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Coyote Calpine Power Plant: What do "they" say about the Crockett Power Plant? -- August 1, 1999

Reported and written by Sharron Spotts

Calpine and Bechtel staff recommended to our community that we make personal viewings of the Crockett power plant, the nearest "clean burning" power plant in the immediate Bay Area, to establish a comparative frame of reference to the Coyote Calpine plant. I made such a visit to the area on Sunday, August 1, 1999. The results are very interesting.

The difference is that the Crockett plant is a 250-megawatt plant compared to the proposed 650-megawatt Coyote Calpine plant. The Crockett plant was built in an industrial area, somewhat already depressed directly around the site, opposed to the proposed Calpine plant to be constructed in a middle-class, well-maintained neighborhood. This area, as you know, is zoned nearby for campus industrial use, not heavy industry.

(photos no. 1,15, 16, and 17)

These photos do not depict the unsightliness of the plant, which Bechtel made no effort to conceal. It sits right out next to the water in Carquinez Straight, directly across the street from many homes. The plant is 6 years old and in dire need of a new paint job. It is streaked and very dirty.

The homes around the plant are mostly older Victorians, or apartment buildings dating from the 30's to 40's. The sidewalks are broken, uprooted, uneven, overgrown. Homes are streaked, dirty, and needing paint and much repair. Lots are overgrown and weed filled. One or two new homes have been build on these older lots, but this is the exception. Many of the occupants have made efforts to beautify their homes with potted flowers, etc., but the general effect is the area needs "help". This situation is true for homes within 10 blocks or so from the plant, as the plant is at the base of a fairly steep hill with homes built upwards on the slopes rising above.

Within one block of the plant is the C & H Sugar Refinery; directly across from the refinery is the "old downtown", wonderful old historical late 1800's buildings, which unfortunately are in terrible disrepair. Again, the following shots seem to dress up the neighborhood and do not accurately reflect the general disrepair. (Why doesn't this effect hold true with photos of people?)

(photos 2-7)

Not many people were around this beautiful Sunday afternoon on August 1st, and I myself was time constrained. Nevertheless I was able to interview a few local residents who live directly near the power plant. (I will be the first to admit this is not a thorough scientific study; it is a person-on-the-street informational gathering, a small representative sampling.) Afterwards, at the Aug. 3rd CEC workshop, I ran my information past a couple of the Bechtel engineers for fair feedback. Let me share with you my findings-my brief notes follow.

Mary Mowtinho, Daughter & Son-in-Law
515 Loring Street
Crockett, CA
Hears a roaring from plant. Mostly is OK, but sometimes is a nuisance. Has noticed smog is worse, but breeze usually blows it out (is on Carquinez Straights). Property values decreased approx. 25-35%. Power plant is 6 yrs. old. Spent 9 years fighting it. Went to Sacto. a number of times. Community really fought it. Won first round, but then they "came in hard core and forced the plant down our throats." Community lost last round. Really blocks view, but they did run in all new underground electrical at no charge to community. Removed all tall ugly power poles. Donated money to community. Says many in community very, very upset with plant.
Douglas Tubbs
515 Winslow
Crockett, CA
Referral from Mary Mowtinho. Fought against the plant actively. Was not available.
Timo Pajumen
475 Loring Street
Crockett, CA
No problem. Blocks view. Renter-doesn't know about property values. Says C&H and Unocal are more the polluters. Didn't notice air or other problems (heavy smoker, so may not have noticed pollution problems).
Mr. Anonymous Has lived there 1 yr., but up on hill, so plant does not affect him.
Terry Small
315 Jackson Street
Crockett, CA

Past Chamber of Commerce president. Very helpful. Says he does not personally have a problem except that it blocked the view so much. Pollution didn't bother him. (Again, heavy smoker, so perhaps is not sensitive to environmental contaminants that might bother an allergy-prone person.) Plant uses C&H steam run off as it's own energy source, so has helped area reduce overall smog. He's a couple of blocks from plant, can hear alarm sirens, etc., from plant, but area is heavy industry (C&H, etc.) so alarms, whistles, etc., are going off all the time anyway. All rental within blocks and blocks of plant. Didn't used to be. Drugs were a real problem until just recently. Doesn't know if plant caused inability of property owners to be able to sell homes and if that is why they are renting them all out. Could be, he says. Plant pumped $15M into community, but does not know where money went. Says Crockett is a Hells Angels town.

Mr. Small explained during first two attempts to develop plant, they offered much to the community as benefits and donations. However, by the third time, they dropped original generosity and came in full steam to build plant. C&H was instrumental-it needed symbiotic relationship to meet environmental pollution standards.

Mr. Del Toros & Friend
449 Loring
Crockett, CA
Friend says has pumped a lot of carbon monoxide into air. Bothersome, was very upset about the amounts of carbon monoxide, but wind does blow it down (to other cities!). Still some days it bothers him. Catalyst clogged up and caused a problem about two years ago.

The people I spoke with were in agreement that "big money talks" and "good luck to you-you're going to have a power plant." It was suggested the community hire an attorney to represent its interests.

Now not all of Crockett is "seedy". Homes at the top of the hill, away from the plant, are very nice homes indeed. (I'd estimate about 5 miles distance.) Some are very large, and some are small and cozy. Mostly they are, again older homes, but these homes are all very, very well maintained bespeaking a better economic base.

(Photos 8, 9, 10)

On the other side of the coin, Jim Dungsten from Bechtel explained to me that there was a contingent of folks in Crockett that wanted to put C&H out of business there, upgrade the old downtown and turn the town into anther tourist shop/restaurant "Sausilito". (It would be beautiful there-personal comment!) However, with C&H and Unocal being so firmly established, they obviously did not win their heart's desire.

Jim further explained that the first two proposals were from a firm from Texas having neither the experience nor viable and realistic proposals, which is why their bids were not successful. Bechtel's proposal, felt the CEC, was a workable one and hence, the power plant.

To sum up, it seems Bechtel did put a lot of its piping, etc., underground as not to be visible, and built a nice little (emphasis on little) park-like entrance setting. It removed all the ugly power lines and put them underground, running lines to each home at no charge to homeowners or the community. It donated $15M to the community, apparently, but those I spoke with did not see any direct benefit to themselves. The plant does block views from homes, even those from up the hill. Some residents take exception to the noise, and citizens seem to still have concerns about resident pollution, although generally agreed that wind in the Straights blows it away. Property values was the big issue from the homeowners' point of view.

(Photo 13).

My personal concerns were and still are:

1) Loss of property values
2) Noise
3) Air quality and pollution effect

Good luck to us in the community!

Sharron Spotts
Homeowner, and
Board Member, Tulare Hill Homeowners Association

(Disclaimer: This report and any and all views contained therein are personal and do not officially represent the Tulare Hill HOA.)

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