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Carlsbad’s Replacement Power Plant Permit Approved

Aired 6/1/12 on KPBS News.

The California Energy Commission has approved a new power plant to replace the Encina plant on the Carlsbad coastline.

Carlsbad city officials have fought building a new power plant on their prime beachfront property for more than four years.

But this week the State Energy Commission approved the new project, saying replacing the gas-powered Encina plant is critical, especially in view of the questions hanging over the San Onofre nuclear power plant, less than 30 miles to the north.

San Onofre has been shut down since January as a result of premature wear in its steam generator tubes. The operator, Southern California Edison, cannot schedule a restart date until the root cause of the problems have been confirmed. It is unclear whether the nuclear power plant plant can be brought back online without major repairs that could take months and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The plant's license ends in 2022 and the company has not yet decided whether to apply for a renewal.

Critics of the proposed Encina replacement plant say other new power plants have been built in San Diego, and the power from Encina may end up being sold to L.A. rather than San Diego.

Carlsbad argues the property, which has sweeping ocean views, is too valuable for another industrial building.

But State Energy Commissioners say the energy security benefits to the region outweigh the city’s complaints.

The proposed plant, a 14-story industrial building with two tall smokestacks, would be squeezed west of Interstate 5, between the freeway and the railway line.

There’s no guarantee the company that owns Encina, NRC, will pay to dismantle the old plant, which could leave Carlsbad with two power plants and three smokestacks on its coastline.

Construction could begin within two years, though the project still needs approval from other state and local agencies.

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