When it comes to vocal Oxnard residents and certain environmental activist groups regarding NRG’s Puente Power Project proposal at Mandalay Beach, there is only one conclusion that they have come to: absolutely, positively no new power plants. And we can understand their point of view, given that there are two highly visible industrial eyesores on local beaches, which happen to be surrounded by ecologically sensitive habitats.

On Thursday, March 17, the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco will review and choose one of two things: 1. consideration of the Puente Power Project should only occur after the environmental review by the California Energy Commission; or 2. approve the Puente Power Project as is. We support an environmental review of the proposed power plant project, and it should not just move forward as is. But for those opposed to the Puente Power Project, the environmental review process would just serve as a way to delay any approval. Their end goal, even if the review shows relatively low impact, is to fully reject the project. We are unsure this is the best option for the community.

As we mentioned before, it’s easy to see why there is so much opposition to a new power plant on the beach, which includes yet another eyesore emanating air pollution in Oxnard. Also, Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez has pointed out other serious environmental concerns in the city: 

“One existing power plant was sued for violating environmental laws, and we also have a superfund site and many pesticide problems. Adding another power plant will worsen our environment and perpetuate environmental injustice.”

We hesitate, however, to pull the plug on the project altogether. While “trusting energy companies” is essentially an oxymoron, NRG made a valid point some months ago when it made a concession to remove two of the old power plants in Oxnard in return for being allowed to build a new one. 

“NRG has chosen to proactively do what we have heard from many citizens of Oxnard and add the demolition of Mandalay Units 1 and 2 to our application for the Puente Power Project. We had hoped to include this as part of a broad and comprehensive community agreement but absent such an agreement, we felt it was appropriate to add the demolition as part of the ongoing permitting process.” — David B. Knox, senior director, wholesale and new business communications, NRG

Knox did indicate that financially, without an operating power plant in Oxnard (the one at Ormond Beach has already been decommissioned and the one in Mandalay Beach is set to go offline in 2020), NRG would be short of the funding to demolish two of the old plants. Whether or not the funding issue is true remains unknown and we haven’t yet delved into that fact-finding journey and also don’t know if lawmakers can force NRG to demolish any of the old plants, but we think that a sleeker, modern, more energy-efficient plant is better than two old relics taking up space on Oxnard’s precious beaches. Despite the compromise, we do remain on the fence here and hope that the utilities commission chooses to move the project forward only after a rigorous environmental review is completed. We will wait for those results before we leap to one side or the other of that proverbial fence. 

We know that there will be repercussions no matter what happens, a new power plant or none, but the path that would be the most beneficial for Oxnard remains to be seen. For now, we wait and ask that residents and activists seek out more information before wholeheartedly opposing a plan that may be better in the long run.