Community unites to retire aging plant after decade battle
SAN DIEGO- Oct. 26, 2010- With a one-page withdrawal of its permit renewal application, South Bay Power Plant’s operator Dynegy took the final step to ensure the plant will cease operations by December 31 of this year. After five decades on San Diego Bay, the era of the South Bay Power Plant is at an end.
Environmental groups have focused attention on the discharge permit renewal and the perceived need to keep the plant operating to produce power for the region. Those groups hailed the California Independent Systems Operator’s (ISO) recent decision to remove ‘reliability must run’ status from the Plant, which led to Dynegy’s withdrawal. The ISO, a state agency charged with keeping electric grid liability, had determined in September that the aging power plant was necessary to keep San Diego’s power flowing in 2011. However, due in part to intense public pressure to decommission the plant, the ISO reversed its decision on October 15. Based on that finding, Dynegy has withdrawn its application.
“The defeat of the power plant is a significant victory in that the power of community unity carried the day,” said Laura Hunter, Associate Director for Programs at Environmental Health Coalition. “It was the pulling together of the residents, the organizations, and governments that, in the end, brought about improvements to our community and the bay. It shows, once again, that a community united can never be defeated.” For a decade, the battle to retire the plant has been led by the Environmental Health Coalition with the support of community groups and water quality watchdogs like San Diego Coastkeeper.
“This is such a victory for the communities impacted by the plant for the past half a century,” said Coastkeeper Legal Director Gabriel Solmer. “We are finally able to give this part of the bay back to the people and wildlife to enjoy.”
The plant used an antiquated technology called ‘once-through-cooling’ as its cooling system. The technology requires massive amounts of water, along with the aquatic life contained in the water column, to be sucked into the plant and spewed out ten to 15 degrees hotter. This super heated water has created a dead zone in the South Bay where eelgrass, a key habitat and food source for bay species, could grow.
“This plant has been more than an eyesore,” said Solmer. “The air quality impacts on downwind residents, and the heat and pollution in the water have taken their toll on the health of the bay. Hopefully with the closure of the plant we will start to see life returning to this incredible area of San Diego.”
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at https://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.