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Operator wants more time Jon Campbell | Fri, Jul 30 2010 04:00 PM

The company that operates the South Bay Power Plant on Chula Vista's waterfront has applied for a five-year extension of the water discharge permit that allows them to maintain their presence on the bay.

Dynegy's application comes after a ruling in May in which the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board declined to extend the company's existing permit past December of this year. Because the plant uses bay water to cool its machinery, and discharges that water into the bay after use, they need the board's permission to keep operating.

Dynegy spokesman David Byford said the new permit application should not be seen as an indication that the plant will keep operating for another five years. He said the move is an attempt to be ready in case the plant is asked by the California Independent Systems Operator to keep operations going. That agency is charged with ensuring that enough plants are in operation at any one time to ensure that the state's energy grid is stable.

"This could be thought of as a backstop to support our operations only if Cal ISO (CAISO) decides that we need to keep operating," said Byford.

The plant's future is in the hands of a variety of state and regional regulators.

The plant has to get permission from the water board and CAISO.

In order to do that, CAISO imposes "reliability must run" status on certain plants that are considered essential to a healthy energy grid. That status makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, to shut a given plant down. The South Bay Plant currently enjoys RMR status. The plant can only be removed if it either loses RMR status or is denied a water discharge permit.

Opponents of the much maligned plant, including city officials and environmental groups, said the move on Dynegy's part wasn't surprising. But Councilman Steve Castaneda said he believed CAISO may be inclined to extend RMR status for the plant when they meet in September, which could pave the way for the plant to remain longer.

"I'm not optimistic at this time right now that the plant wont be here for another few years. I don't know what that does to our bayfront (development plans)," Castaneda said.


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