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California Energy Commission Workshop to discuss Energy Commission Data Requests for Metcalf Energy Center -- August 3, 1999

Reported and written by Scott Scholz

This report references the California Energy Commission Staff Data Request document sent to Calpine. It is on the California Energy Commission web site for the proposed Metcalf Energy Center. [SAS]

The California Energy Commission held a public workshop to discuss Energy Commission Staff Data Requests for the Metcalf Energy Center project with Calpine, Bechtel and the public at the Coyote Grange Hall. The meeting was noticed to go from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., but ended up continuing to nearly 6:00 p.m. Tables and chairs were set up in a rectangular fashion so that everyone could see each other and there were additional chairs behind the tables. Approximately seventy people were in attendance with the majority coming from the public at large.

Lorraine White, Energy Facility Siting Project Manager, chaired the meeting. She had the CEC staff members available in the various technical areas to answer questions regarding the initial 152 data requests and the level of detail required to answer the requests satisfactorily after they reviewed Calpineís Application for Certification (AFC) documents. Since Calpine and Bechtel canít discuss substantive issues directly with the Staff, a public workshop was needed for Calpine and the public to clarify the data requests. The meeting was not intended to provide any answers to the questions at this time.

Ms. White asked before the meeting started that everyone introduce themselves and any party they represent. Some of the people I recall were Janice Moore and Laurel Prevetti from the City of San Jose planning department, several members of the Malech family including Ruth Malech who has lived in Coyote for 90 years, many concerned citizens from the Santa Teresa community, Cynthia Cook and Steve Tate from the Morgan Hill City Council, key members from the proposed Cisco project, San Jose District 2 candidate Maria Ferrer, John Sawyer from the Grange Hall, Elizabeth Cord of Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group and two members of a new Rancho Santa Teresa group.

For the most part, Calpine didnít require much clarification of the data requests of the CEC staff. The first technical area was Biological Resources and Calpine didnít need any further clarification.

The second technical area was Water Resources and for the most part Calpine didnít need any clarification, but they did go over several of the items to demonstrate why they should be deferred until future workshops or why there wonít be a need to answer the questions. #117 was deferred until a future workshop and #116 and #120 Calpine said werenít needed. Also items #128 through #131 which refer to onsite septic system would not be needed to be answered since the city told Calpine they can discharge their waste directly into the sewer on Santa Teresa Boulevard. Calpine "wonít need a packaged treatment system." Ken Abreu of Calpine also said the city will allow the industrial wastewater to be put into the sewer on Santa Teresa Boulevard as well. Issa Ajlouny, Los Paseos homeowner, asked if Cisco would allow the required sewer line to cross their property. Laurel Prevetti thanked him for bringing it up.

The CEC staff encouraged Calpine , in response to the dialog of item #134, to get the required permits filed for operation and installation of ground water wells. For item #140, Calpine suggested they would like to do a study of more than a one-mile radius. For the purpose of item #141, Ms. Prevetti suggested Calpine use 50,000 jobs in North Coyote campus area and 25,000 mixed-use housing units and commercial development. Ms. Prevetti also said the 1999 Master Plan revision is not even in draft form. Item #146 was deferred until the CEC speaks with the City of San Jose. There seemed to be some need for clarification for items #150 through #152 where Calpine didnít provide enough information for 25 year storm events and 100 year storm events instead of 25 year and 100 year flood plains. Mike Tatarakis of Los Paseos area also was concerned about situations when Anderson Reservoir Dam spills over and how it impacts Coyote Creek. He also mentioned the possibility of a seismic event that would collapse the dam mentioning articles he has read. Cynthia Cook, Morgan Hill City Council, also wanted to know if the long term water supply plan for the county was being considered.

One of the most interesting bits of information I heard was that the 125 mandated copies of the Application for Certification, the large two-binder set that has all the information regarding the proposed Metcalf Energy Center project, have already been distributed and exhausted. Although there is one copy in the Santa Teresa library, it is not easily accessible for the public to work with. Parts of the AFC are available on the CEC web site, but some of the most important appendix items are not. Instead of printing more copies of the AFC, Calpine did offer to provide CDís of the AFC documents at cost, but it wouldnít be a complete AFC. I am unsure how this is going to be resolved since each intervenor is supposed to get an AFC and the process has only just begun.

Jim Adams, CEC staff member looking at the Socioeconomics technical area, did mention that he has reviewed the information provided by Robert Aldana of the Letís Talk Real Estate television and radio program. He said he wasnít aware of any other studies regarding power plants in residential neighborhoods and its affect on property values. He mentioned one unrelated study of transmission line impacts on agricultural land. He said there are some studies of other industrial projects on property values but didnít give any specifics. Sharron Spotts, a resident living on Tulare Hill, described her visit of the power plant in Crockett, CA and the surrounding community. She was very much concerned about the impact of property values on her home since her home is her major investment for retirement.

