Crockett Cogeneration Project (Crockett II)

Docket No. 92-AFC-1 (see also Crockett I, Docket No. 84-AFC-3)

Certification Granted on May 3, 1993

Project Manager: Gary Heath

Staff Counsel: Dick Ratliff

Hearing Officer: Gary Fay

Presiding Member: Commission Richard Bilas


Project Summary


Background and Overview

Pacific Thermonetics, Inc. (PTI) was the unsuccessful applicant for the original Crockett Cogeneration Project, Docket No 84-AFC-3. PTI’s poor relationship with the Crockett community, plus its delays in correcting serious problems, caused the first Crockett AFC to fail in 1989.

PTI then sold its interest to Crockett Cogeneration, a California limited partnership that became the new applicant. The project was basically the same, except PTI’s gas turbine was replaced by a state-of-the-art, highly efficient combined cycle. The new applicant’s approach was flexible and conciliatory. Dian Grueneich was replaced as applicant attorney by former Energy Commissioner Gene Varanini. Varanini tried to systematically heal the wounds left by PTI, seeking to convert former opponents of the plant into supporters. The new applicant decisively changed key aspects of the project that had been fatal to PTI, such as the ammonia storage tank near the railroad tracks.

Many of the same Crockett intervenors who fought PTI also vigorously opposed the second AFC. However, their numbers were smaller, people were exhausted from the earlier battle, and the new AFC appeared unstoppable. The Committee’s Presiding Member was now Commissioner Dick Bilas, who had supported reopening the Crockett I record as requested by PTI. In Crockett I, an alliance between CEC staff and intervenors had defeated PTI. In the new AFC, staff and the applicant would generally have a cooperative relationship, with staff recommending project approval. The intervenors would now become relatively isolated as the second Crockett AFC picked up momentum, leading to certification.

AFC Filing and Data Adequacy

Crockett Cogeneration filed its AFC on March 11, 1992 for a 240 MW (net) cogeneration facility at the C&H Sugar Refinery in Crockett, an unincorporated community in Contra Costa County. The Energy Commission accepted the AFC as data adequate on April 29, 1992.

Project Description

The Crockett Cogeneration Project was intended to supply steam for operations of the C&H Sugar Refinery, while generating electricity for sale to PG&E. The major components of the project were a General Electric Frame 7F combustion turbine, a heat recovery steam generator with duct burners, a steam turbine and three auxiliary boilers to provide steam to C&H when the powerplant operated at maximum capacity. Natural gas was the fuel. The applicant’s contract with PG&E (transferred from PTI) included provisions for PG&E to dispatch the facility, producing electricity at the utility’s option. NOx emissions would be controlled by a combination of dry low-NOx combustors and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which utilizes ammonia.

In Crockett I, the potential hazard from a railroad accident causing a hazardous ammonia release was the decisive factor that stopped PTI. For Crockett II, the ammonia storage tanks were now moved away from the railroad tracks, encased in protective concrete and partially buried. Equally important, the ammonia stored and used by the new project’s SCR system would be aqueous ammonia, which is inherently less dangerous than Crockett I’s anhydrous ammonia. (Pages 230-232 of the CEC Decision.) Ammonia storage would not be a serious factor in the new AFC.


The C&H Sugar Refinery sits on the Carquinez Strait, beneath the Carquinez Bridge (Interstate 80), an integral part of the little town of Crockett. Crockett grew up around the refinery, although it no longer houses the C&H workforce. Residential areas are thus close to the cogeneration site, and on the nearby hillside with a scenic view overlooking the Carquinez Strait. The degree to which the cogeneration plant’s exhaust stack interfered with that view remained a major intervenor concern.



Demand Conformance was evaluated under the physical and economic need tests of ER 90. Unlike the earlier case, CEC staff now testified that Crockett was needed. Staff’s changed position resulted from new dispatchability provisions in the PG&E contract which insured that Crockett would not displace PG&E’s "core" resources (nuclear, geothermal, hydro), so the project easily passed the physical need test. (Page 19 of the CEC Decision.)

Applicant and CEC staff also agreed that Crockett passed the economic test, providing a benefit to PG&E’s ratepayers. Staff conservatively calculated this benefit at $19 million, the applicant at a more generous $130 million. Applicant did not object to staff’s lower figure, and with the economic need test satisfied, there was no requirement to demonstrate additional environmental or operational benefits from the project. (Pages 19-20 of the CEC Decision.)

