What Do YOU Think About the Ladera Ranch Power Plant Controversy?


“It’s frustrating because the community is being portrayed as crybabies,” said Elizabeth Hall, [Ladera Hope’s] spokeswoman. “We are up in arms because there will be toxic emissions and toxic ammonia housed on the site in an 18.000-gallon drum.”

Ladera Hope, a nonprofit advocating for Ladera Ranch residents, filed a lawsuit against the county, its planning commission, and a power plant developer, saying recent approval for a 46-megawatt power plant on the outskirts of Ladera Ranch violates civil rights and environmental laws and may jeopardize health and safety in the area. The lawsuit was filed in OC Superior Court on the last day in a 30-day procedural window. The group, which has enlisted the support of the area’s County Supervisor, Pat Bates, has collected more than 3,000 signatures in opposition to the proposed power plant.

Now San Diego Gas & Electric, the electricity provider for Ladera Ranch and other nearby South County communities, says that this power plant is badly needed. They say that due to increased demand for power and limited supply in the area, this is the only way that SDG&E can continue to have enough electricity to power South County. Without this power plant, SDG&E says the area will have to face future shortages & blackouts due to lack of adequate supply.

So who’s right here? What do you think about this controversial power plant? Will public health and environmental health be threatened by this polluting power plant? Or is this the only way to supply the power South County badly needs? Is it unfair to force this unpopular plant upon Ladera Ranch residents? Or is this just the consequence of all the population growth in South County?

I want to hear what you have to say about this row over the new power plant. Is SDG&E in the right, or should the courts side with Ladera Ranch residents in stopping the power plant? Go ahead and have your say.

  35 comments for “What Do YOU Think About the Ladera Ranch Power Plant Controversy?

  1. Christine
    January 3, 2008 at 11:09 am

    As a Ladera Ranch resident I feel mislead even betrayed. I was never informed of this when I purchased my home. Nobody mentioned it when I paid my insanly high taxes or paid for my overpriced association. I do not understand why they cannont or will not build this facility away from children and hard working americans. What about all the space in the O’neill park area?

  2. Andrew Davey
    January 3, 2008 at 11:18 am


    I’m really sorry to hear that. So how close is your house to the site of the proposed power plant? I can understand why you’re concerned.

    So do you think SDG&E and the developer didn’t try hard enough to find another site? I’m not sure if it would be allowed in O’Neill Park, but perhaps there may be another site far away enough from people to where it doesn’t pose such a threat.

    Does anyone in South County have ideas?

  3. southcountyperson
    January 3, 2008 at 11:21 am


    It should be built in the poor areas. Maybe San Juan or better yet SanTana!

  4. Andrew Davey
    January 3, 2008 at 11:28 am


    Way to go! I like that tongue in your cheek. 😉

    But really, this is a dilemma. South County does need more power… So where can the power plant be built? And seriously, why isn’t there more talk of building more “windmills” or “solar farms” here? Wouldn’t it be nice if we were to actually start building more renewable energy infrastructure here, so that we stop arguing over where to build all this polluting crap?

    Just a thought… 🙂

  5. January 3, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I’ve been meaning to blog about this but hadn’t gotten around to it.

    The plant is supposedly intended for peak period use only, but I have some serious doubts about that. Ladera isn’t yet fully built out — how can they be experiencing peak shortages already? Doesn’t make sense. I suspect they’re sugarcoating the situation and calling it “peak use” when it really isn’t. They want to make the plant more palatable to the residents by saying it will only be used some of the time.

    But assuming there really IS only a peak need, it’s a shame that the construction of a new conventional electrical plant is the contemplated solution. Here in Southern California, where most heating is done by natural gas, our peak electrical demand periods are during summer day times when air conditioning use is highest.

    Summer day times are also the periods when solar energy generation is the highest. If enough buildings in Ladera Ranch and other nearby communities had solar panels on their roofs, the need for generation of extra electric energy at peak demand times could potentially disappear, thereby eliminating the need for this (supposed) peak need power plant.

    Ladera Ranch is actually quite good WRT solar panels. Apparently solar was an option offered by many builders in Ladera because a decent number of homes have panels on their roofs. But Ladera and all communities need to do better.

    I don’t know what the total electric energy production capacity of California’s power plants is, but I do know we have the capacity to easily meet non-peak demands. Whenever a new power plant is contemplated, it’s planned not because there isn’t enough power for average times — it’s needed for PEAK times.

    In Southern California we could manage very well for a long time to come with our existing electric generation capacity if we simply had enough solar panels to handle the additional PEAK needs.

  6. SantaAnaLover
    January 3, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Wow..first someone suggests putting the plant in state park and then another wants to put it where all the “poor” people are. I think you wanted to say Mexicans, didn’t you? I think residents of Ladera may deserve this plant after all?

  7. David Kendrick
    January 4, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Gee, maybe they never should have shut down the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. That was a perfect location, lots of power, and environmentally friendly.

    I say revive San Onofre and forget this new plant (especially since my daughter, and grand daughter are downwind). In fact, they ought to build more nuclear power plans, not shut them down.

