Mirant Corporation has agreed to give the City of Antioch $1.7 million for community benefits in exchange for city officials’ support for its plan to build the Marsh Landing Generating Station next to its existing Contra Costa Power Plant on Wilbur Avenue (the one with the giant smokestack). Ironically, the plant site is not in Antioch – it’s under county control. But city officials hope to annex the Wilbur Avenue area into Antioch in the future.
Some or most of the $1.7 million, most of which would be doled out in the first few years of the plant’s operation, could be used to help pay for the operation and maintenance of the Antioch Community Center, Economic Development Director Guy Bjerke told the City Council at its July 28 meeting. Currently, with the city in the throes of a severe budget crisis, there’s a chance that the community center could open in August of 2010 without much money to provide staffing for programs and activities.
Councilman Brian Kalinowski said he appreciates the offer of $1.7 million but believes it’s inadequate compensation for a plant that could be in operation for 50 years on Wilbur Avenue. “I’m not trying to say, ‘Shame on you for $1.7 million,’” he said. “But if we polled everybody in the audience, they would say, ‘For 30 to 50 years, that’s a hell of a bargain.’”
Kalinowski asked Mirant California President John Chillemi to commit to increasing that amount. Chillemi responded that he doesn’t have the authority to make that commitment on his own, but added, “We have an existing business here and we have shown a corporate commitment. But with this type of investment … I would anticipate stepping up to the community even more so.”
Councilman Reggie Moore encouraged him to follow through on that, saying it would help ensure the council’s support if community opposition arose to the power plant. “Mirant’s been a good partner in this community on educational issues, the library and other things,” said Moore. “It would be wonderful to see you folks continue to show the corporate commitment that you have always shown. Particularly in these tough times, we are looking to our partnerships with the corporate world to help bridge this (funding) gap.”
The gas-fired plant is expected to produce about 930 megawatts of electricity. In comparison, PG&E’s recently opened Gateway Generating Station, located next to the site of the proposed Mirant plant, is producing 530 megawatts – enough electricity for PG&E’s nearly 400,000 northern and central California customers.
Before it can begin construction, Mirant must get approval from the California Energy Commission as well as obtain funding through a competitive application process with other energy companies. The council’s approval is needed to help with the approval of those applications.
The council voted unanimously to tentatively provide that approval, with the provision that Kalinowski and city staff meet with Mirant officials in the coming months to discuss increasing the company’s $1.7 million contribution to community programs.