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Sierra Club
Residents fight proposed Calpine power plant
by Helen Englesberg

  Calpine peaker power plant in Pajaro
  Site of the proposed Calpine peaker power plant in Pajaro. Imagine an 80-foot high smokestack on a building in this floodplain.
Residents of Pajaro and the surrounding northern Monterey county community have been working to stop the construction of a proposed 45-megawatt power plant on the flood plain in a redevelopment zone. Residents are questioning whether this plant is in the best interest of the community and are concerned about the impact on the environmental and economic health of Pajaro.

The Calpine Plant will use a substantial amount of water. At the present time, the Pajaro valley suffers from serious overdraft and salt water intrusion. Measure N, which was passed last year by the voters, gave the Pajaro Water Management Agency the authority to construct a pipeline to import water specifically for agriculture. At the present time, no water contracts have been signed, and there is no pipeline.

Other issues of concern include noise, air quality, unfunded cost of the infrastructure necessary for the building and operation of the plant and environmental justice. The area where the plant is proposed is a low-income neighborhood where many residents are Spanish speaking.

Whether or not such a peaker plant is even needed is questioned by many. The proposed site is within five miles of the state’s largest natural-gas power plant at Moss Landing which has enough excess capacity to offer discounted power for the operation of a desalinization plant proposed for Moss Landing.

Monterey County Planning Staff have recommended that the Planning Commission adopt a mitigated negative declaration based on a Revised Initial Study. An EIR has not been recommended. Residents are concerned about the quality of the study since the biological field survey was conducted in September. They have been told that the September choice is justified because there is little likelihood of finding special status species on the disturbed site.

The Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club has requested a full EIR as required by CEQA for a project of this magnitude.
The hearing for the permit to build this power plant is tentatively scheduled for November 13th. Agendas and staff reports are available at here. Opponents of the plant urge concerned people to attend this hearing and also write to the Monterey Planning Commission Members and the Board of Supervisors. For more information, contact Helen Englesberg. 768-9837.
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