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June 25, 2009

Peaker Power Plant Pollution

Todd has expressed in his comments on my post about Riverside County questioning the funding for the Palm Drive/I-10 interchange his concern about air pollution from the future peaker power plant to be built near Desert Hot Springs and the city council's failure to speak to the subject. Perhaps he tries to excuse them when he says "The mental deficits in this city our many." Many, indeed. He says he speaks from facts, but he has provided none on this topic, suggesting that I go do my own research. So I did...or I did as much as my mental deficits would permit. I'm making this its own post since its connection to the interchange funding issue is fairly peripheral.

The peaker power plant will burn natural gas which is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Being a brand new plant, it should have the latest technology to conform to California and federal environmental regulations. I haven't come across anything to say otherwise, and Todd hasn't suggested that either. By its nature, it probably won't burn as cleanly as a steady-burning natural gas power plant, but that is offset by the fact that it won't be running all the time.

So the plant will definitely pollute. Todd doesn't say how much pollution he would consider acceptable. If he considers NO pollution to be acceptable, then that may be why he hasn't got the support of the city council. Opposition to any increase at all in pollution without also opposing natural gas hookups at homes and businesses, increased numbers of motor vehicles, increased sales of equipment using two-cycle engines like lawnmowers, increased use of barbecues, etc. would be hypocritical. I'm sure there are people in California who would support an economic freeze like that, but very few elected officials.

But maybe Todd's opinion is that while some pollution would be acceptable, a peaker power plant would put way too much dangerous pollution into the air. So I Googled peaker power pollution. And I didn't find much of anything. Oh sure, I could find environmentalists who said they were opposed to the pollution, and citizens organizations that were afraid of the pollution, but I've not yet found any hard facts suggesting the plants pollute more than they are permitted, nor that the permitted amount is too high.

Here's some information from a Q & A about peaker plants in Illinois.

Q. What will be the health impact of a peaker power plant to people living around the facility?

A. The evaluations of new peaker power plants for which the Illinois EPA has received permit applications to date have indicated that the plants will not have a measurable impact on air quality. If a source does not have a measurable impact on air quality, there should not be a health impact. To confirm that proposed plants would not impact air quality, the Illinois EPA has been asking all peaker power plants to submit air quality modeling even though this is not expressly required by the rules for minor sources.

Q. These plants will emit almost all of their emissions over a small number of days during the summer. Why can't they be considered major sources under the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) rules?

A. The proposed peaker power plants whose potential annual emissions are below the applicability thresholds of the federal PSD rules are not subject to PSD because the rules define "major sources" in terms of annual emissions from a proposed new source, not monthly or daily emissions. However, as noted above, the Illinois EPA is requiring applicants for "minor" peaker plants to perform air quality impact modeling as if the plants were subject to PSD. The Illinois EPA also has exercised its discretionary authority and is holding public comment periods for all proposed plants before taking final action on a permit. In addition, the Illinois EPA will continue to review the situation.

Some comparison info:

Natural gas burning peaker power stations pollute substantially less than coal-fired all-year round power plants. According to the Reliant company statistics, their 870 MW plant would release 248 tons of nitrogen oxides, 211 tons of carbon monoxide, 29 tons of particulate matter, and 3 tons of sulfur dioxide annually (with bulk of emissions concentrated around summer time). The company compares these emissions (e.g. 248 tons of nitrogen oxides) with cumulative emissions from residential furnaces: 1,745 tons, lawn mowers: 370 tons, commuter auto traffic: 1,040 tons of NOx, where the pollution has been integrated over 880,000 residents of the DuPage county. Information on the aerial spread of the pollution, and an increase in the concentration of toxic substances in the vicinity of the plant are hard to find.

Now here's a remark that starts to address the real issue, I think:

Which brings me to tonight's meeting and the discussion about peaker plants—because they are the most inefficient form of gas turbine application. They are such a poor application that we should be finding ways of shifting peak power to minimize their need.

