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For Immediate Release: November 29, 2007
Media Contact: Percy D. Della - 916-654-4989

Preliminary staff assessment released on
power plant repowering project in Humboldt County


Sacramento - The California Energy Commission staff cannot recommend licensing the Humboldt Bay Repowering Project at this time, a preliminary staff assessment (PSA) said today.

The staff assessment concludes that based on currently available information, the project as proposed could cause a significant cancer risk to the public. The plant owner has proposed to fire up the plant's new generators with diesel fuel to ensure local area electric reliability when natural gas, normally available for power generation, is curtailed in the Humboldt County region as required by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The PSA states that staff and the plant owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Company disagree on the number of hours that the project would be able to burn diesel fuel based on interpretation of air quality rules and regulations, and that affects the determination of project impacts.

Because the PSA has identified a potential significant risk to public health, the PSA concludes that staff "cannot fully determine" that the project is compatible with adjacent residential areas and farmlands.

The staff believes there are several options that the applicant should pursue to reduce the risk to public health.

  • Reduce diesel particulate emissions from the stacks with post combustion controls such as diesel particulate filters or catalysts;


  • Use alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas stored on-site or compressed or liquefied natural gas or propane stored at another location, or;


  • Use alternative technologies such as combustion turbines that could reduce emission impacts.

Energy Commission staff will work to resolve the outstanding issues and to update its preliminary conclusions for the Final Staff Assessment. Staff will be conducting a public workshop on the PSA at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2007, at the Assembly Room of Humboldt Bay Power Plant.

The preliminary staff assessment evaluates 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) in either January or February 2008. But due to complexities of the air quality and public health issues, the schedule "may not be realized," the PSA said.

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. Energy Commissioner John Geesman is the committee's presiding member, and Commissioner Jeffrey Byron 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 proposed 163-megawatt project, about three miles south of the city of Eureka, would be located on the same parcel as the existing Humboldt Bay Power Plant. It would be situated at 1000 King Salmon Avenue on 5.4 acres within a 143-acre parcel currently occupied by the existing PG&E Humboldt Bay Power Plant. The project will replace the existing 105-MW Units 1 and 2 and the two 15-MW Mobile Emergency Power Plants at PG&E's Humboldt Bay Power Plant site. More information on the HBRP is available at:

http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/humboldt/index.html

Since deregulation occurred in 1998, the Energy Commission has licensed or given small power plant exemptions to 63 power plants, totaling 23,546 MW. Forty licensed power plants are in operation, producing 13,087 MW. Since Governor Schwarzenegger took office, 18 of these power plants, totaling 6,913 MW, have been approved. In addition 19 power plant projects are active in the Energy Commission's review process, representing 7, 671 MW. More information about Energy Commission power plant projects is available at:

www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/all_projects.html

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