Will California Reject This Controversial Natural Gas Plant?

California’s growing energy needs and aging power infrastructure have utilities considering new power generation plants — but at least one may be rejected for environmental reasons. NRG’s Puente Power Project, a new natural gas plant located near Oxnard, California, looks like it’s on track for a permit denial from the California Energy Commission.

The state of California has a lengthy reputation as an environmental leader heavily committed to protecting natural resources. While the aging electrical grid is cause for serious concern, it also represents a tremendous opportunity: The state has a chance to make carefully calculated decisions about which new energy projects to approve. And the Puente Power Project, dubbed “P3″ by NRG, represents an interesting test case.

Gas plants don’t generally reflect what California views as the future of energy, though the Puente Power Project could be built quickly and affordably, relying on known technology with a well-documented history. A committee within the commission, however, felt that the permit application to construct the plant should be denied on the grounds that renewable alternatives weren’t fully explored.

The commission also determined that the plant would create “unmitigable significant environmental effects,” referencing the fact that natural gas isn’t clean — although it might be cleaner than coal. Even with promises of a LEED-certified facility and  environmental offsets, the plant would have created a net negative in a state where many cities are pushing heavily to achieve carbon neutral status.

In addition, committee members also think the plant may violate laws, ordinances and regulations. Given the incredible labyrinth of energy regulation in California, it’s challenging to get a new power project established even when state and local officials are enthusiastic about it.

But this isn’t a done deal: The letter issued by the Puente Power Project AFC Committee simply noted that it would recommend denying a permit application, and there are more steps involved in the process.

Things certainly don’t look good for the future of this plant as currently presented. And one reason the committee members took the step of releasing the letter was to inform members of the public and other stakeholders about the status of the project.

The Sierra Club, one of several vocal opponents to the plant, noted that the location contributed to a legacy of environmental racism in California, and would add to a burden of pollution already produced by regional power plants. The organization also expressed concerns that the plant would deprive low-income communities of access to clean energy.

NRG says it’s “disappointed” by the news that the Puente Power Project may not pass –  they were counting on it to replace two older plants that need to be retired. But the company may find a silver lining: If the plant fails, it could represent an opportunity to start thinking about a renewable project in a state that would likely be very receptive to this sort of development.

Photo credit: dirtsailor2003


Debbi Wood
Debbi Wood7 days ago

I sincerely hope the plans for an Oxnard plant are rejected. IF a plant is built, it should NOT be located in a residential area. MG, what moron thought that was safe and or practical? There are plenty of open spaces that would not endanger the general population.

Muff-Anne York-Haley


Winn A
Winn A7 days ago


One Heart i
One Heart i7 days ago


Margie F
Margie FOURIE8 days ago


S J8 days ago

I hope CA wil do it soon. Thank you

Cruel J
Cruel J8 days ago

I hope so.

Carole R
Carole R8 days ago


Anne M
Anne Moran8 days ago

Get Jerry Brown in there,, he’ll get er’ done...

Sherry K
Sherry Kohn8 days ago