Delta Energy Center, Docket No. 98-AFC-3 (Delta, DEC)

Certification granted on February 9, 2000.

Project Manager: Paul Richins

Staff Counsel: Dick Ratliff

Hearing Officer: Susan Gefter

Presiding Member: Chairman William Keese

Project Summary

AFC Filing, Data Adequacy, and Project Description.

On December 18, 1998, the joint venture partnership of Calpine Corporation and Bechtel Enterprises filed the Delta Energy Center Application for Certification. The Delta project was a nominal 880 MW combined cycle natural gas-fired powerplant to be located in an industrial area of the City of Pittsburg, in northern Contra Costa County. The powerplant would supply the adjacent Dow Chemical facility with process steam and about 20 MW of electricity. The Energy Commission accepted the Delta AFC as data adequate on February 19, 1999.

As with all Calpine projects, the applicant had a union contract, including provisions for hiring local workers. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), intervened in support of licensing Delta.

Delta became the second large merchant powerplant proposed for Pittsburg, following upon the earlier Enron Pittsburg District Energy Facility Project (Docket No. 98-AFC-1). That project, when purchased by Calpine after certification, was renamed Los Medanos. In effect, Calpine would have two projects in Pittsburg, both of which were going to be under construction simultaneously. A third AFC in the neighboring city of Antioch was also on the horizon, Contra Costa, Docket No. 00-AFC-1. The Pittsburg-Antioch area would potentially have more new powerplants than any other part of northern California, second only to Kern County in the state as a whole.

Some local residents in the Pittsburg area had objected to Enron's project because of public health concerns. Now the appearance of an even larger second powerplant would cause these residents to make their unhappiness known to the Energy Commission with greater vehemence. Individuals and organizations intervened to fight Delta based upon air quality and public health issues. They would have little impact on the Energy Commission, which recognized Delta as a modern, state-of-the-art facility that posed no environmental threats.

Issues - Public Health and Air Quality.

The intervenors included organizations such as Community Health First (led by Joe Hawkins of Pittsburg), CAP-IT (also from Pittsburg), and Californians for Renewable Energy (led by Michael Boyd of Sunnyvale, who would intervene to oppose several other powerplants). The intervenors challenged the findings of health experts from staff and applicant, disagreed with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's conclusions, raised issues such as "Gulf War Syndrome" caused by exposure to a combination of toxic substances, called for use of renewable resources rather than natural gas, and generally asserted that it was unfair/dangerous for the residents of Pittsburg to suffer the escalated pollution levels resulting from Delta. These intervenors did not have the resources to hire lawyers or present their own expert witnesses.

The Committee and Energy Commission response to intervenor concerns is best captured on page 3 of the Commission Decision granting certification to Delta:

The Intervenors submitted copies of documents that were downloaded from the internet in their efforts to show that the substances emitted by the project were dangerous to public health. Although the Intervenors presented passionate arguments in support of their positions, the evidence of record clearly establishes that the project complies with all applicable federal, state, and local regulatory programs that are designed to protect the environment and public health.

In other words, the intervenors were completely ineffective when it came to changing anyone's minds about the minimal health impacts from a modern natural-gas powerplant. For example, Delta's nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions would be limited to 2.5 parts per million, one of the most stringent requirements ever imposed on a powerplant. Intervenors generally came away with a poor opinion of the Energy Commission and its job performance. Some of them were bitter about the entire experience, and later would offer futile opposition to both Los Medanos and Delta amendments proposed by Calpine.

There were no other substantive issues in Delta. The project needed a stack height variance, but the Commission relied upon a Pittsburg City Council resolution stating the variance would have been granted, and the CEC therefore found land use conformity, adding a condition of certification to duplicate actions

specified in the City Council's resolution.

There being no major delays, Delta became the first merchant plant to actually be licensed within the twelve-month statutory deadline for completing Applications for Certification.


The Energy Commission unanimously certified the Delta Energy Center on February 9, 2000. Delta was the fourth merchant plant approved by the CEC, following Sutter (Docket No. 97 AFC-2), Los Medanos (Pittsburg, Docket No. 98-AFC-1), and La Paloma (Docket No. 98-AFC-2).

Calpine and Bechtel began constructing Delta in April 2000. The schedule called for completion in two years, with a tentative April 2002 on-line date. The facility became operational in May 2002, almost precisely as planned. Once again, the construction period doubled the length of the licensing phase for a large powerplant such as the 880 MW Delta facility. B