PG&E Plans to Close Two Antioch Power Plants

Good news: PG&E has announced its intention to apply to the Public Utilities Commission to close five older, higher polluting power plants – two in Pittsburg, two in Antioch and one in Bay Point, operated by GWF Energy LLC of Pittsburg.

The plants, all located along the waterfront, have been operating since the late 1980s. The plants burn petroleum coke, an oil refinery byproduct, and use water taken from the San Joaquin river, and return the waste into the water. At the time the plants were proposed, GWF had only one such petroleum coke burning plan in operation, which was in Torrance, CA.

GWF was in a rush in those days to get the plants on line in order to benefit from an energy crisis, which obligated PG&E to purchase the power under the PUC Policies Act of 1978. (PG&E would be released from this obligation if the plants didn’t start operation by December 1989.) Sale of the energy generated by the plants to PG&E was considered so favorable that it was anticipated GWF would recoup their investment within five years.

In reply to my inquiry about the project to a PG&E executive, I received the following statement ”As you know, our customers pay for fuel costs and purchased power costs directly because our rate structure allows these costs to be flowed through (without profit or loss) to the ratepayer. Since other, less costly, sources of power are available in the short run, your impression that power purchases from these kinds of projects can be uneconomical for our customer is correct.”

There was heavy public opposition when the project was presented to the Antioch Planning Commission by GWF consultant Eric Hasseltine, a former county supervisor. The three-hour hearing before a standing room only crowd of 180 people ended in a 4-3 vote denying the project. GWF immediately appealed the decision to the City Council.

Although speaker after speaker argued against construction of the plant during GWF’s appeal to the council, causing the council to postpone discussion of giving further indirect financial assistance to Roger Morgan‘s ferryboat San Diego restaurant project, which ultimately cost the city about $2.7 million, the council approved the deal.

Guess all those company donations – e.g., $117,000 for construction of a Little League baseball diamond, $10,00 for the East County Hospice program and $100,000 for the Delta Learning Center for whom the company secured a $100,000 interest-free construction loan and financial support for several of the City’s leisure events – paid off, as did donations to several council members.

It was disillusioning to learn that shortly after approval of the project, the husband of council member Mary Rocha, who had received a $250 donation from GWF, was hired as a maintenance worker at the plant – one of only 15 permanent positions.

Responding to inquiries by the press, GWF’s Chief Operating Officer Marion Horna , who took charge of the five plants in East County in 1989, stated “I’m sure locally the people are going to say there was a conflict but there was no impropriety. He applied for the job and went through the interviews. The only difference is Mary knew we were needing jobs. That’s the only inside track he had. We promised to hire locally. He was a local citizen and, as a matter of fact, a minority.” Mr. Horna resigned from GWF in 1991.

One Comment to “PG&E Plans to Close Two Antioch Power Plants”

  1. Judy Pence says:

    And how many jobs will be lost with the closures? This is good news??

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