Power plant construction gets started in Hayward


The Russell City Energy Center is being built in Hayward's industrial district near the San Mateo Bridge, but not everyone is happy about the construction.

In less than two years, the site where ground was broken will be a power plant. A groundbreaking ceremony marked the end of 10 years spent negotiating with regulators and neighbors -- negotiations that started during the rolling blackouts of California's energy crisis.

At the time, the power plant was met with resistance. The original proposed spot was near single family homes and apartments, but eventually the project found a new spot and the process was started again.

Now, it's nearly complete.

"This plant is going to mean we don't import power from Utah anymore," said Hayward city councilman Bill Quirk, adding that Utah's coal plants produce twice the amount of greenhouse gases and ten times the amount of other pollutants.

The new plant is replacing older, dirtier plants that have shut down in San Francisco. The plant will still burn fossil fuels, but will burn 40 percent less of those fuels.

"We've got a plant here that's, I think, the only one in the country that has binding greenhouse gas regulations," said Mike Florio with the California Public Utilities Commission.

That's little comfort to nearby Chabot College. The college is suing to stop construction of what it argues would be the Bay Area's second-dirtiest power plant, directly upwind from its campus.

It's in the minority, as city leaders insist the plant is the right move for Hayward, and not just because of the $10 million the owners have donated for a new public library, but also because building the plant has created 300 more construction jobs at a time when they're badly needed.

"The number one complaint that people have to our city council is that we're not doing enough to get them jobs," Quirk said.

Those 300 construction jobs are expected to last until about May 2013, when the plant will start producing power commercially. After that, the plant will provide 35 permanent jobs for the highly-skilled workers needed to run the facility.

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