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Water threat abated  

The 1,200-megawatt Granite Fox coal-fired power plant, proposed near Gerlach, Nev., is history.

According to the Granite Fox EIS Project Newslines, a quarterly update on the project, the power plant proposal was terminated May 14.

Until the summer newsletter was distributed the first week of July no one knew for sure where the project stood.

At a minimum, it’s being downsized,” said Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, who represents the Gerlach area, quoted in the March 8 Reno Gazette Journal. “At a maximum, it might go away.”

Go away it did. The newsletter states, “Sempra Generation has decided to take a new route in providing power to certain segments of the United States. All right-of-way applications have been withdrawn.”

The plant, which was proposed for 60 miles northeast of Susanville, would have pulverizes 5 million tons of coal a year to be burned to produce electricity. A rail spur would have brought the coal to the plant each year from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Since the spur would have cross federal land, the Bureau of Land Management required an Environmental Impact Survey.

The plant would have also used 12,000-16,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Smoke Creek Basin just over the Lassen County line in Nevada.

Lassen County Supervisor Jack Hanson said in the past he’s not against new power plants, but he said the location doesn’t fit.

Lassen County officials claim drawing the water from just across the county border will lower the water table in Lassen County and threaten the rights of county water users.

In February, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors supported the Nevada Energy Coalition’s request to have the Nevada State Engineer look at every single existing water right in the Smoke Creek basin and determine how much water is available to serve all those water rights. It authorized a letter requesting the state engineer to adjudicate those water rights. A regulatory attorney with the law firm Beckley Singleton, Jon Wellinghoff, a coalition attorney, said the process would take 5-10 years, effectively killing the Granite Fox proposal.

The California Energy Commission approved on Nov. 21, 2005, the Integrated Energy Policy Report, according to the Associated Press. The policy includes new standards on greenhouse gas emissions prohibiting power purchases from traditional, coal-fired power plants.

The policy restricts future purchases of out-of-state, coal-based power to only facilities that allow no pollution to enter the air. California utilities may only buy electricity from coal plants running as clean as the best natural gas fired plant.

Before officially terminating the project, Sempra had scaled the Granite Fox plant back. In November 2006, Sempra officials announced the plant would only produce 1,200 megawatts of power, instead of the 1,450 originally planned, because of the lack of available water.

Despite the reduced size, Wellinghoff warned plant operations would have caused water pollution and produced 3,800 tons of NOx, a toxic mixture of nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and 315 tons a year of sulfuric acid. He said it could have also released 3,800 tons a year of sulfur dioxide and send mercury, dioxins, arsenic, cadmium and selenium into the air and water, threatening bird, wild and plant life.

“It certainly will go into lakes and streams and water courses throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada,” he said.

Granite Fox also would have generated an estimated 10 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Wellinghoff said there are more than 800 megawatts of potential geothermal and 1,000 megawatts of potential wind energy nearby.

Recently, residents of Susanville and Lassen County have observed towers in the Diamond Mountain area southwest of Susanville.

According to a press release from U.S. Forest Service, the Lassen and Plumas national forests issued a special use permit to Horizon Wind Energy LLC, from Berkeley, Calif., to install three meteorological towers along the crest of Diamond Mountain and the upper Gilman Basin southwest of Susanville. The permit authorizes the company to install, operate and maintain the towers on national forest land for three years.

The meteorological towers are temporary structures standing 165 feet tall and designed to test and measure wind speeds, wind direction and velocity. The objective of the wind testing is to determine the suitability of the area for a wind farm to generate electrical power.

“In response to California’s goal of increasing renewable energy generation, we are testing the wind energy potential at several sites across the state,” said Brenda LeMay, director of Horizon Wind Energy.

The Horse Lake Wind Energy Project is also proposed near Fredonyer Peak. The project is a wind farm power generator, utilizing renewable energy to generate up to 100 megawatts of power.

Lassen Municipal Utility District Board of Directors reviewed the project at its June meeting and discussed being the lead agency in producing wind energy.

The lead agency would be in charge of analyzing and making decisions on the project, said LMUD General Manager Frank Cady.

He said the California Energy Commission defines the lead agency as the agency that was best able to analyze the full scope of the project and it’s impact on its surrounding environment. The agency would then be able to make decisions in the best interest of everyone involved in the project.

Other potential lead agencies would include the Lassen County Board of Supervisors and the CEC itself.

By Barbara France
Managing Editor

Lassen County News

12 July 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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