No one would argue that there are indeed grey areas in the ongoing San Diego regional energy saga that lend themselves to skeptical journalistic inquiry.  However, Environmental Health Coalition stands by its May 12 statement that the South Bay Power Plant will close by December 31, 2010 based on facts on the ground today. 

True, the Regional Water Quality Control Board did not terminate the South Bay Power Plant’s discharge permit effective June 1 as we had hoped.  Board members did, however, make it crystal clear that no discharge can occur under Dynegy Energy’s current permit beyond December 31, 2010. 

Comments from the Board also made it clear that no new permit will be awarded unless Dynegy meets new, more stringent state-wide regulations for plants that use water for once-through cooling.  Dynegy has made clear in public testimony that it will not invest in expensive upgrades to the power plant. 

We obviously viewed this action by the Regional Board as more significant and more definitive than did some San Diego news outlets.  Based on our years of involvement in the issue, however, we know that the continued operation of the power plant rests on a house of cards that falls quickly if there is no water discharge permit in place.  Without a permit to discharge, we do not believe that the South Bay Power Plant can be given a 2011 reliability contract to run. This will cause the lease with the Port of San Diego to end and initiate teardown of the power plant. 

Ultimately, the difference in EHC’s position and the outcome reported by some local media was the belief that termination of the discharge on June 1 was the most significant, relevant action.  It was not.  In the end, the Board’s reaffirmation of the end of Dynegy’s permit in December was the most important outcome.

Time will tell if our optimism was well-founded or not.  The struggle to remove the South Bay Power Plant has been long, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

We are counting on all involved parties to abide by the rules and regulations in place. We are also relying on vigilant community involvement – and reporting – to make certain this happens.  We hope that voiceofsandiego.org chooses to cover this important issue in the future.

Laura Hunter is the associate program director at the Environmental Health Coalition.

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