Attempts by intervenors to contest need were rejected by both applicant and CEC staff, who asserted that the intervenors were making irrelevant challenges to fixed ER 90 assumptions. The Committee concurred with applicant and CEC staff, dismissing the intervenors’ analysis as inconsistent with ER 90. The Committee concluded that the Crockett facility was needed. (Pages 21-26 of the CEC Decision.)

Air Quality

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued its Determination of Compliance (DOC), finding that the project conformed with all applicable air quality rules, and CEC staff concurred. (Pages 33-35, 41-42 of the CEC Decision.) The City of Benicia, located downwind and across the Carquinez Strait from Crockett, was concerned about the plant causing its area to suffer elevated pollution levels. The CEC required that the applicant attempt to obtain local air emission offsets to prevent this unlikely occurrence. (Air Quality Condition of Certification #49, page 72 of the CEC Decision.) The applicant ultimately secured all of its emission offsets from the northern portion of the Bay Area, closer to the project site. Air quality issues raised by Crockett intervenors were considered by the Committee to be groundless or insignificant. (Pages 44-52 of the CEC Decision.)

Benicia’s request for the applicant to provide an air monitoring device in Benicia was denied by the Committee. However, the full Commission reversed the Committee, requiring the air monitoring device against the technical advice of staff and the applicant, each of whom had testified that any measurable increase in ozone from plant emissions would necessarily occur further east. (Paragraph 6 of the Adoption Order; pages 42-43, 50-52 of the CEC Decision.)  

Visual Resources

CEC staff and the Crockett intervenors considered visual impacts from the Crockett facility, especially, the 230 foot high exhaust stack, to be significant. To staff, the scenic viewscape would be severely damaged in spite of applicant’s considerable efforts to improve Crockett’s visual environment by such measures as undergrounding many overhead wires. (Pages 104-107 of the CEC Decision.)

The Committee found that the applicant had agreed to all feasible mitigation measures which would reduce the project’s visual impacts. The Committee criticized staff’s approach, given the industrial nature of the massive C&H plant, which already dominated the waterfront’s visual character. While the cogeneration plant would interfere with some views, the Committee and Commission concluded that the overall visual resources environmental impact was less than significant with the relevant mitigation. (Pages 107-114 of the CEC Decision.)


The intervenors claimed that the powerplant would raise noise to unacceptable levels. Applicant conducted noise surveys and proposed several mitigation measures to try and reassure everyone that the project would not cause such impacts. (Noise Conditions of Certification, pages 175-180 of the CEC Decision.) CEC staff, the Committee and the Commission concluded that, with the mitigation in place, the project would comply with all applicable noise standards and, that except for some construction noise during daytime hours, the powerplant was not expected to have an audible impact.


The applicant, negotiating with the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and its Crockett Advisory Committee, agreed upon a package of over $750,000 per year in direct economic benefits to the Crockett community from the cogeneration plant. This included a $300,000 annual payment by applicant to the Crockett Community Foundation, and allocation by the Board of Supervisors of $450,000 from the project’s yearly property taxes directly to Crockett services and needs. The applicant also reached local school district mitigation agreements. (Pages 132-135 of the CEC Decision.)

CEC staff, while still concerned about lingering adverse effects upon the community from the cogeneration plant, supported applicant’s mitigation package. Intervenors testified about the negative psychological and emotional effects they would feel upon viewing the project, fearing it would change small-town Crockett forever, lower property values, and cause people to move out. (Pages 139-144 of the CEC Decision.)

The Committee and Commission emphasized that the concerns and fears of local residents had resulted in many project improvements since the original AFC. Thus, the project’s socioeconomic impacts had now been mitigated, and, despite some continuing fears, the cogeneration plant would actually provide the opportunity for concrete community enhancements. (Pages 144-150 of the CEC Decision.)


The California Energy Commission unanimously certified the Crockett Cogeneration Project on May 3, 1993. The second Crockett AFC was completed in the one year time period specified by the Warren-Alquist Act, in contrast to Crockett I which lingered for five years.

The local Crockett intervenors apparently contemplated a legal challenge to Commission certification, but chose instead to abandon the fight after nearly ten years and embrace the community benefits package. The Crockett Cogeneration Project was constructed and began operations in 1996. The powerplant has apparently been a good neighbor, generating far more electricity than controversy in recent years. Nearby refineries and chemical plants proved to pose a far greater health risk to the people of Crockett than this cogeneration plant.