Contra Costa Unit 8 Power Project, Docket No. 00-AFC-1 (Contra Costa, Antioch)

Certification Granted on May 30, 2001.

Project Manager: Cheri Davis

Staff Counsel: Lisa DeCarlo

Hearing Officer: Garret Shean

Presiding Member: Chairman William Keese

Project Summary

AFC Filing, Data Adequacy, and Project Description

On January 31, 2000, Southern Energy Delta, now Mirant Delta, filed an Application for Certification for its nominal 530 MW natural-gas fired Contra Costa Unit 8 Power Project. This would be an addition to the PG&E Contra Costa facility, which dated from 1951 and had seven units, of which only units 6 and 7 were still producing electricity. Southern (Mirant) had purchased Contra Costa from PG&E as part of the PUC's utility divestiture phase of electric industry restructuring (deregulation). Together, Units 6, 7, and 8 would produce approximately 1,210 MW.

The project was located just outside the City of Antioch, in northern Contra Costa County. This would be the third large merchant plant proposed for the Pittsburg-Antioch area, closely following Pittsburg (Los Medanos), Docket No. 98-AFC-1, and Delta, Docket No. 98-AFC-3. It amounted to the greatest concentration of new plants in northern California, exceeded only by the still larger grouping in Kern County.

Contra Costa was initially determined to be data inadequate on March 15, 2000. Applicant provided the missing information and then achieved data adequacy at the Energy Commission meeting on May 17, 2000. The project was then nearly licensed within the one-year statutory time frame, missing by only two weeks.

Selection of a heavily industrial area, combined with use of the highly disturbed former PG&E site, complete with numerous existing systems, including a switchyard, and wastewater treatment plant that generally avoided the need for additional cooling water from the San Joaquin River, gave Contra Costa an advantage over many other AFCs. For example, Contra Costa had no land use conformity problems (unlike Metcalf, Docket No. 99-AFC-3). The new project's minimal impact upon the San Joaquin River avoided significant biological controversies, in contrast to Moss Landing, Docket No. 99-AFC-4).


Some of the local area residents who had unsuccessfully opposed Pittsburg and Delta again raised air quality and pollution concerns, pointing out that their region had been singled out for far more than its fair share of new facilities. They had little impact upon the proceeding.

The most effective intervenor was the Sportsmen Yacht Club, which objected to applicant's initial plan to have the powerplant directly adjacent to their marina. Mirant ultimately responded with an Enhanced Site Plan alternative that moved Unit 8 away from the Yacht Club, reducing yachter concerns over visual impacts and noise. It was a significant applicant concession, which caused a short-term delay, but avoided major adjudication.

Contra Costa enjoyed a smoother licensing process than most of its contemporaries. Mirant's larger problems involved accusations that it was one of the out-of-state power companies creating and exploiting the electricity supply shortage of 2000-2001. Additionally, Mirant's second Bay Area project, Portrero in San Francisco, Docket No. 00-AFC-4, was facing substantial governmental and local resident opposition.


The Energy Commission unanimously certified the Contra Costa Unit 8 Power Project on May 30, 2001.

Mirant's schedule called for Contra Costa to begin operating by mid 2003. Construction started, but Mirant's bankruptcy put the project on hold with only 7% completed. The powerplant's future is unknown.