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This is a quick diary intended to bring attention to an issue of air-quality, environment, and public health that will affect the California Central Valley and beyond, at a time when the California Energy Commission is gathering input for crucial decisions. Although it's a serious subject, the KTK community is more than welcome to gather in the thread as usual. Non-serious discussion is NOT off-topic!

A LTE by Trudy Douglass in a south San Joaqin Valley informal neighborhood newsletter was brought to my attention. Since that letter is not found online, I reproduce it here. Online search produced well-detailed Public Comments to the CEC by Douglass and others critical of the HECA project; links are below the fold.

The letter [emphasis added]:

I am very concerned about every man and woman [in this community] who has a lung or breathing problem. Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) is a project to be built south of Bakersfield. It calls itself an energy plant but the truth is that it is a coal fueled chemical factory. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, for whatever reason, has approved this project but its Determination of Compliance has so many loopholes in it that our health and air will not be protected.

The air district and HECA admit that it will produce 547+ tons of pollution a year when it gasifies coal and refinery waste. Part of that will be 170 tons of fine particulates that are known to settle into lungs and cause asthma, emphysema, and cancer. The district said that this factory will be a net benefit for our air because HECA will pay them $9 million when it is built. Two of the loopholes that they don't see as important are: the emissions from 411 trucks making round trips transporting fuel, waste and products daily; and coal dust and fine particulates from the almost daily coal trains that will pass through Bakersfield.

We were told by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District that, "Yes, this is a dirty plant but we need the electricity." HECA and the district said the factory will produce 430 MW (megawatts) and use 130 MW for gasification, the implication being that 300 MW would go onto the California grid. [But the] California Energy Commission has discovered that there will be two other components to their process, air separation and sequestration. When all three are working at a time of maximum fertilizer production, HECA will take 61.8 MW from the grid. At full electrical production the most energy the factory will make available for California consumers would be 52.5 MW, the implication being it could be a lot less. If HECA gets built, it will be one of the 5 worst polluting sites in California and will use 7 million gallons of water a day.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has failed us, our families and friends. The Lung Association says that our air is the worst in the nation. The California Department of Public Health's 2012 report puts Kern County residents at above the state's average for having colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and respiratory, and 123,000 children and adults in our county have asthma. Kern County is listed as having more heart disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases than any of the other 58 counties in California.

The most positive thing I can say is that the approval for the HECA factory does not lie in the hands of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The California Energy Commission will make that decision. It is gathering input from Kern County residents and its staff is considering and including all comments. You can let them know how you feel on this issue.

        E-mail: publicadviser@energy.ca.gov, Docket number 08-AFC-8A.
        Or write [with the same docket number in your "Re:" line]:
                         Public Adviser
                California Energy Commission
                  1516 9th Street Ms-12
                  Sacramento, CA 95814

Kern County CADouglass detailed technical criticism of the project in formal Public Comments to the California Energy Commission hearings (roberts.blake@energy.ca.gov) on April 17, 2013, April 10, 2013, March 14, 2013 and July 26, 2012, cc'd to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (leonard.scandura@valleyair.org), the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (fred.pozzuto@netl.doe.gov), Kern County's Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt (loreleio@co.kern.ca.us) and others; and in a July 25, 2013, letter in the Bakersfield Californian "Opinion" section.

Similar critical documents to the CEC by Chris Romanini, Secretary of the HECA Neighbors group and member of the longtime Romanini & Sons farm family, are also available online.

The Hydrogen Energy California Information website comprises additional public criticism of the project from local individuals in agriculture, business, rural and urban communities, apparently across quite a nonpartisan spectrum. The site offers tabs tracking Latest Info, notices of Meetings with the CEC and the Kern County Board of Supervisors, etc., Documents, and so on.

Wikipedia has a brief article on the subject.

Searching online by the project name or acronym can be difficult and, due to the extensive number of citations, unclear as to which is favorable and which is critical. From a certain viewpoint, it appears as if favorable corporate voices may have flooded articles into the internet, notably with claims that this is a "green" and "clean energy" industrial project bringing salaries to the involved communities and electricity to the grid. By tentative conclusion, the project seems to involve a combination of technology reasonably characterized as experimental, making persuasions based on possible attractive benefits speculative at best, absent frank and open detail acknowledging more proven costs, risks and hazards.

