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For Immediate Release: May 15, 2008
Media Contact: Percy Della - 916-654-4989

Final Staff Assessment Out on Humboldt Power Plant


Sacramento - The staff of the California Energy Commission recommends licensing the 163-megawatt Humboldt Bay Repowering Project south of Eureka.

In releasing a final staff assessment (FSA) today, staff said the project as currently proposed would comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, regulations and standards, including the Coastal Act.

The FSA said environmental impacts from the project's construction and eventual operation could be mitigated to less than significant levels.

According to the FSA, the project meets the rules and requirements of the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District and will not add to the degradation of air quality. The FSA said the plant owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has identified all required emission reduction credits for operating the proposed project.

The FSA concludes that PG&E's proposed mitigation measures would reduce the health risks related to burning natural gas and occasionally diesel fuel from the plant to below levels of significance. These include raising the exhaust stacks from 75 feet to 100 feet to improve air dispersion; and reducing the hours of operation from 1,000 to 510 hours a year combined for all 10 16.3-MW reciprocating engine-generator sets when the plant switches fuel from natural gas to diesel to produce electricity.

Staff is recommending that PG&E be required to update its Health Risk Assessment based on data collected from periodic emission tests to make sure the plant does not pose a cancer risk to the public because of diesel fuel usage. Diesel fuel will be used when natural gas supply for power generation is curtailed on occasion during winter in Humboldt County to maintain adequate supply to residents and businesses during peak demand periods.

The Humboldt Bay Repowering Project is about three miles south of the city of Eureka, on 5.4 acres within a 143-acre parcel currently occupied by the existing PG&E Humboldt Bay Power Plant –California's first and only power plant that combines natural gas or fuel oil-fired conventional and nuclear-fueled steam turbine-generator technologies.

The nuclear portion of the facility has not operated since 1976 and is undergoing decommissioning. The project will replace the existing Units 1 and 2 (105-MW combined) and the two 15-MW Mobile Emergency Power Plants at PG&E's Humboldt Bay Power Plant site with 10 16.3-megawatt reciprocating engines.

Because of the historic nature of the combined conventional fuel and nuclear plant, staff has recommended that PG&E compile a historical record consisting of drawings, photos and written documentation of the plant before it is demolished.

The FSA is not a decision or proposed decision on the Humboldt Bay Repowering Project. The document represents the Energy Commission staff's thorough and independent assessment of the project's potential impacts on the environment, public health and safety, and serves as the functional equivalent of an environmental impact report under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The document will serve as staff's testimony at an evidentiary hearing to be conducted by the hearing officer and the committee of two commissioners reviewing this case scheduled for June 17th beginning at 10:00 am at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka.

Since deregulation occurred in 1998, the Energy Commission has licensed or given small power plant exemptions to 66 power plants, totaling 25,226 MW. Thirty-eight licensed power plants are in operation, producing 13,087 MW. Since Governor Schwarzenegger took office, 20 of these power plants, totaling 7,530 MW have been approved. In addition, 18 power plant projects are active in the Energy Commission's review process, representing 7,077 MW.

More information on the Humboldt Bay Repowering Project is available at:

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

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