Zoom Meeting to Discuss Smokestacks

Morro Bay smokestacks

Written by Estero Bay News

August 27, 2021

Are the Morro Bay Power Plant smokestacks marvels of design and monolithic icons to be preserved, or eyesores and leftovers of an industrialized past that should be removed?

The City of Morro Bay is holding an online forum to hear from residents, who have to live with the trio of spires every day, and whose input could help decide the fate of Morro Bay’s second-most famous feature.

The forum on Zoom is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8 “to discuss the future of the Power Plant Stacks,” reads a news release from the City.

The meeting will have several government speakers presenting information on different aspects of what could be a difficult decision to make, as sentiments clash with realities.

Slated to speak are representatives from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District, and the Coastal Commission. Listed topics are the current condition of the “stacks” and consideration of the future for the stacks.

The DTSC has an active pollution case covering several areas of the 117-acre plant property, acknowledging the existence of several toxic substances in the soils and considering a plan that would essentially leave the pollutants in place and limit the future reuses of the property, unless the soil is cleaned up.

And there are miles of steam piping and four giant boilers in the plant covered in asbestos insulation, another potentially toxic substance that will have to be dealt with in demolition.

The APCD oversaw the plant’s emissions and would be involved in the demolition, setting air quality standards for taking the old plant down.

And the plant property is within the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction.

Plant owners, Vistra Energy, have applied to build a 600-megawatt Battery Energy Storage System or BESS project covering some 22 acres and located on the site of an old fuel tank farm, which was removed years ago.

As part of its proposal, Vistra is exploring removal of the 16-story (165 foot) power plant building and the three, 450-foot tall stacks, reporting that all had deteriorated to the point of being un-reusable, unless the City decides it wants to leave the stacks standing.

The three stacks are the tallest, man-made structures in SLO County. (The steel-clad power plant building is the third tallest, with the twin domes of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, at some 190-feet, being the second tallest.)

The northernmost stack was built in the mid-1950s for Units 1 and 2 at the plant. The middle and southern stacks came in with Units 3 and 4. The stacks vent the products of combustion from the old fossil fuel burning plant.

Originally, the plant used different fuels — fuel oil, diesel, and kerosene — and the tallness was designed to better disperse the exhaust. The plant switched over to natural gas in the mid-1990s until it closed for good in 2014.

If readers would like to send in comments on how they feel about the stacks, they can email to City Manager Scott Collins at: scollins@morrobayca.gov until Sept. 1.

See: www.morrobayca.gov/civicalerts.aspx?AID=2631 to find a link to the Zoom meeting.

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