); whether the facility can be constructed and operated safely and reliably; project-specific direct and cumulative impacts; the environmental consequences of the project using the proposed mitigation measures; conclusions and recommendations, and any proposed conditions of certification under which the project should be constructed and operated, should it be approved.

In summary this PSA finds that:

  • The CGS does not comply with the Colusa County general plan and would require a height variance. Construction of an electric power plant would also require a county general plan amendment and zoning change for the site.
  • Energy Commission staff is evaluating data responses from project applicant E&L Westcoast LLC on the project's possible impacts to the Western Area Power Administration's transmission system. Staff's analysis on the CGS project's impacts to the Western transmission system will be published in the FSA.
  • The volunteer Maxwell Fire Protection District expressed concerns about not having enough staff, equipment or funding to fight fires and hazardous material accidents at the power plant site.
  • Energy Commission staff requires evidence of a three-party agreement among E&L Westcoast, the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District and Colusa County that would provide a reliable long-term water supply for the power plant.

If the Colusa Generating Station receives a license from the Energy Commission, project construction is scheduled to occur over 24 months, beginning in early 2008. The proposed facility would begin generating electricity by the spring of 2010. The construction cost is estimated between $450 million and $500 million. The PSA for the Colusa Generating Station is available on the Energy Commission's website: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/colusa/index.html

Since deregulation occurred in 1998, the Energy Commission has licensed or given small power plant exemptions to 63 power plants, totaling 23,549 MW. Thirty-eight licensed power plants are in operation, producing 12,910 MW. Since Gov. Schwarzenegger took office, 18 of these power plants, totaling 6,913 MW, have been approved. In addition, 17 power plant projects are active in the Energy Commission's review process, representing 6,654 MW. More information about the Energy Commission's power plant projects is available at: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/all_projects.html

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