Though the Mountain House Community Services District board of directors was apprehensive at first about opposing the Mariposa Energy Power Plant Project, which would be built about 2½ miles west of the community, the members were swayed to do so after hearing from the public.
Directors Matthew Balzarini and Jim Lamb felt the board should research the matter a little more thoroughly before they made a decision. District General Manager Paul Sensibaugh wasn’t sure about what possible benefits the plant might bring to Mountain House and wanted to make sure all the information was available before they chose to oppose it.
“We don’t know enough at this point to be opposed or be for this,” Sensibaugh said, prior to public comment. “We also don’t know what the mitigation plans are.”
Bob Sarvey, an air pollution activist and Tracy shoe store owner, said the board should be vocal about their concerns until they are properly addressed. Mariposa, one of the smaller proposed power plants, would generate 200 megawatts of power — enough electricity for roughly 200,000 houses.
“If you don’t oppose a project like this, you can’t go to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and say ‘Will you support us?’” Sarvey said. “The more people you have that are behind you that are concerned about your concerns will make Mariposa know that you want your concerns mitigated.”
At the district’s October board meeting, Bob Anderson, a Mountain House resident with a doctorate from Princeton in mechanical engineering, said a power plant would hurt local air quality and lower property values.
Anderson was at the meeting Wednesday night, too, and said the board had to stand up to Mariposa or else the area would run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for other power plants. He mentioned areas in East Contra Costa County and Hayward that became “power development corridors,” and did not want one planted in Mountain House’s backyard.
“Once a power plant comes in, a whole bunch of people descend on the area and want to further develop that area,” Anderson said. “If it starts getting industrialized, once that direction goes, the die is cast and it’s going to be harder and harder to stop that.”
Paula Zagrecki, the director of finance from Diamond Generating Corp., which plays a part in Mariposa’s development, said the plant would do its best to offset whatever environmental damage is done.
“We are mitigating locally, as opposed to within the greater Alameda County,” Zagrecki said.
However, since the plant would be built in Alameda County, on the western edge of the community, the district and San Joaquin County have no jurisdiction over it.
The board also voted unanimously to become interveners to the project, which means the district would receive any relevant documents from Mariposa and other interveners. It would also have to copy any information they want to send out to all interveners.
Board members were a little worried about the printing and mailing costs attached with being an intervener, but Sarvey, who plays such a role in the Mariposa project, said most things are now done through e-mail. Later, Sarvey said so far, the total cost to him has just been a stamp. While he noted that there would be some staff costs for the district, it wouldn’t really break the bank.
“By intervention, you show that you’re interested in this and everyone takes you seriously,” Sarvey said. “It’s not a costly process or else I would’ve never been able to do it. I’ve intervened in many power plant cases and I highly recommend you do it.”
Sensibaugh said he didn’t have an estimate of how much becoming an intervener would cost the district. The district’s legal counsel, Paul McGrew, said they can withdraw if the costs become a burden. Zagrecki also offered to forward documents to the district if they were unable to intervene.
Becoming an intervener means the district can also have a representative testify at hearings, and Sarvey said it would hold more power than just being an observing member of the public. Lamb said any documents the district received would ideally be posted on the district’s Web site for the public to view.
• Contact Mountain House Press reporter Justin Lafferty at 830-4269 or email@example.com.