Citizens group plans lawsuit over NRG’s Carlsbad Energy Center Project

A citizens group, Helping Hand Tools, filed a Sept. 21 notice with the California Energy Commission that it intends to file suit within 60 days over the commission’s recent decision to approve a revamped version of the Carlsbad Energy Center Project.

On Aug. 4, the Energy Commission published a Notice Of Decision certifying the development of the amended Carlsbad Energy Center Project in Carlsbad, Calif. Helping Hands Tools also has a pending request for the commission to reconsider that decision.

The project site bisects the inner, middle and outer Aqua Hedionida Lagoon and divides the inner lagoon from the Pacific Ocean, the notice of intent said. The Agua Hedionda Lagoon is included in the North County Multiple Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP), which covers a portion of San Diego County. Under the auspices of the MHCP, the city of Carlsbad adopted the Habitat Management Plan (HMP) for Natural Communities in the city of Carlsbad in 2004. The Habitat Management Plan (HMP) for the City of Carlsbad  states that the lagoon is a “Hardline Conservation Area”  The project will prevent wildlife from being able to perform normal life functions, including feeding, territorial maintenance, migration, and evading predators, said the notice.

Helping Hands Tools wrote: “This notice provides the grounds upon which we will file suit. We intend, at the close of the 60-day notice period, to file a citizen suit against you under Section 11 of the Endangered Species Act for these and any and all similar violations seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as fees and costs. We are willing to discuss effective remedies for the violations in this letter during the 60-day notice period.

“We alerted the recipients throughout the licensing of this project that a substantial dispute existed, that violations of the ESA and other laws would occur if the project was certified. The recipient’s analyses (and/or failures to analyse) likely biological impacts actions were methodologically flawed, reliance on which was arbitrary and capricious. They did not adequately consider the best evidence or science in their decision(s). This constituted an abuse of the agency’s discretion. We may not wait 60 days to file suit on issues that are not subject to the 60 day notice requirement.

“The major impacts to species from the facility would stem from; the toxic thermal plumes, new web of overhead high voltage wires, plus the light and noise from construction and operation of the facility.”

The Energy Commission said July 30 that it had approved two amendments for the Carlsbad Energy Center Project (CECP). The amendments, which are supported by the city of Carlsbad, address community concerns regarding the coastline, while providing reliable fast-response generation to help meet the region’s energy demands, which were impacted by the retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County, the commission added.

The CECP was originally licensed as a 540-MW natural gas-fired combined-cycle generator by the Energy Commission in 2012. Two years later, the owner, NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), petitioned to modify the project to a 632-MW natural gas-fired, simple-cycle power generator. In addition to the increase in generating capacity, the CECP amendments allow modifications to the proposed plant’s design, construction and operation, as well as the removal of obsolete facilities including a 400-foot exhaust stack at the adjoining Encina Power Station complex.

In 2014, Carlsbad reached an agreement with NRG to reduce the profile of the new power plant, remove the old facility and support the city’s goal of returning coastal lands to non-industrial use.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.