Hayward shoreline by Mary Mactavish

Hayward shoreline by Mary Mactavish

In June the East Bay Regional Park District signed a contract with Calpine behind closed doors agreeing not to oppose Russell City Energy Center, the 650 mega-watt power plant planned to locate approximately 1000-1500 feet from the Hayward Regional Shoreline. The Park District manages the shoreline’s wetlands which are home to a number of listed species including salt marsh harvest mice, snowy plovers, clapper rails, and other sensitive species. In negotiating its deal, the Park District acted without public participation or discussion on this critical issue despite strong interest expressed by CNPS and local grassroots groups. In return for its non-opposition, Calpine has agreed to give the Park District a 26-acre parcel of land, money for property management and to improve the Winton Road entrance to the shoreline, trail improvements, and trees planted to screen the view of the power plant from the shoreline. That is, if the power plant is ever built.

Currently, the project still needs its PSD permit (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Earlier this year BAAQMD decided to grant the permit, but the decision was immediately appealed by a number of groups and individuals. On July 21, the 3-judge panel of the EPA Appeals Board heard the appeal which is now under deliberation.

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS has provided comment to various agencies including the East Bay Regional Park District regarding the project over the past two years. We have unequivocally opposed the power plant because of its incompatibility with the sensitive natural resources a stone’s throw away. As the 7th largest point source for air pollution in the Bay Area, RCEC would spew millions of pounds of toxic emissions into the air basin affecting nearby sensitive receptors such as human beings and wildlife. The power plant will emit large quantities of nitrogen over the salt marsh and subtidal regions where some of the Bay’s last remaining eelgrass beds are located. In addition, because of public safety concerns to air traffic at the nearby Hayward Regional Airport, the FAA has ordered 24-hour-a-day lighting for this huge structure that will sit immediately next to a designated Important Bird Area utilized by migrating waterfowl. Yet, incredibly, none of the mitigations agreed upon in the District’s contract are directed toward reducing the impacts of air emissions or light pollution.

Local groups such as Citizens Against Pollution and Chabot College along with EBCNPS have battled the air quality impacts in the Park District’s absence. While Park District personnel see RCEC as a done deal, we are not ready to call this one. Instead we will continue to call attention to the plant’s impacts.