A controversial waste-to-energy plant proposed near Gonzales has been shelved temporarily, the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority said Friday.
Plasco Energy Group, the Canadian energy company seeking to build the plant at the Johnson Canyon Landfill east of Gonzales, notified the agency in late October that it would put the project on hold until the state certifies it as a renewable energy producer.
The Salinas Valley waste agency was in the midst of preparing environmental documents for the proposed plant, which was billed as a way to turn garbage into power-producing fuel gas.
"This puts it on hold," said Susan Mathews, diversion manager for the waste agency.
Opponents contended the plant would use unproven technology and emit toxic pollutants. They weren't surprised by Friday's announcement.
"We knew about this months and months ago," said Bradley Angel of the group Greenaction for Health and Justice that worked with Gonzales-area opponents.
The state certification is critical to the economics of the proposed plant, and others like it. Angel predicted a big battle in the state Legislature next year over the plasma-arc technology.
Mathews said, "It would be cost-prohibitive to landfill users if the opportunity for a renewable-energy portfolio wasn't available."
In an Oct. 26 letter to the Salinas Valley agency, a Plasco vice president said, "We recommend that the California Environmental Quality Act process be restarted if a favorable
Angel said Plasco tried hard to get special legislative approval this year and he predicted "a big battle" in the coming year.
"There is a very real garbage crisis and a big move by industry and government agencies to use technologies like this," he said.
Mathews said the proposed plant would be an alternative to use of the landfill, which has a permitted life span of 45 years.
The Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce on Friday issued a statement reiterating its support for the Plasco proposal.
"We resent the special interests from outside our community who have perpetuated myths and fear regarding this opportunity," said Kristina Wyatt, chamber vice chairwoman.
The agency is going through the environmental review on a smaller plant proposed for Salinas, which would use "autoclave" technology to produce power and raw paper products from food and paper waste.