The existing power plant lost its permission to operate in Chula Vista when it shut down for more than 12 months. It actually shut down for almost three years.
The proposed new power plant, like the one it is replacing, remains in a very poor location. Roughly 1300 ft. from an elementary school and only 350 ft. from the nearest residential neighborhood.
Does that sound like a good idea to you?
You wouldn't think anyone would even propose such a thing.
However, if you knew that 81% of area residents are people of color and 16% are below the federal poverty level you might begin to figure out why it has happened.
An analysis by the Los Angeles Times found plants such as the proposed one in Chula Vista are disproportionately likely to be located near predominantly Latino neighborhoods.
“You have to ask, ‘Why are they doing it here?’ ” said Michael Meacham, a city official in Chula Vista who opposed the construction of a peaker plant there. “Is it because it’s a moderate- to low-income area? Is it because it’s a predominantly Hispanic area?”
In fact, they are doing it "there" over and over again. In Chula Vista and the neighboring Otay Mesa section of San Diego, where four new plants have been licensed within a five-mile area of scruffy hillsides and industrial flatlands that tumble up against the Mexican border. More than 80% of the people who live near the plants are Latino.
“I don’t think it’s just a coincidence,” Josie Lopez-Calderon, president of San Diego’s Mexican-American Business and Professional Assn. told the Times.
Also not a coincidence is the fact that no members of the California Legislature appeared at any of the hearings held to consider the four Otay Mesa and Chula Vista plants, nor did any other elected officials, with one exception: Bill Horn, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, who appeared at one hearing to express the board’s unanimous support for the large Otay Mesa plant.
Some people have clout. Some people don't.
Anyway, lets get back to the specifics of this proposed project.
According to the neighbors the original plant project was never explained to them adequately (Big surprise that one). Only people within 900 feet were officially notified. Most people knew about it after it was built. The plant was placed practically in the Otay River, which is becoming a county regional park. It is an ugly grey building visible from Montgomery High School across the river and the bridge between Chula Vista and San Diego on Beyer Way. Montgomery High School is a year round school and we observed the heat waves from this peaker every day during the warm summer months.
The new owners of the plant want to tear down the existing building and move it further north on the site, which would be further from the river but closer to the residents.
These residents say the new, supposedly more efficient plant's total pollution per year would be greater then the lousy old because it would run more hours, and the total pollution per hour for four pollutants would be greater.
Regulators argue they are mitigating this extra pollution by giving the city money to convert some of its cars or install solar is adequate. The residents realize this may make a slight difference regionally but not protect their health at all.
The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) is an intervener opposing this project in this location. They agree with the near-by residents that it must be sited much further away from residents and schools. There are a number of other locations in San Diego that would be further from homes and schools.
Despite all this and in the face of all the evidence last summer, behind closed doors, the Chula Vista City Council directed City staff to drop their objections to the MMC Energy, Inc. (MMC) Peaker plant expansion and support the MMC Project. That decision only became known with the release of a letter to the California Energy Commissioner (CEC)"explaining" the City's decision to drop their concerns and objections in return for an additional one time payment of $210,000.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that residents of southwestern Chula Vista attended an August 24 council City Council meeting to protest the city's move to support MMC's proposal to build a new and larger peaker plant. More than 120 concerned community members attended the meeting at City Hall and 29 people spoke in opposition to a new and larger plant.
Among other things residents told their supposed representatives their neighborhood is a medically underserved area and an increase in pollution which the plant will cause poses a public health risk for children and the elderly.
The council wasn't listening (except for Councilman Rudy Ramirez).
A leaflet from the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association in opposition to the peaker lists a number of reasons why they oppose the peaker plan:
1. The location is unacceptable-20 feet from front door of new businesses, 350 feet from people’s homes, 1300 feet from Otay Elementary, 1200 feet from Otay Recreation, within one mile of 16 schools, a health clinic, a library, and two recreation centers.
2. A peaker should be, according to CV zoning ordinance, in a heavy industrial zone. This location is a light industrial zone. The existing peaker did not operate for more than 12 months, so it lost its conditional use permit, according to (CVMC:19.64.070). The Mitigated Negative Declaration for the existing peaker required a major overhaul of generator and pollution control equipment every two years. This apparently has never been done. THIS PEAKER SHOULD NOT BE OPERATING. Commonly in the city when a Cease and Desist Order is issued the owner is required to clear the lot to bare ground.
3. New peaker will have two 70-foot tall smoke stacks, visible above surrounding buildings.
4. New peaker will use between 4.4 and 28 million gallons of water a year.
5. There is a 12,000- gallon tank of ammonia on site. (18 deliveries per year are predicted.)
6. The new peaker would produce between 7 and 25% of the carbon monoxide in the entire city if approved, making reaching city’s carbon reduction goal more difficult.
7. There is very little connection with getting rid of Southbay Power Plant. (ISO wants a lot of things.) MMC has no contract with SDG&E and needs to install two cut-off breakers to ensure it won’t overload existing lines. Not needed in this location.
