South Bay Power Plant May Stay Open For 5 Years

Dynegy Applied To Extend Its Water Discharge Permit For Another 5 Years

The controversial South Bay Power Plant on Chula Vista's Bayfront may be there a lot longer than expected.

Dynegy, the company that operates the plant, has filed an application to have its water discharge permit extended for another five years after the current permit runs out on Dec. 31, 2010.

Water officials and environmentalists argue that the water discharge harms San Diego Bay.

Environmentalists and Chula Vista city official hoped the end of the permit meant the end of plant, which first began generating power in 1963.

But in the past few years, the plant became less useful, with two of its generators permanently shutting down. The two remaining generators were used during peak periods. By May, the South Bay Power Plant had only been used for eight days in 2010.

Laura Hunter, the spokesperson for the Environmental Health Coalition, called the new permit application outrageous.

"We will fight this permit renewal very, very hard," said Hunter.

Chula Vista has planned a major redevelopment for the bayfront, but construction may not begin until the power plant is gone.

"Who wants to invest a billion of their dollars next to an eyesore like this?" asked Hunter.

Dynegy previously said it was ready to shut down the power plant was required to keep it open by California's Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO). An ISO spokesperson told 10News the power plant was needed until the Sunrise Powerlink was closer to completion.

Hunter told 10News the state has plenty of power now to immediately shut down the power plant.

"The ISO is holding our local community hostage, economically, environmentally," said Hunter.

ISO spokesman Greg Fishman disagrees.

"We completely sympathize with Chula Vista," said Fishman. "The ISO is not happy being in this position but we are the last resort to keep the lights on."

In the meantime, Dynegy said the permit application was standard operating procedure.

"A five-year permit is the standard," Dynegy spokesperson David Byford said in an e-mail to 10News. "We'll know later this year whether the plant will be needed by the ISO for 2011."

Hunter does not believe it. She said Dynegy should not apply for a new permit if it is ready to shut the plant down. Also, Dynegy would need to spend millions of dollars updating its water cooling system to comply with new California standards, which Dynegy previously said it was not willing to do.