Viewpoint 

BY Gail Johnson, Morro Bay

I would like to point out some fundamental inaccuracies in Mr. Farrell’s article in the March 14 issue: “BESS EIR Draft Released”.

Mr. Farrell states: “The BESS, at 600 MW would be the largest in the world and would be housed inside three, 2-story buildings totaling some 91,000 square feet.”  True, BESS would be the largest in the world. Correction: it would be housed in three buildings at 91,000 square feet EACH, totaling 270,000 square feet. In addition, each building will be surrounded by 80 “Power Conversion Systems” the size of a 10’x30’ mobile home, adding 54,000 square feet to the total.  The buildings will be over 35’ tall with an additional 6-10’ roof-top equipment screen.  To describe this as a “2-story building” is misleading, at best.  A typical two-story building is anywhere from 18’-30’ high, depending on the style and roof detail.  These imposing structures will be similar in size and scale to a Home Depot warehouse. Various other features planned include substations, transmission lines and support structures.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is a 411- page document, overwhelming at first, but written so that anyone can plow through it with a little motivation. It is a searchable document that can be found on the City’s website.  If there is a feature of our lovely town that you especially appreciate, look for it in the DEIR and study what’s been written.  If it says there is little or “less than significant” impact, be suspicious.  Be aware of errs by omission, also.   

The DEIR is called a “Draft” because it will be rewritten to address every comment that is received before May 28.  The final EIR must address every written concern. The more detailed, fact-based, and scientific comment you make the better. It is perfectly okay to write what you think, what you feel, and how living next to a giant Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) will affect you and your family. Even if you do not live in Morro Bay, you may make your concerns known. If you would like help writing your comment, post your request on NextDoor and someone will reach out to you. 

I think we should all keep in mind that, although “commissioned” by the City of Morro Bay, the Draft EIR was paid for by Vistra and written to their advantage. It should be an unbiased report, but it is not. If read as a complicated murder mystery, the DEIR offers endless nuggets of revealing information. When all of the dots are connected a picture of Vistra’s motivations emerge.  Consider this doozy:

Whether we love or hate the old Power Plant building and the stacks, they are NOT official historical resources.  The DEIR suggests that they might be eligible “for the National Register of Historic Places and California Register of Historical Resources.”  Maybe so, but they are not currently protected by any “landmark” designation.  Over years much discussion has ensued about removing them and remediating the ground on which they stand.  Who benefits most if these are protected as (or even suggested to be) National Landmarks and not allowed to be destroyed?  This would save Vistra at least $3 million out the gate.

Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures and misleading descriptions. Vistra’s PR (propaganda) campaign is just beginning. They will be writing press releases with glowing descriptions of a harmless, attractive, benign facility that will give Morro Bay “bragging rights in the green energy revolution.” You will be receiving mailings and see television and social media advertisements about the endless benefits of allowing them to develop their BESS here. The community will be bombarded with “mitigation” offers, money in other words. They are already touting themselves as good neighbors.  (If you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you!)

Mr. Farrell also notes that Morro Bay will consider adopting a “Power Plant Master Plan” for the portions of the Vistra property that are not dominated by BESS and/or the old power plant.  That Master Plan assumes that BESS will be built. A meeting scheduled for March 27 that would offer the community an opportunity to input their thoughts about how the property adjacent to BESS be best utilized was postponed. Personally, I cannot visualize any use compatible with a potentially deadly and unsightly industrial facility. The only conceivable solution is to stop BESS from being built.

The power plant property is not zoned to allow BESS or any other industrial use.  The citizens of Morro Bay have an opportunity to make their opinions known by voting YES on Measure A-24 in November.  Thank you, Mr. Farrell, for noting that “Measure A-24, would lock in the existing zoning of V-CS, for the waterfront from Beach Street out to Morro Rock, including the power plant property (1290 Embarcadero). It would also require the BESS Project to seek voter approval in order to change the zoning, a requirement that could send the project off to Sacramento, where the Energy Commission could initiate a process under AB 205.”

Proponents of BESS and Vistra site SB 205 as the mechanism that corporations can use to revive locally-defeated renewable energy projects.  Actually, because 1290 Embarcadero is within the Coastal Zone, the California Coastal Commission will have the final decision if Vistra chooses to take their doomed proposal that far.

Educate yourselves.  Question everything that you see and hear regarding Vistra and BESS. Attend City Council and City Planning meetings.  Write letters. Comment on the DEIR.  Make your opinions known. Your devotion to Morro Bay will pay off in spades.

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