California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Why we don’t need new dirty power plants

By Michael Sarmiento, father, husband and Sierra Club Organizer

Click here to TAKE ACTION and tell the CPUC No to new dirty power plants and YES to renewable energy!

Hurricane Katrina.  Hurricane Sandy.  Typhoon Haiyan.  It seems that every year extreme weather events caused by climate change affect millions of people worldwide.  I have family in the Philippines right now that are suffering from the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan.  They currently have limited access to food, water and shelter.  We are also hearing reports that it might take 6 months before people have access to electricity.

Living in California, with my wife Darryl and our 1 year old daughter, Octavia, this concerns me because California is also feeling the damaging effects of climate change. Over the last century, temperatures across the state have risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.[1] Snowpack and the resulting water supply have decreased, and foundations of the California economy like agriculture are under threat.[2] The frequency, intensity and expense of forest fires have increased steadily in recent decades too.[3]

Southern California also suffers from some of the dirtiest air in the nation. In the American Lung Association’s 2013 State of the Air Report, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County all received “F” grades for particulate matter and ozone, the two primary byproducts from natural gas peaker plants.[4] With the air unsafe to breathe,  1.1 million children and adults in Los Angeles County have asthma.[5] Asthma attacks send 20,000 children in L.A. County alone to the emergency room every year, while over 300 people in the county die each year from asthma.[6]

The cumulative impacts of fossil fuels already burden local communities in Southern California, especially low income neighborhoods and communities of color.  Building more natural gas plants will make pollution’s toll on public health worse. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown and state regulators are proposing to build dirty new fossil fuel plants in Southern California to replace SONGS (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station).

The pollution from natural gas power plants contribute to climate change and building  new natural gas power plants is also costly and unnecessary. In testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Division of Ratepayer Advocates noted that the cost of procuring 1,000 MW of new gas-fired power plants would be $1.36 billion…and that doesn’t even include the cost of natural gas to run the plants the next few decades.  Moreover, as many utility experts have identified, there simply isn’t a need for new power plants.

The good news is, there is a better way: we can replace SONGS with 100% clean energy.  We can address the devastating effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and prevent new air pollution from dirty gas plants.  We can increase energy efficiency programs for homes and businesses. We can put programs in place to reduce unnecessary energy use at “peak” times of the day when the grid is maxed out (like the FlexAlert system). We can add new energy storage to save power generated during a low-use time of day to use during peak hours.

The retirement of SONGS presents an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how California can meet its future energy needs with clean energy. 

Please tell the CPUC and Governor Brown – NO New Natural Gas Power Plants! Clean Energy Now!