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Kern County Residents Voice Complaints at CA Energy Commission Hearing, Urging Rejection of Proposed Coal Plant outside Bakersfield

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Anger over troubling pollution impacts on farms, farm workers, and local families’ health continues
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Contact: 
Chris Romanini, romaninichris2@gmail.com or (661) 664-8171
Evan Gillespie, evan.gillespie@sierraclub.org or (203) 376-1679
Refugio Mata, refugio.mata@sierraclub.org or (805) 428-4075

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BUTTONWILLOW – Local residents took their opposition to the proposed ‘Hydrogen Energy California’ (HECA) plant to the public hearings held today by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The much-anticipated hearings are a follow up to the recent preliminary assessment on the coal plant that the CEC and the DOE jointly released. The 2,154 page assessment (PDF) delivered a major blow to the project, highlighting “significant unresolved issues” ranging from concerns about water supply, waste, environmental justice impacts, and the proposed but unproven carbon capture and sequestration technology.

“Despite the fancy and misleading name, the HECA project is just another poisonous coal plant project. It is the last thing we would ever want in our community” said Chris Romanini, who owns and operates a farm near the proposed site. “Hundreds of HECA vehicles would make their way through our small country roads on a daily basis spewing their toxics onto our food crops. It would just devastate this community.”  

“Bottom line is that the coal plant being proposed by SCS Energy would spew dangerous pollutants into our air when we already breathe the dirtiest air in the country " said Tom Frantz, a local farmer with Association of Irritated Residents. “Not to mention that the coal plant would use up massive amounts of water – a resource our farms obviously depend on.”

A recent Sierra Club investigation found major problems with the local Air District’s proposed air permit for the project. The Sierra Club uncovered illegal “emission reductions credits” that the Massachusetts-based SCS Energy purchased for the project to supposedly offset emissions. The proposed air permit failed to demonstrate HECA’s compliance with the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act, the state Clean Air Act, and the District regulations.

“A Sierra Club’s investigation has already found major issues with this proposed coal plant” said Evan Gillespie, Western Region Deputy Director of the Beyond Coal campaign. “There is clear evidence that the emission reduction offsets associated with the air permit were downright illegal. Compounded with the troubling issues revealed in the assessment by the California Energy Commission, there is mounting evidence that the HECA project is a disaster in the making altogether.”  

The coal plant would use coal railed from New Mexico and emit dangerous pollutants from transportation and gasifying the coal, including fine particulate matter and ozone precursors. Petroleum coke would be shipped from southern California refineries via soot-spewing diesel trucks that would make their way through local farmlands. The EPA has designated the county as an extreme ‘non-attainment’ area for ozone, the primary driver of smog. An astounding 1 in 8 children and 1 in 6 adults in the county suffer from asthma, and studies have shown a direct correlation between particulate pollution and asthma hospitalizations in the San Joaquin Valley.

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