Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation believes project would be unsafe for environment and community

By Blake Ashley Frino-Gerl

With the impending proposal from Vistra Corporation to build a battery storage facility to make use of the former Morro Bay Power Plant property, there are opinions against it. Citizens for Estero Bay Preservation (CEBP) believe it would be a disservice and unsafe for the environment and community.

CEBP formed in “September of 2022 after learning of the magnitude and dangers Morro Bay could face by having a 600 MW battery energy storage system in close proximity to our Nationally protected estuary, high school and tourist hub,” the organization says. 

The group consists of Morro Bay, Cayucos, and Los Osos residents that share common goals: 

  1. Protect the natural beauty, sensitivity, and intrinsic value of Morro Bay’s waterfront and Embarcadero; 
  2. Prevent the visual and physical degradation of Morro Bay’s natural environment; 
  3. Promote the health and safety of Morro Bay’s residents, tourists, boaters, and wildlife habitat;
  4. Maintain present levels of coastal access to our California Historic Landmark, Morro Rock, as well as to the harbor, and surrounding beaches;
  5. Preserve Morro Bay as a world-renowned tourist destination.

If the battery storage facility is created and put to use, Morro Bay city staff and the San Luis Coastal Unified School District will have to put together a thoughtful emergency evacuation and lockdown plan, just as they did for Diablo Canyon Power Plant. 

Such a plan is to be used in the “event of a toxic airborne hazard,” CEBP says. Due to the location of the proposed Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project, it will be difficult to evacuate in a timely manner, according to CEBP. It says that people near Morro Rock would be evacuating towards the fire, and if a hazard hit when there are various city events happening, such as a surfing competition or the Kite or Avocado festivals, the beaches and bay would be dense with thousands of tourists and citizens. CEBP says that “sheltering-in-place for our tourists would be difficult.”

In addition, the organization adds that “one only has to look back to recent flooding on Jan. 9, to realize some exit routes may not be accessible.”

To further enforce their point, the organization, which meets bi-weekly, says, “At the onset, the BESS will immediately be added to the Nation’s Terror list. This and the ongoing threat to shut down our Nation’s electrical grid will make us a terrorist target like Diablo.”

CEBP says that the dangers that arise from this type of industrial construction could potentially alter the community’s “lifestyle and delicate ecosystem for decades.” 

The group’s point of view sees the construction noise and traffic likely disrupting the tourist industry and therefore hurting the city’s necessary tourist economy. To add, CEBP feels “the economic growth during construction is short-lived and the few BESS operation jobs offered upon completion may go to existing specialized Vistra employees.”

CEBP’s hope is “to have the Power Plant acreage returned to an environment that is complementary with Morro Bay’s precious ecosystem.” Sustaining that “would include economic growth that enhances Morro Bay’s unique, natural beauty and promotes a tourism-based economy,” the group adds.

In all fairness, CEBP “believe[s] Vistra is taking steps to ensure their proposed project is built out.” The organization acknowledges Vistra owns the property and that their proposal is their legal right, but CEBP hopes that its side is heard.