Request for Committee Adoption of Staff's Proposed 4-Month Schedule
[California Energy Commission Letterhead]


STATE OF CALIFORNIA

Energy Resources
Conservation and Development Commission



In the Matter of:                   )      Docket No. 01-AFC-18
                                    )
Application for Certification       )      Request for Committee Adoption of
of the Henrietta Peaker             )      Staff's Proposed 4-Month Schedule
Project (HPP) GWF, LLC              )
____________________________________)

 

I. Introduction

On August 27, 2001, GWF Energy, LLC (GWF) filed an Application for Certification (AFC) with the California Energy Commission (Commission) seeking to construct the proposed Henrietta Peaker Project (HPP), a 91.4 megawatt natural gas-fired simple-cycle electric generating facility. The AFC was accepted as complete for the 4-month and 12-month processes on October 17, 2001. On October 25, 2001, the Commission's Committee assigned to the HPP issued a Notice of Public Informational Hearing and Site Visit. Included in this notice was a draft schedule for the review of the project entitled "Henrietta Accelerated 4-month AFC Schedule." This draft schedule would allow only 84 days for staff to complete a review of the project and for the Commission to issue a final decision on the Presiding Member's Proposed Decision.

Staff respectfully urges the Committee not to adopt such an accelerated schedule. Staff instead proposes a schedule based upon the standard four-month review authorized by section 25552 and respectfully requests that the Committee adopt this proposed schedule for the reasons set forth below.

II. An Accelerated Schedule Would Jeopardize Staff's
Ability to Perform an Adequate CEQA Analysis

  1. Staff needs the full four months to review this project

    On May 22, 2001, the Governor signed into law SB 28x, which among other things, amended Public Resources Code section 25552 to require the Commission to implement a procedure, consistent with CEQA, to expedite decisions on simple-cycle thermal powerplants that could be put into service on or before December 31, 2002. As amended, section 25552(c) requires a decision on such projects within four months from the date on which the Commission deems the application complete, or a later time as mutually agreed to by the Commission and the applicant.

    One of the requirements under section 25552 is that an application for a four-month process demonstrate that the proposed powerplant will, within three years, either cease to operate or convert to a cogeneration or combined cycle thermal powerplant. (Pub. Resources Code, 25552(e)(5)(B).) Arguably this requirement is meant to ensure that simple cycle facilities, which are less efficient than combined-cycle facilities, only operate long enough to get California out of the energy crisis. Presumably, after three years enough base-load combined cycle plants will have been built to meet California's demands. The apparent theory is that at that point there will be less of a need for less efficient, potentially more polluting peaker plants. Therefore, even though staff's ability to analyze the potential impacts of peaker projects might be compromised by a four-month schedule, such projects would either cease to operate after three years, and thus cease impacts, or would have to undergo some form of additional analysis when they convert to a combined cycle or cogeneration facility. To reduce the schedule further by more than a third (from 120 days to 84 days) is to compromise staff's ability severely.

    Staff is concerned that there are potentially major issues in the areas of Air Quality, Land Use, and Socioeconomics. As noted in staff's Issues Identification Report, staff will need to perform additional air quality modeling to determine the potential impacts due to construction emissions. This is a particularly sensitive topic given that the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has not made progress towards attainment in several pollutant categories and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has downgraded the area to severe non-attainment for ozone. This issue could require some time to resolve. In the area of Land Use, staff will require time to analyze the impacts of the cancellation of the Williamson Act contract and the resulting loss of agricultural land. Additionally, staff will need to analyze whether heightened security at the nearby Lemoore Naval Air Station will impact the proposed project, or vice versa. In the area of Socioeconomics staff is awaiting information to satisfy the section 25552(d)(3) requirement for skilled labor contracts. All of these issues are outstanding and could take some time to resolve.

    Staff has concluded that the project qualifies to stay in the four-month process and is not here claiming that it no longer qualifies. Staff merely wishes to convey that, in order to perform a proper analysis and ensure effective mitigation, the full four months is required. Due to the high number of projects currently under review at the Commission (twelve projects under 12-month review, five simple-cycle projects under 4-month review, two projects under 6-month review, and more expected to be filed during staff's review of this project) and the recent hiring freeze imposed by the Governor, staff is unlikely to be able to perform an adequate review in less than four months.

