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NRG asks Calif. agency to suspend Puente plant review

NRG Energy Inc. has asked that California regulators suspend their review and consideration of the company's proposed 262-MW Puente power plant.

A motion filed Oct. 16 with the California Energy Commission asked that proceedings to review the proposed gas-fired power plant be put on hold while NRG considers whether to withdraw its application. NRG said its motion came in response to a statement indicating that a panel overseeing review of the project will recommend that the commission reject the plant.

"Granting this motion will ensure effective use of resources of the committee and the parties to these proceedings in the event that applicant determines to withdraw the [application for certification]," NRG said.

The plant, referred to as the Mandalay Generating Station CT (Puente Power Project) by S&P Global Market Intelligence, is intended to help shore up reliability, as roughly 2,000 MW of gas-fired generation is due to retire by 2021 under the state's once-through cooling water regulations, but has faced pushback from the local community.

The California Public Utilities Commission has already approved a 20-year contract between Puente developer NRG and Southern California Edison Co., an Edison International subsidiary. The energy commission is reviewing a petition for NRG to construct and operate the plant.

An energy commission committee responsible for overseeing the case earlier this summer took the California ISO up on its offer to study potential alternatives to the plant. The grid operator concluded that there are ways to meet reliability in a portion of Ventura County, Calif., without the Puente power plant, but likely at a much higher cost.

California Energy Commissioners Janea Scott and Karen Douglas, who serve as the respective presiding and associate members of that committee, on Oct. 5 issued an "unusual" statement about the status of their deliberations over the project.

The commissioners said that while a proposed decision is still in the works, "it is clear to us that the project will be inconsistent with several laws, ordinances, regulations of standards (LORS) and will create significant unmitigable environmental effects."

The committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 18 to continue a committee conference. (California Energy Commission Docket No. 15-AFC-01)