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Council alters power plant standards

CARLSBAD — City Council members voted unanimously to change power plant standards, which would raise more barriers for future coastal power plants. Audience members who applauded the final decision were those against NRG Energy’s proposed Carlsbad Energy Center Project.
Previous city criteria did not address the generation or transmission of electrical energy in relation to size, location or conductor restriction. But that’s not the case anymore.
The power plant standard changes made amendments to city documents such as the general plan and zoning ordinance, which would affect properties designated as a utility or zoned public utility.
“The proposal tonight is to define Carlsbad’s standards regarding the generation of power both in the coastal zone and outside the coastal zone,” said Scott Donnell, city staff member.
Donnell pointed out that the changes do not designate any additional properties for public utilities but rather refine existing standards that affect various properties.
“If these standards are approved, they may require the state, specifically the California Energy Commission, to adopt overriding findings should the Energy Commission choose to approve a plan that does not comply with the city of Carlsbad requirements,” he said.
A critical part of implemented change, Donnell said, was establishing 50 megawatts as a threshold.
Proposals that generate less than 50 megawatts are subject to city jurisdiction. The city would not be authorized to review or approve a higher number than this. Instead, a larger than 50 megawatt plant proposal would be sent to a state jurisdiction.
Donnell said a perfect example of this is the Carlsbad Energy Center Project who has an application pending before the State Energy Commission. The 558-megawatt proposed project location would be on the eastern side of the Encina Power Station.
“The city of Carlsbad of course has been an active opponent of that project,” Donnell said.
Scott Valentino, a NRG Energy representative, told City Council that the Carlsbad Energy Center Project would enable them to remove the Encina Power Station.
“If the new one isn’t built the old one is staying put,” he said.
Group members from Power of Vision who oppose NRG’s Energy plan also addressed the city council.
“I would like to encourage the council to support the recommendations made by staff and I would like to compliment Mr. Donnell on doing an excellent and very clear job of detailing and describing what a very complicated issue this is,” said Julie Baker, a member of Power of Vision. “I would like to remind the council that over 2,300 people in the North County and Carlsbad areas signed petitions not wanting the Carlsbad Energy Center Project to be located on the coast here in Carlsbad.”
Councilman Mark Packard was in full support of the city staff power plant standard changes especially in regard to the proposed Carlsbad Energy Center Project.
“The crux of why this is important for us to do is that it will give us some level of input back as they would have to go to another level of determination to try and overrule local standards,” Packard said. “I think the people have spoken quite consistently and clearly on how they feel about power plants on the coastal areas.”
Mayor Matt Hall said that although they were in difference with NRG Energy, he did agree with some of Valentino’s good steward comments about the lagoon and generosity within the community.
“Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to come back together on a future project after we work through this process here,” Hall said.

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