Gray Skies

If Gov. Davis has his way, California soon will have dozens of new power plants -- a lot of them in the wrong places, some of them unnecessary, and very, very few of them based on renewable energy

Ramo's not the only person supporting this mix of power options -- Supervisor Maxwell says her ordinance is aimed, in part, at producing an outcome where the net pollution in the southeast is reduced.

Frustrated with what he sees as circular reasoning behind the Energy Commission's unwillingness to consider a smaller power plant combined with renewable energy resources, Ramo cracks, "What you've said is, "Well, it doesn't have as big an environmental impact -- but, on the other hand, it's not as big.' That's some intense analysis!"

This sets off Bill Westerfield, a CEC lawyer who has been silently fuming ever since one of the public speakers -- dressed in a green cape and mask -- responded to his curt request for a name with "The Green Avenger." He has a trim build and a stern, righteously wounded expression that evokes the prosecutor Jack McCoy on NBC's Law & Order.

"Mr. Ramo! You're using time to insult staff!"

"I'd like to finish."

"Let him finish!" about 15 people shout in unison.

"Can we have a break?" Westerfield asks.

"No!"

"Let's talk about solar," Ramo says, wading into the benefits of integrated resource planning for a few seconds before being cut off again by the increasingly combative CEC lawyer.

"This time is not intended to criticize the report," he booms, thoroughly puzzling everyone in the room. This was, after all, regarded as the public's last chance to comment on the staff's work before a final assessment of the project -- most probably an endorsement -- is offered to the commissioners.

An old lady chimes in from the cheap seats: "You're the one who's wasting time!"

Time, as it turns out, is what the public and the city are pleading for more of. On July 1, the city, along with three environmental groups, formally asked the Energy Commission to slow down. More specifically, it asked the commission to redo its preliminary report to include: more information about environmental impacts on both nearby communities and bay waters, which will be used to cool the plant down; the impact of the city ordinance the original report ignored; and the impact the new plant would have on Mirant's power over the local electricity market, of which it already controls a sizable chunk.

"[The pace] is clearly a big problem for them," says Maxwell aide Greg Asay. "The first report was clearly data inadequate. ... We want to extend this process, because the load is obviously overwhelming their staff."If Gov. Davis has his way, California soon will have dozens of new power plants -- a lot of them in the wrong places, some of them unnecessary, and very, very few of them based on renewable energy

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