IOW, power customers (us) need to change our behavior so that a peaker plant is simply unnecessary. That might mean changing the rate structures to discourage use at peak times; learning to get by with less air conditioning, fewer big-screen TVs, fewer swimming pools, etc. On a local level, it could mean making sure there are no unnecessary zoning or building codes that stand in the way of the installation of small-scale solar or wind at residences and businesses.

Here's an interesting comment from New Berlin, Wisconsin. It's not relevant to our local plant, AFAIK, but it does create a terrifying mental image.

How much of New Berlin and surrounding communities would be destroyed by an accidental explosion of the 210,000 pounds of liquid propane that will be stored on site as a backup fuel is anyone's guess.

This is from the Berkeley Daily Planet:

"These things are horrible," said Mike Thomas, a representative of Communities for a Better Environment who lives near San Francisco's Portero power plant, where three 52-megawatt peaker plants are running at full capacity because of the power crisis. "These peakers, they burn[,] like[,] jet fuel."

So, apparently, some peaker plants burn, like, high octane liquid fuel...which is not what ours will burn.

Todd compares the peaker plant to the proposed Green Path North, saying the peaker power plant is much worse. It's not a good comparison. No one (except maybe for a few) opposes running power lines from the geothermal plants down by the Salton Sea to Los Angeles. What people oppose is LADWP's insane scheme to run power lines across virgin desert wilderness rather than go down the already urbanized I-10 corridor. If there was a proposal to situate the peaker power plant on top of the hills near Indian and 62 (where Palmwood would have been) just because it was cheaper, then you'd have something comparable to Green Path North.

Maybe Todd's opposition is simply NIMBY (again, I'm just guessing, because he doesn't say it is). Perhaps a peaker plant in some other valley would be okay by Todd, just so long as it's not in relatively clean Coachella Valley. I'm generally not a NIMBY person, especially when I look at all the wasteful power consumption in this valley.

Sorry, this is the best I could do, considering my mental deficits.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Technology | permalink | June 25, 2009 at 07:59 PM


Todd, let me try to separate your wheat from your chaff.

  • Peaker plants have negative consequences on the community;
  • Oxnard is suing the state to stop a peaker plant (although the article doesn't say what the city council's reasons are);
  • The peaker plant will have a negative environmental impact on DHS;
  • DHS's environment will be better without the peaker power station;
  • The peaker plant will open the door for more minimally polluting projects in DHS.

Congratulations Todd, after several comments you have finally expressed your opinion and actually included a link to an article on the subject. I didn't skip that article, BTW. It didn't come up in the Google search I did (link above). I never offered an opinion on whether I thought the city council could sue over the construction of the power plant.

You're wasting an opportunity, Todd. Here I provide an open comment space where you could compose any essay you like to convince any of the readers of the validity of your point of view. You could cite any sources you like, link to any websites you want. You could change minds. But instead you write a series of comments shifting from one subject to the next, engaging in personal attacks, and not making your view on issues very clear. You are clear, however, in your dislike for some (or all) of the city council. The only relevant facts you included were links to a photo and to AB 1318 until you added the link to the article about Oxnard.

Instead of presenting your side of things, you invite me (and other readers) to go do our own research. I assume you've got a stack of damning info, but you don't share it. If a dozen of us go do our own research, we'd probably come back with a dozen different stacks of data and a dozen opinions.

I wonder if that is how you present your opinions to the city council. If so, that may be why you haven't swayed them to your point of view. I'm retired so I've got the time to go on a semi-wild goose chase to try to find some info that would make it clear how dirty a peaker plant might be. The city council members are all more busy than I am. If all you do is suggest they do their own research and call them mentally deficient when they disagree with you, it's very unlikely you'll gain any allies on the council. OTOH, if you've got good reasons for your opinion and present it to them clearly, it's possible you could change a mind or two.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Jun 26, 2009 9:58:57 AM

