Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Geysers Unit 18

(Geysers 18)

Docket No. 79-AFC-3

Certification Granted on May 7, 1980

Staff Counsel: Rosemary Morgan

Presiding Member: Commissioner Jim Walker

Project Summary

PG&E filed its AFC for Geysers Unit 18, a 110 MW geothermal power plant in Sonoma County, on April 17, 1979. This project followed a 12-month expedited certification process under Public Resources Code section 25540.2(a). That provision exempted Geysers 18 from the Notice of Intention (NOI), provided the applicant can promptly demonstrate that the site has an adequate commercial steam supply.

The hearing on steam supply capability was held on May 31, 1979. On June 21, 1979, the Committee determined that the site was capable of providing geothermal resources in commercial quantities. Leave to intervene was granted to the California Public Utilities Commission, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the California Department of Fish and Game, Don Finn, and the California Air Resources Board.

The major issues in Geysers 18 were air quality and biology. The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District was responsible for issuing a Determination of Compliance (DOC) that had to conclude whether the project met all air quality standards. The district’s Air Pollution Control Officer first issued a DOC that found compliance, but then reconsidered and found noncompliance with New Source Review Rules. Finally compliance was stipulated to by all parties based upon PG&E’s agreement to make project modifications necessary to meet legal emissions limitations.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) opposed PG&E’s chosen site as harmful to the plants and animals at Oatgrass Meadow. DFG’s proposed alternative site was rejected by both PG&E and the CEC Staff as unsuitable because of an earthquake fault and other geologic conditions. PG&E and the Commission Staff believed that biology mitigation measures would be adequate for the original site, and that there were no environmentally preferable, feasible alternative sites. DFG remained dissatisfied and ceased active participation in the Geysers 18 case.

The Energy Commission prepared an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). (In later years, the Energy Commission’s own siting process was officially deemed the functional equivalent of an EIR, and no more EIR’s were drafted for powerplants being licensed by the Commission.)

PG&E and the Commission Staff filed a joint Prehearing Conference Statement that covered nearly all issues. The Committee held evidentiary hearings in April 1980.

The Commission Decision on May 7, 1980 unanimously certified the EIR and approved the AFC, subject to 58 conditions of certification contained in an appendix.

PG&E constructed geysers Unit 18. Along with the other PG&E geothermal plants, it was later sold to Calpine through the divestiture process implemented by the Public Utilities Commission as part of electric industry deregulation.