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Maricela Morales: Protect the Coast and Our Community
July 12, 2015, Ventura County Star
For decades, Oxnard has borne the burden of pollution from dirty energy production for a region stretching from Goleta to Simi Valley. Polluting industries target low-income immigrant communities like Oxnard, expecting less opposition to projects that endanger the health and safety of residents. This is all too common a story throughout our country.
Oxnard's coast has immense potential: it is home to some of the last remaining natural wetland habitats in California, which local youth and other community members are working to protect and restore.
Yet, the Oxnard coast has become dotted by three fossil-fuel power plants, a toxic waste Superfund site and other industrial facilities. Oxnard has more coastal power plants than any other city in California, and several ZIP codes in Oxnard are in the top 10 percent most negatively impacted by pollution in the state, according to the state Environmental Protection Agency.
NRG Energy, a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 company and the largest power plant operator in the U.S., has proposed yet another fossil-fuel dependent power plant on Oxnard's coast. The country and the state are moving toward clean, renewable energy, but NRG wants to lock Oxnard into decades more of dirty emissions into our air.
After widespread community opposition from residents who spoke out at public meetings, the Oxnard City Council unanimously voted against yet another power plant. But NRG is continuing to pursue a permit with the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which has the power to override the city.
NRG already runs two decades-old power plants on Oxnard's coast. These power plants suck in ocean water to keep from overheating, an outdated practice deadly to marine life which California requires to be shut down by 2020. NRG is threatening to abandon these two old power plants to rust on Oxnard's beaches if the city doesn't drop its opposition to allowing it to operate a new plant for decades to come, leaving Oxnard holding the bag for a multimillion-dollar cleanup.
This is just another chapter in the long story of corporate irresponsibility that Oxnard residents have been forced to deal with. We're tired of being pushed around by companies like NRG and Halaco, which used our beaches as a dumping ground, making profits for shareholders for decades and then abandoning its waste.
Cities like Malibu and Santa Barbara would never allow power plants on their beaches. Oxnard is finally turning a corner: from a place where city officials apparently cozy with industry allowed our community to become the go-to site for anything polluting or dangerous, to an environmental leader.
We're finally putting the needs of local working families before the profits of corporations and standing up for our community's health and environment. Unfortunately, the transformation of Oxnard's future could be derailed by the PUC, whose president was forced to resign for his biased ties with utility companies. But local residents will have a chance to be heard by the commission.
The city of Oxnard, CAUSE and the California Environmental Justice Alliance successfully requested the commission travel from San Francisco down to Oxnard to hear from the public before making a decision whether to approve the power plant.
The public participation hearing will be held this coming Wednesday, July 15, at 6 p.m. at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center.
We urge not only all Oxnard residents, but all Ventura County residents who care about climate change, coastal preservation and environmental health to join us at this hearing and say "not one more power plant in Oxnard!"