8. It would be an awful precedent, because new General Plan says no power plants or heavy industrial uses within 1,000 feet of sensitive receptors. What will we be stuck with next?
9. The area within 1,000 feet of the plant is over 90% people of color.
10. The hourly emission rates are higher for SOx, VOC, and PM10/PM2.5 for the proposed plant, as compared to the old plant, and it will run more hours. Particulate Matter (cause of asthma, heart and lung diseases) is particularly high. After 500 hours the net pollution will be greater.
Among the health risks for residents, especially children and seniors, are poor air-quality, pollution, asthma, and even cancer, states the EHC.
“The power plant is still over 100 percent larger and will increase pollution in the neighborhood, is too close to homes and schools, and is in direct violation of the City’s general plan. The terms of this new ‘agreement’ do not represent any improvements to the project,” stated Theresa Acerro, president of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association. “From all appearances, it looks as if the Council has sold out our community health for $210,000. Our health is not for sale.”
Apparently it actually is.
Diana Vera lives about 400 feet from the MMC peaker power plant near Main St. in southwest Chula Vista. The 57-year-old grandmother said she’s concerned that a proposed expansion of the power plant will dramatically increase the health risks her grandchildren will be exposed to.
“Historically, the city has dumped all the toxics to southwest Chula Vista because they’re always taking advantage of low-income families of color,” said Vera, who has lived in the area since she was 11 years old. “We’re finally raising our voice to say we will not tolerate this any longer. We want our children to live free of toxics. It is ironic that in the U.S. where we have freedom of choice and freedom of speech, we have to fight for our right to clean air.”
Headquartered in New York City, MMC Energy, Inc. is a North American energy acquisition company, which primarily acquires and operates deep value power generation and associated energy infrastructure assets.
The following is from La Prensa San Diego.
Community unites against peaker electric power plant
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Residents of southwest Chula Vista protested against a proposed peaker electric power plant in their community during a luncheon where Mayor Cheryl Cox was scheduled to receive a recognition.
There were about 40 protesters on Wednesday, September 17, in front of the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, including many children and seniors, most of which live within 350 feet of the proposed MMC Energy Plant, which would be built at the end of Albany St. to replace the current, smaller plant at the corner of Harvest and Otay Mesa Rd.
Protesters are against the Chula Vista City Council’s agreement with MMC where the company agrees to pay the city $210,000 in exchange for allowing it to expand the power plant.
The residents said their health is at risk with the proposed construction of the peaker electric power plant in the middle of the community.
“We want to make it clear that it is the City Council’s responsibility to protect its citizens,” said Theresa Acerro, president of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, the group organizing the protest. “By allowing MMC to build this plant, the council is not doing its job. This is a civil rights injustice. Our City Council is failing all of these children. We’re outraged by this. It’s insulting.”
According to the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, the new power plant would be 350 feet from homes, 1,300 feet from Otay Elementary School, and 1,200 feet from Otay Recreational Center.
Among the health risks for residents especially children and seniors, are poor air-quality, pollution, asthma, and even cancer.
“Historically, the city has dumped all the toxics to southwest Chula Vista because they’re always taking advantage of low-income families of color,” said Diana Vera, who has lived in the area since she was 11 years old. “We’re finally raising our voice to say we will not tolerate this any longer. We want our children to live free of toxics. It is ironic that in the U.S. where we have freedom of choice and freedom of speech, we have to fight for our right to clean air.”
Acerro said that the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association has more than 2,000 signatures of residents opposing the construction of the power plant.
During the protest, residents were chanting slogans such as “Recall Cox!” “Justice now!” and “Bruja Cox!” The signs they were carrying put an emphasis in protecting the health of the children. One of the signs used the initials of the MMC company to read: “Making Miserable Children.”
Letters issued in August to the California Energy Commission show the city droping objections to the MMC power plant expansion.
Letters acquired by La Prensa San Diego detail an agreement between MMC and the City of Chula Vista which includes payment of $210,000 by MMC to the city.
Harry Scarborough, vice-president of MMC Energy Inc, in a letter to the California Energy Commission states: “We believe that the City will find that the Project is in harmony with and therefore, consistent with the City’s General Plan.”
But Chula Vista Council-ember Rudy Ramirez addressed the crowd during an August protest in front of the City Council Chambers and told them he is against the expansion of the power plant because the proposal contradicts the General Plan, which states that energy facilities should hot be within 1,000 feet of sensitive receptors.
“The power plant is still over 100 percent larger and will increase pollution in the neighborhood, is too close to homes and schools, and is in direct violation of the City’s general plan. The terms of this new ‘agreement’ do not represent any improvements to the project,” Acerro said. “From all appearances, it looks as if the Council has sold out our community health for $210,000. Our health is not for sale.”
She said that the Southwest Chula Vista Association and other community and environmental groups will continue to oppose this project.
She encouraged Chula Vista residents to attend the California Energy Commission meeting on October 2 at 3 p.m. at the Chula Vista City Council Chambers, 4th & F, across from the library.
“Please tell the city council to oppose this,” she said. “Tell the State Energy Comission that this is blight on our neighborhood and way too close to homes.”