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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California, February 8, 2006, Vol. 33, No. 13, Page A12, column 4

Geothermal projects move forward
Projects will produce green energy for 100,000 homes.

By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California

YREKA, Calif. – The oversight process is nearly complete for the Glass Mountain Geothermal Project proposed by Calpine, an energy development company.

About an equal amount of pros and cons were voiced on Jan. 26, when the oversight group met at the Klamath National Forest building in Yreka. There were 35 individuals in attendance.

In this stage, the public comment period is still open. Comments can be made on the oversight group’s decisions on mitigations and monitoring plans until Feb. 17, 2006.

Calpine has spent the last 10 years working on two projects based in far-eastern Siskiyou County Medicine Lake area.

Currently more than 30 permits have been granted through at least 10 government agencies, said Kent Robertson, director of public relations for the San Jose-based Calpine company.

Demand for renewable energy dubbed “green energy” is growing. The State of California is leading the nation in its charge to utility companies. By the year 2010, at least 20 percent of the state’s energy usage must come from green sources. Penalties will be levied against utility companies that do not reach the lofty goal.

In 2005, it was estimated that 11 percent of the state’s total energy use came from green resources.

Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush outlined a plan for the nation to gain energy independence through technology and alternative fuel sources. He called on government agencies and the private sector to produce more green energy, saying that “Americans are addicted to oil.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the lead government agency on the projects, because it has control over minerals and sub-surface issues. But the projects are located on Klamath National Forest managed lands with a bit of Modoc National Forest and Shasta-Trinity National Forest involved.

Tim Burke, field manager for the Alturas office of the BLM, said the oversight group is reviewing 18 mitigations and monitoring plans. As Calpine meets those aspects, Burke said the project is on schedule to proceed in March. Previously, Calpine met government regulations and received permits to continue developing the projects from the BLM and Forest Service.

But, “there are no certainties” that the projects will continue to proceed, said Robertson. Currently the Fourmile and Telephone Lake geothermal-energy producing projects are inching forward step-by-step. Yet, there are three litigations in several courts against the project.

Under the 30 permits that Calpine has obtained, more than 700 mitigations must be developed and completed. Major legal hurdles have been achieved, but the legal challenges always loom over such projects.

“To say that these projects have been scrutinized is an understatement,” said Robertson.

The two projects are not that big. Collectively it is estimated they will produce 100 new megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 100,000 homes. The demand by California residents, businesses and industry exceeds 60,000 megawatts.

“But in the grand scheme of things these two projects can make a difference,” Robertson said, referring to the 2010 deadline for 20 percent green energy usage.

Heat is energy. The geothermal plants tap into the earth’s steam and the company recycles the heat to create energy.

Siskiyou County officials have worked closely with Calpine to develop air pollutions controls. Surrounding tribes have also been a part of the negotiations. Most have continued with objections. Robertson said that Calpine now has mitigated for cultural aspects and defined construction protocols to meet mitigations and tribal concerns. The Shasta Nation is in concurrence with mitigations to the projects, according to Burke.

At the Jan. 26, meeting a dozen Pitt River Tribal members opposed the projects. Many of those members also traveled down to San Jose on Jan. 27, to gather with 200 other protestors outside of Calpine’s headquarters. The protest reportedly was peaceful.

The biggest balancing act for Calpine has been addressing the multiple-uses in the Medicine Lake area. As well as maintaining cultural aspects for tribes, there are numerous lake-side cabin owners, other property owners, on-going timber harvests, snowmobilers and a variety of recreational users in the federally-managed Forest Service area.

When asked recently if the proposed bankruptcy by Calpine will affect the Glass Mountain Project, Roberson replied that it will not. On Jan. 31, the company announced that a new CEO had been hired, who will restructure the company’s finances. The implosion of Enron in fall 2001 accelerated a collapse in electricity markets around the country, which also affected Calpine. Officials have stated that the company is committed to producing the clean, efficient, cost-competitive electricity for its customers. Calpine generates over 26,000 megawatts of electricity -- enough to meet the needs of more than 26 million households in a state with 30 million residents.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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