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Last Wednesday I attended the suprisingly popular public hearing held at Hayward City Hall by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) on the planned Russell City Energy Center. I've followed this issue because it's another example of what I contend is an unnecessary division between jobs and environmental health.
The hearing did not result in a final decision being made but was held to gain the required public comments on Calpine's permit application to build the 600-megawatt complex. But that didn't stop people, mostly opposed by a 60 percent, 40 percent ratio, from coming out to the meeting, which I'm from here down calling "an event".
I also must observe that I don't think a lot of the opponents really understood the technical issues behind the plant enough to be shown evidence that Calpine's working to have a plant that meets or surpasses Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
Calpine reports again and again that they have worked to reduce emission limits from the plant in response to concerns of environmentalists. Now that written, recent reports explain that over the last 2,000 years the artic has been warmed, not cooled, due to oil and coal burning.
All of that has Alameda County Supervior Gale Steele up in arms over the proposal and, well, just doesn't want the plant built. I personally disagree with my friend in Alameda County politics because, as she herself admitted, she doesn't know enough of the "science" as she put it to know what's being proposed. But it also means regardless of what Calpine shows her, she's opposed to the plan.
Calpine's Norma Dunn told me they're aware of the need to make a new generation plant and have worked to make one that meets the demands of Hayward residents. Plus, Hayward Fire Fighters came out to show their support because Calpine has financially helped their department in a time of need.
With all that, the meeting was peaceful, far different from the wild west health care town halls we've come to see over and over again this year. My read is that while some Hayward residents are very upset over the proposal, others want the jobs, and Calpine's flexible in their dealings with the public.
I think Calpine needs to make a really simple explanation - a cartoon or something - that helps people like Supervisor Steele "get it." They're making the right moves to come away with a plant that meets the balance between creating jobs and saving the environment.
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