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Calif. groups want end, not hold, of Calpine gas plant review

Local advocacy groups want the California Energy Commission to reject a request to put on hold review of the proposed Mission Rock Energy Center and end the proceeding altogether.

Calpine Corp. subsidiary Mission Rock Energy Center LLC in early March asked the commission to suspend its application for approval of the proposed 275-MW natural gas-fired power plant with 25 MW of battery units for electricity storage in Ventura County, Calif.

Mission Rock later told the commission that it wants to wait for three matters to be resolved. The company wants to ensure that projects chosen as part of Southern California Edison Co.'s request for offers for local reliability projects in the Moorpark subarea are operating, as is a recently California ISO-approved transmission project by SoCalEd. The company also wants to make sure there are no new solicitations, or similar efforts, started after March 2018 intended to address reliability in the Big Creek/Ventura local reliability area pending before any local or state governmental entities. SoCalEd is an Edison International subsidiary.

But the Wishtoyo Foundation, which seeks to protect the Chumash Native American culture in Southern California, and the Santa Paula Alliance, a group formed to protest the project, said this wait could take years.

In a reply to the request filed on March 23 legal advocacy group Earthjustice, on behalf of Wishtoyo said granting the company's wish amounts to a nearly three-year wait, an "unreasonable" time period, especially when there will be no reason to move ahead with the project as there are other ways to meet local energy needs that do not involve building a fossil-fueled power plant. The group also questioned the viability of gas-fired generation in California in the future. An NRG Energy Inc. subsidiary recently said it plans to close three gas-fired plants in Southern California starting this June.

"Given everything we know about California's energy policies and the constant progress of non-fossil energy technology, there is no reason to believe that this project will be more viable in 2021 than it is now," Wishtoyo said.

The Santa Paula Alliance on March 25 agreed that the company's conditions would translate to a suspension period of several years. During that time, environmental conditions could change, as could local, state and federal laws.

"Under normal conditions, an extension of not more than a year would be prudent, but these conditions are extraordinary, in that we are in a disruption both in the industry and in the regulatory environment," the Santa Paula Alliance said in a filing giving support to the Wishtoyo request. "It is most prudent at this time to terminate this proceeding." (California Energy Commission Docket No. 15-AFC-02)