Last week, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco sided with The Utility Reform Network (TURN), reversing the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) 2010 decision allowing PG&E to purchase a California Energy Commission (CEC) approved 22-acre power plant on Bridgehead Road from Radback Energy Inc.
The CPUC initially denied the application in August of 2010, conceding that the plant – a natural-gas-fired, combined-cycle electrical generating station – would be a quality, energy-efficient facility, but that the current economic recession made new California PG&E projects unnecessary. It reversed its decision in a December, 2010 appeal when PG&E said the project would go online in 2016 rather than 2014.
In its March 16 ruling, the California Court of Appeal decided that the CPUC’s rush to overturn its initial ruling was not handled properly and therefore the CPUC’s final ruling is invalid. The court said the CPUC failed to allow enough time for public comment during the 2010 appeal: “This apparent attempt to minimize public input lends further credence to TURN’s contention that the Commission had become so enamored of the project, it was willing to dispense with the procedural safeguards established by its rules and the statutes in order to achieve its preferred outcome.”
Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick said the appeal court’s ruling is unfortunate, but he remains optimistic about the future of the power plant. “The power plant is very important for Oakley. We’re hopeful that the procedural errors that the court cited as its reason to set aside the CPUC decision can be corrected and plant can still be built. We’ll know more within the next two or three weeks.”
The City of Oakley entered into a community benefits package with Radback Energy, Inc. in March of 2010. Radback officials pledged to contribute approximately $6 million to establish a community grant program for local nonprofit organizations and fund city capital improvement projects. But if the project doesn’t get off the ground, the city loses out on the fringe benefits of the plant’s construction.
Representatives from the CPUC, PG&E, CEC, Radback and the City of Oakley gathered last summer for the official groundbreaking of the plant. The plant’s construction was predicted to bring in 730 union jobs.