Ron. What more is there to say. You obviously don't believe that the peaker plant will have any negative impact on DHS environment. I guess I agree with the "environmentalist" who feel that peaker stations even natural gas powered ones do have negative consequences on the community they are built in. I guess you also feel our city council can't do what this city council is doing (see story) http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2009/may/06/oxnard-to-sue-state-to-block-peaker-power-plant/. Apparently that city council is full of environmental nut jobs that can't appreciate the beauty of Peaker power plant. It's funny how they feel it also will cause pollution too. They must not be getting there facts from you. I found this part of the story very familiar to DHS situation:"Several environmental groups had argued against the approval, saying that the plant was in an environmentally sensitive habitat and that it violated the tenets of laws regarding “environmental justice,” the notion that poor and minority communities shouldn’t have to carry an unfair burden of industrial development and pollution. But at the same time no group said it could afford court action against the state." When you did your research I guess you thought it best to bypass this article to try to mitigate what I'm trying to say. Which is the Peaker station will have negative environmental impact on DHS. The reason why no one spoke up about it from the city is because they thought the land it was going to be built on was going to end up in the city of DHS. The city council I spoke with at the time thought the few millions it would bring into the city was worth the trade off of the environmental impact it would have on the city. The county pulled a fast one knowing our city leaders have no back bone to protect the environment of our city. My partner did not buy his home in DHS knowing that it would turn into an industrial dumping ground as demonstrated by the Peaker Power Plant, The "Green Path", the ever growing wind mill farms, and soon to be mega size homeless shelter that will ship the homeless from all over to the backdoor of DHS. All of these things add up to a not so nice future for DHS. The city council apparently is saying little and doing less to stop any of this. I know Russ wants to stop the latter two bless his heart but without the support of other council members the City Attorney and City Manager he may be a Don Quixote. His failure will be DHS's loss for those who moved here because of DHS natural open spaces, nice unobstructed views, clean air. All those things that Ann Marie Gallant represented in a commissioned study of why people moved to DHS. I even believe Rick Daniels mentioned these findings at one of his first meetings.
Just from the point of basic physics it should tell you DHS's environment will be better without the peaker power station. I personally have objected to the peaker station from the start. The council people I spoke with one who is gone now thought the money outweighed a clean environment and it was only "minimally impacted". My point is once the door is open for this peaker station just like the wind mills more "minimally polluting" projects will make it's way into DHS. Eliminating those reasons why people initially chose to move to DHS.

Posted by: Todd at Jun 26, 2009 2:27:31 AM

Again, you say nothing specific. You read way too much into what I wrote. You suggested I do my own research, and I did, and I told you what I found. You have yet to provide any basis for your opinion, whatever it is. If you know of any reason to object to the peaker plant, please say what it is.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Jun 25, 2009 10:42:28 PM

Ron I get what your saying. So what if it pollutes a little. It's better than a coal power plant. How about no peaker power plant? Good point. Those silly environmentalist all they care about is keeping the air we breath clean. Those tree hugging a-holes. You make a good slippery slope argument for allowing a plant like this to come here. I'm sure most people who move here to DHS just can't wait for that peaker plant to be built near Skyborne. It looks so lovely and as some say the pollutants aren't that bad. Most of the days the winds may blow it down to Sky Valley's way. So why be concerned? Good point about even if they built it, it would not be used much. I'm sure the only reason to build it is to have nice Art in Public place piece with an industrial modern look. Oh but what about the water it may use? Oh I'm sure that's not a problem either. Your comparison of local residents hooking up to natural gas lines is another good example of a "slippery slope argument" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
The peaker plant will eventually be a component of the green path unless the people I spoke with who wish to remain anonymous lied to me. I'm sure you can ask the utility company yourself and may find out what I did. Try doing your research locally with the utility company that will be using the peaker plant. Also why was legislation needed to circumvent existing laws that did not allow for this plant. Issues you and the city council don't speak to. From what you represent our city council is very much on the ball. No need to second guess their inaction to this issue. No real questions please lets compare things to Illinois EPA standards. That makes sense to me.

Posted by: Todd at Jun 25, 2009 9:30:35 PM

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