San Bernardino County's ozone levels are ridiculous. According to the Los Angeles Times, San Bernardino can reach ozone levels of 107 parts per billion (ppb), which is bad for our health and the environment. The current standard for ozone levels is 75 ppb, set by the Bush administration, but even this is seen as too high. The Obama administration is proposing to adjust the standard down to 65 - 70 ppb. Whether we stick with the unhealthy standard of 75 ppb, or go lower, San Bernardino Count has clearly been negligent in addressing a serious health problem, and should be conisdering bold steps to clean up its act. One obvious step would be to shut down the Coolwater natural gas plant just east of Barstow in the heart of San Bernardino County.
This old natural gas facility is reaching the end of its life, and contributes to congestion on power lines that inhibits the addition of renewable energy. Southern California Edison (SCE) - the local utility company that also buys power from the natural gas plant - wants to build nearly 75 miles of expensive new transmission lines (the proposed Coolwater-Lugo transmission line) that would give it the option to keep the natural gas plant online. Although SCE claims the primary reason for the new transmission line is to connect the Abengoa Mojave Solar project built west of Barstow, SCE probably could accomodate much more of Abengoa's solar energy if it did not also have to accomodate energy from the natural gas plant on transmission lines.
The natural gas plant is in need of an overhaul, according to NRG testimony, and NRG may begin shutting down generators at Coolwater in 2018. NRG does not see much sense in reinvesting in Coolwater if SCE continues its short-term power purchase agreements. So why don't we just rip the band-aid off and close Coolwater, avoid expensive transmission costs, and clean up our air? Energy storage for rooftop solar and solar on already-disturbed lands almost certainly could help offset the loss of Coolwater's energy production, without the harmful emissions.