Valley power authority plans an electric plant in Parlier despite objections

A public power authority has decided to build a 565-megawatt natural gas-fired electric generating plant in Parlier, despite opposition from neighbors. But the decision could cost the authority one of its members.

The San Joaquin Valley Power Authority had been considering sites in Parlier and Kingsburg, but settled on Parlier because of its proximity to water, electric transmission lines and natural gas pipelines, officials said Thursday.

The authority, which will serve agencies in Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties, submitted a construction application Thursday to the California Energy Commission.

The estimated $438 million power plant will be on a 32-acre site along Bethel Avenue that Parlier is planning to annex.

The site is in an industrial park adjacent to Parlier's future border with Selma. The power plant is expected to open in 2011 and would serve 191,000 customers in the three-county area.

During a meeting earlier this year, residents near Selma opposed the location because of concerns about air pollution, its proximity to a nearby school and plans by the city of Selma for high-end housing just west of the plant site.

The Selma City Council is opposed to the Parlier site because of its proximity to those upscale homes and because of concerns from nearby residents.

"We are very concerned that it's within a half-mile of these [future] nice homes and a school," said City Manager D-B Heusser.

Selma City Council members may vote Monday night to withdraw from the power authority, in part because of the Parlier site, Selma Mayor Don Tow said. The council granted officials from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. an opportunity to address the council Monday night. PG&E has opposed the plant and the public power authority.

David Orth, general manager of the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority, said any concerns from surrounding residents and communities will be addressed by the state Energy Commission and other regulators.

"The Energy Commission will look at how the community feels," Orth said.

Before approving the project, the California Energy Commission will hold up to 12 public hearings, locally and in Sacramento. The first hearings will begin in early 2008.

Parlier City Manager Lou Martinez said his council supports the plant.

"None of our residents have voiced a negative concern," he said.

Martinez said the power plant will be cooled with waste water from Parlier's sewage plant. That will save Parlier nearly $20 million by eliminating the need to expand the sewage plant to accommodate more waste-water storage as the city grows.

The power plant is projected to emit about 100 tons of air pollutants each year. The power authority will be required to install the most advanced pollution controls available and purchase emission-reduction credits, said Dave Warner, director of permit services for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

The credits come from businesses that reduce air pollution by installing cleaner technology, phasing out older equipment or by other means.

The San Joaquin Valley Power Authority, which will operate the plant through the Kings River Conservation District, has promised it can shave at least 5% off the power costs of customers in the 13 participating agencies. Those agencies are Tulare County, Kings County, Dinuba, Clovis, Selma, Reedley, Parlier, Kingsburg, Sanger, Kerman, Hanford, Corcoran, and Lemoore.