Environmental group sues over gas power plant decision

The Associated Press

The lawsuit in California's 1st District Court of Appeal seeks a court order overturning the California Public Utilities Commission's decision.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A decision by utility regulators that opened the way for development of a natural gas-fired power plant on the coast near San Diego failed to meet a requirement to consider clean energy sources, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the Sierra Club environmental group.

The lawsuit in California's 1st District Court of Appeal seeks a court order overturning the California Public Utilities Commission's decision.

A call to the commission was not immediately returned on Monday. Commission President Michael Picker has described the gas-powered plant as a trade-off.

At issue is the commission's decision in May to approve a proposal from San Diego Gas & Electric to buy power from the proposed plant in Carlsbad. The decision was part of a strategy to replace electricity lost after the nearby San Onofre nuclear power plant was shut down two years ago.

The Sierra Club lawsuit says the commission required San Diego Gas & Electric to meet some of its energy requirements through a bidding process that would be open to clean energy providers. But before that process even got underway, the utility requested approval of a contract with the gas plant, the lawsuit says.

"The state has all these environment and energy goals, and the idea of allowing the competitive bidding was to allow for clean energy to compete and support our policies toward a clean energy future," said William Rostov, an attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club in the lawsuit. "This is going backwards."

The approval came less than a month after Gov. Jerry Brown said he wanted to accelerate the state's push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Picker said around the time the power plant deal was approved that gas-fired power was needed to maintain reliable electric service while solarand other renewables were developed.

Customers would pay $2.2 billion over two decades for the plant built by NRG Energy, which at full power would be able to light 400,000 homes.

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