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Path Clear for Trash-Burning Plant : Ground Breaking by End of This Year in San Marcos

December 18, 1985|ARMANDO ACUNA | Times Staff Writer

A revised contract clearing the way for construction in San Marcos of a $212-million privately owned trash-burning power plant with a 300-foot smokestack was approved Tuesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Ground breaking for the power plant, the focus of relentless opposition from many San Marcos residents, will take place within the next 13 days, with completion scheduled for mid-1988 at the site of a county-owned landfill in southern San Marcos, near the rural community of Elfin Forest, said Richard Chase, a managing director for the developer, North County Resource Recovery Associates.

Earlier this year, the controversial project had received the approval of the Board of Supervisors. But the project ran into financing obstacles, forcing the developers to ask the county for amendments to the original agreement, which were approved Tuesday.

Essential elements of the revised contract include increasing the county's share of its royalties from the electricity sold, but only after the plant's debt service and operating expenses, including payments to private investors, are paid; turning the plant over to county ownership in 40 years, instead of in 55 years; the developer and the county sharing any added expenses incurred because of changes in federal tax or environmental protection laws, and guaranteeing operation of the facility at specific levels of efficiency and energy production.

Just last week, the state Pollution Control Financing Authority approved the developer's application for the issuance of $185 million in tax-exempt pollution control bonds to help fund the project.

As they have throughout, residents opposed to the project turned out in force at Tuesday's meeting. Some protested the potential environmental danger, although an environmental impact report on the plant has withstood court challenge. Others, typified by Jack Leach, an Escondido resident, said the revised contract was flawed and that, despite the county's optimistic predictions, it would produce little or no income for the county.

Sharon Reid, the county's solid waste program manager, said after the meeting that during the plant's first 13 years of operation, it is estimated that the county's share of royalties will amount to $20 million. The developers, who are guaranteed the rights to 580,000 tons of trash a year, will sell power generated from the burning of trash to San Diego Gas & Electric.

The vote on the amendments was 4-0, with Susan Golding abstaining. She said that although the contract revisions were reasonable and protected the county's interests, she could not vote for them because she fundamentally opposes the plant.

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