Plan for Mission Rock ‘peaker’ plant brewing for more than two years

March 17, 2016
Santa Paula News

What started with a City Councilman’s request for more information two years ago has blossomed into a controversial project on Mission Rock Road now in the initial planning stages.

Two years ago then-Councilman Ralph Fernandez asked that an “update” on the unspecified Calpine Project be presented to the council on a future agenda. Then Vice Mayor and present City Councilman Jim Tovias seconded his motion.

The future agenda item for an update — requested at the March 17, 2014 meeting — was never brought back to the council.

The issue surfaced again last year when a July 22 letter to the editor of a county newspaper by Santa Paula resident Nicole Enriquez, addressed a hearing she attended in Oxnard regarding attempts to build a new “peaker” plant near the beach.

NRG Energy Inc. hopes to build a 262-megawatt power plant — the Puente Power Project — next to its existing 560-megawatt Mandalay Generating Station near Mandalay State Beach. The site also has a 45-megawatt “peaker” plant built by Southern California Edison in 2012, which the city of Oxnard unsuccessfully fought against for years. 

NRG also owns the 1,516-megawatt generating station at Ormond Beach. 

Enriquez, who attended the hearing in support of those opposing the NRG Energy plant, noted her dismay that a letter written by Tovias was read to the California Public Utilities Commission urging them to consider Mission Rock Road as the location for a “peaker” plant in lieu of Oxnard. 

Enriquez’s letter was posted July 22, the same day that Tovias, according to an article in the Pacific Coast Business Times, called editor Henry Dubroff to voice his support of locating a “peaker” plant on Mission Rock Road.

“The two-term city councilmember said he personally would support a project,” wrote Dubroff.

“Tovias said he sympathized with opponents of the NRG peaker because there is not really a need to locate the plant directly on the waterfront. “ ‘Because of new technology, why in the world continue to put plants on the coastline,’ said Tovias, stressing he was speaking as an individual and not for the city or Calpine,” Dubroff wrote. 

Limoneira, Dubroff’s article noted, had preliminarily talks with Calpine about the possibility of locating a power line to connect a prospective plant to a nearby substation. 

“Limoneira CEO Harold Edwards,” wrote Dubroff, “said any deal with Calpine for easements would likely involve the Limoneira Foundation and provide philanthropic benefits to the local community.”

In the wake of the Pacific Coast Business Times article the council was asked last year by public speakers about the Calpine “peaker” plant. 

Calpine, a Fortune 500 company based in Houston, is America’s largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources with a fleet of more than 80 power plants serving customers in 19 states and Canada. Its power plants in operation or under construction represent nearly 27,000 megawatts of generation capacity.

Since July, Delton Lee Johnson, Audrey Vincent on behalf of Santa Clara Valley Democratic Club President Julie White and Sheryl Hamlin brought the issue to the council’s attention.

At the August 17 meeting Johnson referred to Tovias’ remarks to Dubroff, who had written he was “surprised” that Tovias has contacted him.

“If he was surprised,” said Johnson, “the rest of us will be appalled,” that a Santa Paula representative would be trying to attract such an operation close to the city.

Johnson noted that “peaker” plants are only allowed in poor communities and he was upset that Santa Paula was again going to play host to an unwanted county project that would bring negative environmental, health, and visual impacts and harm the quality of life in the Santa Clara River Valley. 

At that meeting then-Mayor John Procter — noting the long process for such projects — said Santa Paula could only be considered if the Oxnard site was rejected by CPUC. 

In November Vincent read the letter from White noting, “The environmental consequences for the entire Santa Clara Valley would be disastrous: air pollution and its effects on human health, and the installation of massive high voltage lines through the valley, easements for which would be profitable for large land owners such as the Limoneira Corporation.”

On December 30, Mission Rock Energy Center, LLC filed an Application for Certification (AFC) to construct and operate an electrical generating facility just west of the city near the Santa Clara Waste Water-Green Compass plant, which exploded in November 2014. 

The new energy center facility according to the notice, “would be a natural gas-fired, simple-cycle power plant comprising five combustion turbine generators, with a nominal generating capacity of 255 megawatts (MW). Additionally, Mission Rock would house twenty (20) on-site ion battery units for the storage of electricity, providing an additional 25 MW/100 MWh (25 MW for up to 4 hours) of nominal capacity. The plant would also be fitted with a clutch system enabling synchronized condenser operation to provide voltage (VAR) support to the grid.”

A new 6.6-mile, 230-kV transmission line and a new 2.4-mile, 16-inch-diameter pipeline would run southwest from the Mission Rock Road site to interconnect with the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCal Gas) pipeline. According to the filing, “Process water for Mission Rock will be supplied by local agribusiness conglomerate, Limoneira Company. Limoneira will provide recycled lemon wash and sanitary sewer wastewater from their packinghouse and worker housing to supply Mission Rock. Limoneira’s wastewater treatment facility produces its recycled water, which will then be delivered to the Mission Rock site via a new 1.7-mile-long pipeline,” a maximum of 170-acre feet of Limoneira recycled water per year.

The water would require a 54-foot tall, 892,000-gallon storage tank to be constructed, sufficient for 32 hours of operation at full capacity.

“Industrial wastewater from cooling tower blow-down and other power plant processes would be discharged to an existing pipeline located along  

Shell Road, immediately adjacent to the Mission Rock site,” the Santa Clara Waste Water pipeline that connects to the City of Oxnard recycling plant. The permit with the city was pulled after the SCWW explosion; SCWW was already being questioned by Oxnard officials about the high level of radiation being found in the plant’s wastewater they later found was generated by SCWW. 

Mission Rock would provide a resource to balance the variability of renewable resources and satisfy peak energy and capacity needs during high load events. It would also support local electrical grid reliability and provide energy storage technology to meet the need for new and/or replacement local capacity in the Moorpark Subarea of the Big Creek/Ventura local reliability area of Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) service territory. 

The proposed project was docketed by the California Energy Commission February 11 and public agencies asked for comments due April 1.

According to Tovias’ interview with Dubroff, the siting would “also need full city council approval for power lines and a water supply to cool it’s gas-fired turbines” before the project could be approved, although the need for water no longer seems viable with the proposed agreement with Limoneira. 

“I think the state or somebody should have informed the City of Santa Paula about this application,” City Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi said Monday.

“We now have one council meeting (March 21) to have any review or discussion of this before the public agency comments are due on April 1.”

And, “I believe that people that live in Santa Paula should have an opportunity to weigh in on this, they haven’t even been told about it…”

Gherardi contacted the CEC Mission Rock project manager regarding the issue, as did Mayor Martin Hernandez.

In a letter to the editor of the Santa Paula Times, Hernandez wrote there will be a brief report on the issue at Monday’s meeting. A representative of Calpine, noted Hernandez, will appear before the council April 4. 

The CEC asked a variety of county, state and federal agencies to report by April 1 whether any additional information should be sought from Calpine on its Mission Rock Energy proposal. Reportedly, because it has no jurisdiction over the site, the city was not on the list of those notified. The CEC has extended the deadline to May 1 for city comments.

The community will have a chance to formally weigh in: according to the California Energy Commission, public hearings will be announced at least 10 days in advance of such meetings when they are scheduled. Public comment will also be accepted via the CEC website.

For an overview of the proposed project including potential impacts visit:

For more information email Mike Monasmith, Senior Project Manager Siting, Transmission and Environmental Protection (STEP) Division California Energy Commission: 

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