It seems like there’s been nothing but good news over the last six months for environmental advocates in Ventura County when it comes to power plants.
The years-long fight over NRG’s Puente Power Project at Mandalay in Oxnard came to a halt when the California Energy Commission announced in October that it would not support the construction. After that, almost like dominos, NRG stated that it would suspend the project’s application and would shut down three power plants at Mandalay this year. Last week, NRG said it would shut down its Ormond Beach generating station by October. Also, the Calpine Corporation made a request last week to suspend plans to build a generating station dubbed Mission Rock Energy Center in Santa Paula.
The reduction of emissions and subsequent suspension of potential carbon-producing projects is good news for advocates fighting for clean air. But those who fought fearlessly against new power projects were also passionately aggressive about power plants on the beach as eyesores and restricting public access. Unfortunately, taking back the beach isn’t as easy as protesting projects and emailing legislators.
Take, for instance, Petrochem north of Ventura and Halaco in Oxnard. When it comes to the oil refinery on Crooked Palm known as Petrochem, it was nearly 30 years after the operation shut down before the property owners received notice to clean up the site from the Environmental Protection Agency. While it took only a couple of years for the EPA to step in in 2006 after Halaco shut down in 2004, the slag heap remains; the site became a somewhat dangerous homeless encampment and the full cleanup remains a goal for the future. From our story, “Powering Down,” on page 6, the actual demolition of the power plants on Oxnard beaches, at least in the foreseeable future, may require a stretch of the imagination. While NRG had reached a compromise to demolish one of the plants at Mandalay in exchange for approval of the new facility, the owner of the plants themselves, GenOn, filed for bankruptcy last year and NRG will no longer be affiliated with the company. And so, the air will be cleaner but the blight will remain on Oxnard beaches; the future is uncertain.
The question remains, what will leadership in Oxnard be willing to discuss and/or negotiate for pristine beaches? Perhaps there is some legal loophole that would mandate the plants’ demolition, but from what we have seen with other problem sites in Ventura County, we aren’t optimistic. We do, however, look forward to learning about strategies for their removal and to idyllic beaches. In the meantime, surely, people fortunate enough to live within driving distance from beaches with plenty of public access are not going to them anyways. Maybe it’s time for a change and take advantage of what is available to us.