Power Struggle in Parlier

KFSN "You're crazy, because we're going to fight you. We're going to fight you with everything we have."

The Valley would dramatically increase its energy supply. A proposed power plant is approved, but some people living near the Parlier side of the plant are concerned it's a risky investment.

About 75 people came out to voice their opinions about the power plant. Some complained about the lack of notice, others about the timing, that it was held in the middle of the day so most people would be working. But the biggest concern was about what this power plant would do to the air quality in Parlier and some of the comments got extremely emotional.

"Every time you guys eat a peach or tomato or an orange, remember the city of Parlier. Because we're not going to let you do your garbage here," said Rick Velasco.

Rick Velasco's story of working in the fields for a humble salary resonated for most of the hearing. The Parlier resident says his community already has the second worst air quality in the Valley and a natural gas power plant would put it over the top.

"Now you guys come into our communities and insult us and think you're going to come and put something that is going to poison our kids. What's wrong with you people?"

The Kings River Conservation District, a non-profit public agency, wants to build the plant in a vineyard near Parlier. Its general manager says the Central Valley's rapid growth is outgrowing the already limited supply of electricity.

"The agency that's responsible for keeping the lights on in California has expressed concern about Fresno keeping its lights on this summer," said David Orth, Kings River Conservation District.

Twelve communities, including Clovis and Lemoore have agreed to buy power from the plant for at least five percent less than PG&E prices. Some say the three to four dollar savings a month isn't worth the cost of more bad air.

"We have to breathe it. And our children get sick. We have high numbers of asthma. I, myself, have allergies and they've become worse," said Rosa Velasco.

Indianola Elementary and its 500 children are a quarter of a mile away from the proposed power plant.

"The vineyard right next to the school is owned by the district and is planned for expansion of our school so we will even be closer than what we currently are," said Victoria Armstrong, Indianola Elementary School Principal.

"We need energy. I know. But why are they going to bring it to the poor areas? This is not right. This is an insult," said Noe Hernandez, Parlier.

By the way, Tulare County, Selma and Fresno all backed out of this deal to buy power from this plant. The State Energy Commission will decide within about a year whether to give this plant permit. If so, it could be up and running by the year 2011.

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