NRG Energy to proceed with power plant despite Calif. city concern over sea levels

SAN FRANCISCO, July 2 Wed Jul 2, 2014 9:30pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, July 2 (Reuters) - NRG Energy vowed on Wednesday to press ahead with a proposal to build a power plant in coastal Southern California even after a city council expressed opposition, citing fears it could be inundated by rising sea water.

The City Council of Oxnard approved a non-binding moratorium on the plan to build a natural gas-fired power plant to replace two of its older facilities, which require major upgrades or face decommissioning in 2020.

David Knox, communications director for NRG, said that while the company was disappointed in the outcome of the vote, only the California Energy Commission, not the Oxnard City Council, has the power to stop the project.

"We are continuing to move forward with this project regardless of the moratorium," he said.

"We've looked at the predicted sea level rises and where the units are going to be and there's not an issue during the life of these plants," he said.

That was in contrast to climate change modeling maps developed by The Nature Conservancy and shown to the Oxnard City Council, projecting that the plants would be under water by 2020 or sooner.

"There's a place for critical infrastructure and it's not in areas that will be threatened by sea level rise and climate driven hazards," said Lily Verdone of the The Nature Conservancy.

"We're thrilled with (the council's) decision," she said.

The new plant would sit about 500 feet (152 metres) from the ocean at high tide.

The California Energy Commission will conduct its own review of the project before licensing it, which will take into account sea level rise.

The Oxnard City Council will meet again in the next 45 days to discuss whether to extend the non-binding moratorium, which could last for up to two years. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Wills)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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