Kisabuli, CEC staff member looking at the Noise technical area and other technical areas, clarified that Calpine must provide analysis including the County LORS (Laws, Ordinances, Regulations and Standards) since the proposed Metcalf Energy Center project is in the County of Santa Clara and the City of San Jose. Calpine wasnít sure it was necessary since they believed the city would annex the county property, but the CEC said they canít work with hypothetical situations in the siting process. They asked if the city doesnít annex the property if the project would be dead? Calpine said they would include the county LORS in their analysis.

Visual Resources was the next technical area, but it was getting close to 4:00 p.m. and the use of the Coyote Grange Hall was about to expire. Ms. White at one point felt it was appropriate to end the meeting and continue it at a later date since the meeting was noticed to only go until 4:00. Many people from the public had to leave. Jeffrey Harris, the lawyer representing Calpine, huddled with Ms. White and convinced the CEC to continue the meeting until its conclusion. Although the remaining public objected, only about 12 folks were left, the meeting continued. The fact that Calpine is required to respond to the data requests in 30 days was a strong influencing factor in continuing the meeting. Although Calpine could request more time to respond to the questions, it is in their best interests to keep this project on schedule.

Calpine made an opening statement regarding their plans to make some visual and design changes that they believed improved upon the initial visuals provided for the project. Data request items #72 through #110 were contested by the Calpine consultant. He asked for many of the items to either be deleted from the requests or at least to prioritize the list since he didnít believe all of the simulations could be done in the 30 day time period. It seemed that the CEC tried to accommodate Calpine, but Ms. White also said providing the design changes in late September or early October could impact the Preliminary Staff Analysis document that is scheduled to be done by December 7th of this year. An owner of the Coyote Ranch property seemed to be concerned about the view of the plant from his property. The CEC seemed interested in getting views from his property and incorporating them into their analysis. Items #103 through #105 concerned the CEC staff since Calpine made the claim that their project would follow the example of the IBM complex on Bailey. However, the IBM complex appears to be only 5-stories high or 50-60 feet, yet the power plant would be 145 feet high. The CEC wanted to know "How does this fit in a rural setting?" The CEC didnít not feel these were low priority items. Calpine suggested that the city is considering changing the height limits in the Coyote Valley campus industrial area from 90 feet to possibly 120 feet. Ms. Moore of city planning said she did not know of any change in the Master Plan.

During the Visual Resources discussion, the CEC staff asked for additional visual simulations from the perspective of the trail along Fisher Creek which the public is supposed to have access to. The Calpine group looked quite surprised as if they had never heard about the trail. There wasn't a visual simulation from the trail area in the AFC. The CEC staff informed Calpine that the San Jose General Plan shows a trail along Fisher Creek and that the CEC is required to evaluate the visual impact from that area. After some private discussion, Calpine said they would look into issue. It seemed odd that they didn't just say they would provide the visual simulations.

The last technical area of discussion was Alternatives which were data request items #13 through #25. Eileen Allen, one of CEC staff looking at alternative sites, was not available today but Gary Walker and Lorraine White, also looking at alternatives, participated in the discussion. Ken Abreu of Calpine made an opening statement. He stated that Calpine is in a "competitive environment" and was questioning where all of these data request questions were driving at. He said suggesting other areas other than the three alternative sites provided in the AFC were not appropriate since other suggested areas may get future AFCís. Calpine didnít want to provide any information to their competition or reasons to preclude them from also building in north San Jose or expanding the Gilroy facility. Calpine believed it was within their rights to object to some of the data requests due to business considerations and would be going back to the CEQA guidelines. Ms. White said she appreciated the Calpine position that they are in a competitive environment, but their CEC process doesnít provide for analysis in a competitive environment but instead a CEQA equivalent analysis. Ms. White said "the project has potential for many significant impacts." The project is currently non-compliant with a great many LORS and has impacts to many areas. Ms. White asked why the project has to be 600 megawatts and have to infringe upon the setbacks? How do you justify overriding these impacts? Mr. Abreu responded that the size of the proposed plant is so Calpine can be competitive.

There was also some discussion of the selection of the alternative sites in the AFC. Ms. White did say she could understand why Alternative Site C was "bogus" and could understand why the proposed site was preferred over Site A (near United Technolgies in Metcalf Canyon). However, she couldn't easily dismiss Site B (near the Almaden side of the IBM facility on Bailey) and wanted to explore Site B some more.

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