The proposed power plant, which Radback Energy, Inc. has petitioned to build on 20 acres of the Dupont property on Bridgehead Road in Oakley, is undergoing an in-depth certification analysis in which the CEC will examine public health and safety, reliability, economic and environmental ramifications of the 624-megawatt gas/electric facility. During this time the CEC will also make sure that the construction and operation of the plant complies with all laws, ordinances, regulations and standards. The process is expected to take 16 months.
In that time, the CEC will conduct a series of public workshops and evidentiary hearings to present information to Oakley city staff, as well collect input from the City Council and the community.
Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery said regardless of the city’s stance on the project, the CEC ultimately decides whether or not to approve the construction of the power plant.
“The state has the power to make the decision,” said Montgomery. “Even if the city says no, the state can overrule us. It stinks, but that’s just how it is. We have no control in the matter. It’s not the most comfortable position to be in.”
However, what the city can do is be involved in the public hearings and be an active participant in the process. The city has hired two consultants to help staff navigate through this unknown territory.
“We need to know more about the project,” Montgomery said. “The overall impact of this project remains to be seen. It could be a positive thing for the city or it could be a negative thing, but that is all to be determined. We don’t know how this will impact the city of Oakley. We’ve entered the learning phase.”
While Montgomery said the proposed plant wouldn’t be “the prettiest thing to look at,” he did acknowledge that were the plant approved, the creation of new jobs would be a great benefit.
Radback Energy, Inc. stated on its Web site that if the project is approved, as many as 730 union jobs would be created during the construction process and more than 20 permanent employees would be needed to run the plant upon completion.
The city economy would also receive a boost during the projected 33-month construction period, as workers will be shopping, dining and lodging locally.
However, since the CEC investigation is just getting underway, construction wouldn’t begin until early 2011 if the project is approved, and the plant wouldn’t open until the end of 2013 at the earliest.
Radback CEO Bryan Bertacchi said he is optimistic about the CEC’s study and looks forward to partnering with PG&E. He said Radback would work “diligently” with the CEC to gain project approval.
PG&E announced last week that it plans to purchase several power plants in the upcoming years and bring more than 2,000 megawatts of energy to nearly 15 million customers in Northern and Central California.
“Taken together, these agreements reflect PG&E’s comprehensive energy strategy to meet our customers’ future power needs with clean energy solutions,” said Fong Wan, PG&E senior vice president of energy procurement. “Consistent with state policy, we are building our portfolio to ensure affordable and reliable energy services while moving as quickly as possible to meet California’s renewable power goals.”
However, the project must be approved first or else PG&E will have nothing to buy. During the next year and a half the CEC will conduct a number of public workshops and hearings to determine if the project should be approved at the Dupont location. No official date has been set for the first workshop, but Montgomery said it could come as early as next month.
For more information about the project, visit www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/contracosta.
The Oakley City Council plans to discuss the proposed plant at its next meeting on Oct. 13.