Article Raises Questions About Safety of Ball Road Power Plant Proposal

Ryan Cantor has penned an excellent blog post about the prospect of the Orange County Water District leasing its Ball Road Basin property to Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) for the construction of a major power plant next to Anaheim businesses and residential neighborhoods. The OCWD Board of Directors is set to vote at its meeting on Monday, December 9 (it starts at 5:30 p.m.).

Ryan raises some interesting questions, including the wisdom of situating youth soccer fields next to a power plant – which is what CPV is proposing with its “Orange County Energy Park.”

An excerpt from Ryan’s post:

The [Anaheim] Chamber [of Commerce] has it right . . . on this one  This proposed plant is a poor fit for this site and the OCWD has no business entertaining a long-term land deal without issuing an RFP.  Considering Anaheim has made it known that they’re willing to purchase the property outright, turning down a large chunk of capital now to improve our water infrastructure in favor of structured lease payments seems a bit . . . wait for it . . . shocking.  Accepting this lease amounts to nothing more than burdening Anaheim residents with a tax.  It’s their neighborhood that will pay the price of hosting this plant, yet those same neighborhoods receive nothing . . . NOTHING in return for their public investment.  While it’s great to hear that OCWD customers in Lake Forest will see a rate cut as a result of this project, it isn’t right that park starved Anaheim residents get to pay more of their time and space to make that happen.

I sympathize with the aesthetic objections or even concerns with emissions from the power plant stacks, but what I’m most perplexed with is why no one is discussing the safety implications of storing massive ammonia tanks in a rather dense urban environment.  A thousand feet isn’t exactly a lot of space for an accidental vapor cloud to travel.

The proposed plant will be fueled by natural gas and converted to electricity using what’s essentially a big jet engine.  Like all combustion engines, it produces smog.  Lots of it.

Part of the plant’s design includes a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) unit.  Like the catalytic converter on your car, it coverts the smog producing elements of the turbine exhaust (NOx) into less harmful waste.  To do this, the SCR needs lots and lots of ammonia.

These tanks are massive and the ammonia stored in them is bad news.  How bad?  Well, earlier this year, a leakat a refrigeration plant in China killed 15.

I’d hazard to guess that the leak in China involved anhydrous ammonia and this plant would use safer aqueous ammonia . . . but I sure wouldn’t want to live a few football fields away from a tank.  But really, that’s a guess.  I don’t know what they’re using.  Perhaps it is the really nasty stuff involved in the incident in China.  I doubt it, but it could be– the point is no one, for good reason, wants to be anywhere near these tanks.

Still, what I find even more troubling is that the private company proposing this power plant wants to build soccer fields adjacent to the giant ammonia tanks as part of a pitch to sweeten the deal.

You can read all of Ryan’s post here.

One comment

  1. OK… I’ll back off a little.

    I still think we need more energy production, and I question referring to the land as being part of “a rather dense urban environment”.

    But I must say, my real beef was the way the Chamber went about leading this campaign. The whole .. ‘we want a really cool park, not a big scary power plant’ approach, struck me as underhanded and distasteful. It was so obvious that the powers that be skipped over trying to convince the people and went straight to cheap manipulation.

    Also, the Chamber was dead set on exploiting the issue for the sake of its pet candidates. That is rather unattractive.

    If the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce wants to be respected (and get public money), it owes the people more; respect is a two-way street. Just let up a little and have a little faith in the people guys and gals…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*