Chumash Nonprofit Urges State: Kill Natural-Gas Power Plant in Santa Paula

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Mati Waiya, a Chumash elder, is leading the effort to defeat a power plant on the banks of the Santa Clara River in Santa Paula. Photo Credit: Chris Jordan-Bloch/Earthjustice

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SANTA PAULA, Calif. – Lawyers for a Chumash nonprofit want to make sure the proposed Mission Rock gas-fired power plant is dead – and not just put on hold, as the company behind the project has requested.

The Wishtoyo Foundation filed a motion Friday with the California Energy Commission to terminate the application made by Calpine Corp. to build a peaker plant on the banks of the Santa Clara River. They argue that it is sacred ground and that a plant would increase air pollution.

Angela Johnson Meszaros, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm representing the foundation, said Calpine just wants to keep its options open even though the state doesn’t need to add any more fossil-fuel energy generation.

“And now they want to pause this for a little while, see if later California is going to wake up from the fog of clean energy and decide that it would actually prefer to have a big power plant on the banks of one of Southern California’s last mostly natural rivers,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Calpine has argued that the plant would give California more flexibility during times of peak energy usage and help supply a growing population in the Moorpark area. The California Energy Commission recently rejected a plan to build the Puente natural-gas fired power plant 20 miles down the road on the beach in Oxnard after an outcry from the local community and conservation groups. Instead regulators approved a new transmission line to improve reliablity.

Geneva Thompson, an attorney with the Wishtoyo Foundation, said the Santa Clara River, known as the Utom in Chumash, is central to tribal culture and should not be scarred by a power plant.

“Time immemorial, Chumash people have been building their homes, setting up villages on the banks, burying their ancestors in the ground,” she said. “Collecting vegetation for basket weaving and these practices are continuing today.”

Thompson argued that the state should move away from fossil fuel-based power generation and continue its quest to fight climate change by aiming for a zero-emission economy. The Commission has until Friday to take action on Calpine’s application.

The filing with the California Energy Commission is online at energy.ca.gov.

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