A friend helping with research for this diary was able to contact Trudy Douglass, who said an important public meeting November 20 in Buttonwillow, Kern County, has been scheduled by the CEC, for CEC commissioners to take public comments in person. Critics of the project are asking for as many people to attend as possible, even if they prefer not to speak, so their presence will demonstrate to the CEC strong public concern to stop the HECA project. Douglass said this meeting "can make all the difference."

I'll update this diary when information about the November 20 Buttonwillow CEC Public Comment meeting becomes available or further information is received.

mettle fatigue would like to acknowledge invaluable editing by belinda ridgewood. Also, many thanks to remembrance for providing this platform to give the issue more visibility.

Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate.

Finally, readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

6:30 PM PT: Update: Bakersfield Californian Tues Nov 12, 2013, page 14, "Opinion/Letters" column: "HECA claims were deceptive."

I live within two miles of the proposed Hydrogen Energy California project, and I see huge risks from the 300-truck-per-day coal plant in the middle of farm land. What a shame that Les Clark misled readers with inaccurate information ("HECA will mean jobs, power and product for Kern County" Nov.6)

Clark was repeating some of HECA's statements that have since been challenged by the California Energy Commission and the Envrionmental Protection Agency. HECA will not power 160,000 homes with its 300 MW of power. The CED says the plant will need all of that power itself to [manufacture] chemicals. In fact, HECA will need all of the power it generates plus an additional 60 MW from the grid. When not making chemicals, HECA at most will put only 50 MW into the grid. It is deceptive to claim a win-win for power when w get so little.

The CEC told HECA to find an alternative way to cool its plant instead of pumping 5,000 gallons per minute for 25 years from our overdrafted water basin. The EPA agrees and stated that HECA would use more water than any other power plant in California. The EPA stated the CEC should deny HECA a permit unless air cooling is considered.

Clark said it's time to move on because there have been countless workshops. Countless but the workshops have revealed even more serious problems. The CEC's voting commissions will hear public comments at [the city of] Buttonwillow's recreation center at 5 p.m. on Nov. 20. Hear the countless issues for yourselves.

                                                 Sasha Kosareff


Mon Nov 18, 2013 at  4:58 PM PT:  

Environmental ActionAlert

November 20 HECA Rally and Public Hearing

Rally 4:15 – 4:45 p.m. with local speakers
Public Hearing 5 p.m. until closing. Three-minutes per person.

Car pooling encouraged. We need many people attending to Support Clean Air, Protect our Water and Support our Farmers.

The decision to allow or forbid Hydrogen Energy California (HECA), a Chemical/Energy Plant, will be made by the California Energy Commission (CEC). Two CEC Commission members will attend the November 20, 2013, HECA hearing in Buttonwillow. The Public is invited to offer their comments beginning at 5 pm (3 minutes per person), so let us have many attendees to tell the Commissioners why HECA is not right for Kern County.


Go west on Hwy 58 past I-5 to reach Buttonwillow. At the EAST edge of Buttonwillow is the park.  Turn right at the West edge of the park onto Meadow Street. The new Buttonwillow recreation center will be in the park on your right. The hearing is in the Buttonwillow Recreation and Park District, Multi-purpose Facility, 556 Milo Avenue.

If you use Stockdale Highway: pass I 5, turn right/north on Wasco Way for three miles to a stop sign at Hwy 58,  left to Buttonwillow Park, right on Meadow Street to the Parks & Rec building.

If you wish to carpool [from Bakersfield], we will leave at 3:45 from the old Montgomery Ward building’s SE corner. The building is in a big parking lot west of F Street & north of 30th Street. We need to leave by 3:45 p.m. to cope with heavy traffic.

Our goal as citizens is to give voice to our serious concerns about HECA:

*  increased air pollution in the Valley from 450 truckloads daily of New Mexico coal being brought to the site to fire this plant - plus trucks moving inorganic fertilizer.

*  diversion of 7500 acre feet of water per year from local farming needs.

*  potential contamination of nearby crops.

Occidental [Petroleum] plans to pump the carbon dioxide from the gasification into old oil wells to produce more oil.

Comments are encouraged at


In the right-hand column select Submit e-comment.  Fill out the form and write or copy/paste your comments.

For an excellent recent article

see [the Bakerfield Californian's "Community Voices", September 10, 2013] CHRIS ROMANINI: Tell the CEC what you think about being HECA's guinea pig http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/...

Originally posted to Kitchen Table Kibitzing on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Central Valley Kossacks, California politics, and Bending the Buzz.

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