HAYWARD — Greenhouse gas reductions are key to the approval of plans for a 600-megawatt power plant near the Hayward shoreline, according to a draft permit released by the air district charged with giving it the go-ahead.
In an 80-page document released Wednesday, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District revised its permit conditions to include a requirement that the proposed Russell City Energy plant use only technology that would release the least amount of greenhouse emissions possible.
The draft permit seeks additional public comments, and air district officials stressed that it does not mean the plant is guaranteed for approval.
Calpine officials said they had no objections to the district's greenhouse gas requirement, even though there is no federal requirement to limit those emissions.
In practice, the proposed plant's two large gas-turbine generators would be modified to cut down on emissions, making them comparable with new technology, said Rick Thomas, Calpine's vice president of project development.
"Since the turbines were ordered five or six years ago, (the manufacturer) has developed new control technologies and other changes," Thomas said. "These are upgrades that will help us comply with the required level (of emissions)."
Thomas stressed that the engines are not used models, but rather ones that were purchased after the plant first won approval.
According to the draft report, the only way to control emissions is through the efficiency of the engine, and Thomas said the output would be competitive with the most modern turbines.
He said federal regulations are foreseeable in the future, and that "it makes sense to work with the environmental community to come up with something that's going to work for everyone."
But opponents of the plant, who have spoken at numerous hearings and submitted hundreds of letters to the air district as part of the public comment period, maintain that problems remain with the location of the plant that such regulations would not fix.
Rob Simpson, a Hayward resident who filed a lawsuit against the plant — resulting in a previous permit being remanded — said the fossil-fuel plant is an "archaic design that would emit nearly twice the particulate matter into the local community than modern (alternative) facilities."
"The worst impacts would be to the residents of Hayward, increasing asthma rates for youth and respiratory failure for the elderly," he said.
He added that many people do not trust that the facility will be operated as promised, and other residents and groups have written about a host of associated potential problems, including effects on the nearby shoreline, endangered species and pilots using Hayward Executive Airport.
The public comment period is expected to last through late July and include a public hearing.
Calpine officials said they are hopeful they are still on track to begin construction next year and have the plant functioning in 2012.
The draft document can be viewed at www.baaqmd.gov.
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at 510-293-2473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.