  2. The draft schedule does not allow sufficient time to analyze the project

    According to the draft schedule, staff would be required to file its one and only staff assessment by November 21, 2001, which is approximately twenty days from the issuance of this document. On October 22, 2001, staff issued sixty-three data requests. Staff is still awaiting the applicant's responses to those requests. Even assuming a best case scenario in which staff received the data responses by November 8, 2001, staff would only have nine working days in which to review the information submitted, consult with affected agencies, and write the staff assessment. Even if this were the only case that staff were working on, this still would not be feasible. The schedule allows no time to properly notice and conduct a data response workshop for staff to seek clarification on the responses, or for the applicant to provide clarifying information, for staff to analyze this information and incorporate it into the staff assessment. Additionally, the schedule does not allow staff time to analyze unanticipated issues that often arise due to agency or public comments.

III. An Accelerated Schedule Would Limit the Public's and Other Agencies' Opportunity to Actively Participate in the Project Review

As mentioned above, the draft schedule does not allow time for staff to effectively conduct workshops. Workshops not only give staff an opportunity to seek clarification on project components, they also afford the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, to ask staff questions, and to make comments about the project. Staff has found public comments invaluable in unearthing potential impacts that staff, not living in the project vicinity, may not know about. Additionally, one of the major tenets of the Warren-Alquist Act, Public Resources Code section 25500 et seq., is that staff coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that all laws, ordinances, regulations and standards are complied with. Given the complexity of a power generation facility, even a simple-cycle one, the accelerated schedule would not allow for this to occur in any meaningful way.

The draft schedule shows December 28th as the due date for any final general plan amendment, zoning ordinance, and/or conditions required by local agencies. This is more than one month after staff's assessment is due and is well after the evidentiary hearings and issuance of the Presiding Member's Proposed Decision (PMPD) is scheduled. Such a sequence of events allows agencies no opportunity for meaningful input to staff's assessment and the PMPD.

IV. An Accelerated Schedule is Not Necessary

The Henrietta Peaker Project is currently proposed to go on line in the summer of 2002. This is well ahead of the December 31, 2002 deadline mandated in section 25552. Even if the certification process took the full four months, the project would not come close to exceeding this deadline. Staff's proposed schedule puts a final decision for this project at February 13, 2002. According to the AFC, it will take five months to construct the project. This means that construction should be finished by the middle of July, well before the section 25552 deadline.

The applicant anticipated a 4-month review schedule when it filed its AFC. Staff is not aware of any petition from the applicant to shorten the already expedited 4-month schedule. Staff, however, is committed to reviewing this project as expeditiously as possible, but tying staff's hands to an accelerated schedule at the very beginning of the process, without good cause, is not in the interest of the Commission or the people of California.

V. Conclusion

For the reasons cited above, staff requests that the Committee adopt staff's proposed schedule for the review and certification of the Henrietta Peaker Project.

 

DATED:    November 5, 2001		Respectfully submitted,



                                        ____________________
                                        LISA M. DECARLO
                                        Staff Counsel

 

 

Energy Commission Staff's Proposed Schedule
   
DAY NUMBER DATE EVENT
  August 27 Application filed
Day 0 October 17 CEC determines Data Adequacy
Day 5 October 22 Staff files Data Requests
Day 14 October 31 Final DOC Issued by San
Joaquin AQMD
Day 16 November 2 Staff Files Issue Identification
Report
Day 16 November 2 Staff's recommendation on
eligibility for 4-mo. Process
Day 22 November 8 Information Hearing & Site Visit
Day 28 November 14 Applicant files Data Responses
Day 35 November 21 Workshop on Issues, & Data
Responses
Day 58 December 14 Staff files Assessment
Day 78 January 3 Workshop on Staff Assessment
Day 83 January 8 Staff files addendum to
Assessment
    Committee Hearings
    Proposed Decision
Day 119 February 13 Final Decision






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