For Immediate Release: June 2, 2009
Media Contact: Percy Della - 916-654-4989

Final staff assessment released for the Avenal Energy project

SACRAMENTO -- The staff of the California Energy Commission is recommending approval of the planned Avenal Energy project in Kings County.

In its final staff assessment (FSA), Commission staff said the 600-megawatt facility conforms to all laws, ordinances, regulations and standards (LORS). With the effective implementation of the proposed conditions of certification, the plant can be constructed and operated safely and reliably, said the document.

The Avenal Energy project will be constructed on an agricultural site rezoned for industrial uses. The FSA said all biological, soil, water and agricultural impacts have been fully mitigated to a less than significant level, not only for the project site but also for the construction laydown areas.

Avenal Energy's interconnection to the grid follows all LORS and its use of dry cooling technology coupled with a Zero Liquid Discharge system will decrease water use by over 97% from its original design of evaporative cooling.

The FSA said the project has complied with the rules and requirements of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and has identified sufficient emission reduction credits.

The proposed facility was also evaluated for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions consistent with a recent Energy Commission Order Instituting Informational proceeding which provided guidance for fulfilling its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) responsibilities for power plant siting projects. It is expected that the California Air Resources Board will develop regulations requiring mitigation of power plant GHG emissions in the future.

The FSA is not a decision or proposed decision on Avenal Energy. 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 its compliance with all LORS including those that would apply to the project under the Commission's exclusive licensing jurisdiction. The FSA provides the detailed environmental impact assessment required by CEQA.

The document will serve as staff's testimony at an evidentiary hearing currently scheduled for July 7, 2009 by the hearing officer and the committee of two commissioners reviewing this case.

Project owner Avenal Power Center, LLC of Houston, Texas plans to develop the Avenal Energy project on 34 acres of a 148-acre site zoned for industrial use just south of the Fresno County line and two miles east of Interstate 5. The proposed project is six miles from the City of Avenal's residential and commercial districts.

If licensed by the Energy Commission, the $530-million power facility will begin construction in April 2010, with initial startup in October 2011 and full commercial operation by June 2012.

More information on the Avenal Energy project is available on the Energy Commission website at:

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