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ENERGY COMMISSION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS APPROVAL OF CROCKETT COGENERATION FACILITY

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing benefits to the local economy and introduction of efficient and clean energy technology to the San Francisco Bay Area, a state Energy Commission committee released a report today tentatively recommending approval of the proposed 240-megawatt Crockett Cogeneration project at the C&H Sugar Refinery in the city of Crockett, Contra Costa County.
 The Energy Commission's Presiding Member's Report (PMR) concludes that the Crockett Cogeneration project -- likely to spur economic growth and create more than 300 construction jobs in the area -- is expected to comply with all state, regional and local environmental laws. Furthermore, the report states that implementing certain recommended mitigation measures will eliminate any adverse impacts on the environment. The PMR was prepared by a Commission Committee comprised of Energy Commissioners Richard A. Bilas and Sally Rakow.
 The commission will receive public comment on the PMR, as well as hear the Bay Area Quality Management District's final Determination of Compliance (DOC) on the project, at a public evidentiary hearing tentatively scheduled for March 18. The air quality district's final DOC is expected to confirm its preliminary DOC presented in November 1992. Accordingly, if the final evidence continues to indicate that the project will improve air quality and comply with environmental laws, the committee is prepared to recommend to the full Energy Commission that the project be certified and licensed.
 According to the PMR, the Crockett Cogeneration project offers a wide range of economic benefits to the region. The project represents an important power source and revenue-generating operation for C&H Sugar's only West Coast refinery, and provides continued economic viability for the sugar industry to remain in California. Recommended approval of the cogeneration facility is indicative of the state's commitment to economic recovery, providing hundreds of jobs in construction, coupled with an agreement to train and hire the local work force. The project is also expected to increase local expenditures for goods and services, expand the local/state tax base, and increase investment in the tri-county area of Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda, as well as in the community of Crockett itself.
 Project spending in the Bay Area during construction will be approximately $20 million in labor costs and at least $6 million in non-labor expenditures. Once in operation, the project will generate approximately $2 million annually in property taxes to Contra Costa County and provide annual salaries which are estimated to increase the county's yearly effective income by $1 million.
 The Energy Commission's streamlined licensing and public participation process for the certification of energy facilities has served as a model for encouraging public comment in the case. Since Energy National Inc. first applied to the commission for certification of the Crockett project last year, more than 40 formal hearings, staff workshops, and meetings with area residents, local elected officials and other interested parties have been held. In addition, more than 300 data requests were processed by Energy Commission staff.
 Although the case has met opposition from community residents and local elected officials, "it is the committee's judgment that the validity of many fears and concerns expressed during the evidentiary hearings are not supported by the evidence of record," according to the PMR.
 The major areas of community concern are as follows:
 -- Need for this project. By displacing older, less efficient power sources, the Crockett cogeneration project is expected to save Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) ratepayers at least $19 million.
 -- Air quality and public health. Facts in evidence show that as a result of purchasing emission offsets, shutting down the old C&H boilers, and displacing older, more polluting PG&E power plants, the Crockett Cogeneration project can actually improve air quality. This in turn will reduce airborne public health risks.
 -- Project noise. Facts in evidence show the plant's noise level will be so low that people in Crockett and Glen Cove areas near the plant site will not be able to detect the slight addition to existing ambient sound levels. Glen Cove Homeowners Association's independent testing confirmed Energy National's contentions. Furthermore, the project will reduce some existing noises at the C&H Sugar Refinery.
 -- Toxic spills. Energy National will implement a state-of-the-art ammonia handling safety design and an unusually thorough risk assessment to assure the public's safety.
 -- Property values dropping. No credible evidence supports the fears that property values will drop. Instead, the record shows that the project will generate more than $750,000 annually in benefits to the Crockett community, which could tend to increase the desirability of living in the area and enhance property values.
 -- Appearance. The PMR recognizes that there will be a degree of intrusion into the existing viewshed. All feasible measures will be taken to reduce the visual impacts of the project and cause it to blend into the existing industrial complex. The PMR recommends that mitigations measures -- including the construction of a public pier along the waterfront, landscaping, undergrounding of existing overhead utilities in certain areas and painting of the existing C&H Sugar bins -- be applied to aesthetically enhance the area. The PMR concludes that this mitigated intrusion does not result in a significant negative impact.
 The public and other interested parties have a 45-day period to submit written comment on the PMR (ending March 25). After reviewing these comments, the committee will publish a proposed decision which will be available for additional public comment for at least 15 days. A final hearing will be held before the full Energy Commission in Sacramento by April 28.
 Information on methods of public participation in the project's certification process can be obtained by calling the Energy Commission's public adviser's office toll-free at 800-822-6228.
 -0- 2/8/93
 /CONTACT: Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director of the California Energy Commission, 916-654-4989/


CO: California Energy Commission ST: California IN: SU:

TM-SG -- SF011 -- 4360 02/08/93 18:31 EST
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