  8. Courtney Ellis
    January 4, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Has anyone considered lessening our need for this “power”? I am indeed a concerned citizen of Rancho Santa Margarita with a small child. I was shocked to hear about such a proposal. Change a light bulb – turn off your tv’s – computers, lights, etc. when you leave the room – conserve, conserve, conserve! – invest in solar power – green our schools, businesses, buildings. If we were more energy efficient we wouldn’t need such a plant. Thanks Ladera HOPE for putting up a good fight!

  9. Andrew Davey
    January 4, 2008 at 10:53 am


    Great idea! If we all just listened to you more often, our county wouldn’t be so damn screwed up. 😉

    No really, I LOVE the idea of building more renewable energy infrastructure here instead of more polluting crap. Seriously, why isn’t SDG&E even considering a “solar farm” or a “wind farm” or just offering incentives to get more folks to buy solar panels for their homes and businesses? We’ll ultimately run out of all this fossil fuel crap and we’ll ultimately destroy our planet and make our nation more insecure by depending upon it… So why not start to end this bad habit?


    Another good idea! How ’bout conserving more? How ’bout more programs to make our communities more energy efficient? This will also do A LOT to reduce our need for more power plants!

  10. January 4, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Thank you Courtney and Andrew for stating the obvious. Unfortunately our endless consumerism will not be discouraged by those who profit from it.

    I live in Aliso Viejo and I love the idea of buying solar panels for my house. I can’t afford them, that’s the main issue, but I feel this is going to be solved in just a couple of years.

    But you know what? My community does not allow solar panels on houses. Why? They think they are eyesores? Shouldn’t we also be discussing changing our attitude to green alternatives as being a means to up property value and keep the need for new power plants out of the picture?

    I also want to replace my poor grass for artificial turf, still can’t afford that either right now. Think how much water we could save if people were encouraged to do such a thing as well as how much pollution would be cut down from the use of gas lawnmowers? Isn’t this a win/win?

  11. January 4, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    If your homeowners’ association or city doesn’t allow solar panels they are almost certainly in violation of the law. During the Carter administration a law was passed to force communities to allow solar panels whether they liked them or not. AFAIK the law has never been rescinded, but I’d be interested in knowing whether someone has up-to-date info about this.

  12. Andrew Davey
    January 4, 2008 at 5:36 pm


    I’m sorry to hear that. And really, I’m in the same boat you’re in. Right now, we’ll have to save up some more moolah before we can start xeriscaping our front yard and installing solar panels on our roof. But really, why aren’t there more incentives offered to do stuff like this? It’s really too bad that more local utility agencies don’t follow Irvine Ranch Water District’s model of rewarding those who save water by doing stuff like xeriscaping. The more we do to cut wasteful demand for water and power, the better shape we’ll be in.


    WOW! Now that’s interesting! Can anyone confirm if that Carter-era law is still on the books?

  13. January 4, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Check out the Solar Rights Act.

  14. January 4, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you Gila, I will check it out. We looked through our bylaws during escrow specifically to see what they had about solar panels. I will look again and if I have to, I will be glad to go to a board meeting and bring it up.


  15. Jeff
    January 5, 2008 at 8:53 am

    This plant will feed the entire electrical grid. For the SDG&E spokesman to state “The power is needed in this area of South County” therefore the plant must be located here, is simply not correct. The residents of Ladera Ranch, Coto De Caza, Dove Canyon, Los Flores or San Juan Capistrano will not benefit any more than folks in bordering states. Certainly SDG&E can look to find a site that is not within 1000 feet of so many Elementary Schools and Preschools, they should be thinking miles.

  16. Andrew Davey
    January 5, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Gila & Heather-

    Fantastic! So the Solar Rights Act forbids HOAs from forbidding solar panels on house roofs? Hmmm, interesting… I’ll have to follow the link and see what’s in there. Fortunately for me, I need not worry about HOAs… I live in one of those older Santa Ana neighborhoods where we all just do whatever we want anyways. That’s why I like to call my neighbohood one of the most “eclectic” in all of OC. 😉


    Yikes! So this proposed power plant really is within 1,000 feet of all these schools, homes, and businesses? If that’s the case, then maybe SDG&E should really look at other areas to build it. But still, where the heck can this thing be built?

    Does anyone have ideas on where to build this power plant (legally)?

  17. jeff
    January 5, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Legally?….thats a good question. Seems to me if located by so many residents and schools is ‘legal’ by the County Planners viewpoint….it would be legal almost anywhere……….Maybe by the dump…..any dump….how about the outskirts of Pendelton?

  18. Andrew Davey
    January 5, 2008 at 11:16 am


    Yes, ain’t our county always interesting! For some reason, our elected “leaders” seem to love such “great” (read greatly STUPID) ideas as toll roads to nowhere, using our tax dollars on high-end designer furniture, and allowing a County Supervisor to open a “services” (read servicing for her reelection campaign) office just 10 miles from the Civic Center. Yes, for some reason, our county “leaders” just love coming up with all these great ideas… So why are we surprised they want to build a polluting power plant just 1,000 feet from schools, homes, and businesses?

  19. Tom
    January 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    What if the developers of those sprawling Ladera Ranch communities had put solar panels on the roofs of all of those houses? With so many sunny days in the area, that could have made a real difference.

    I’m against power plants like this in general – they are 20th century band-aids for a 21st century problem. I’m amazed, however, that the residents/officials in Ladera Ranch cry environmental foul now, but had environmental concerns when covered mile after mile of those beautiful and environmentally-sensitive hills with cookie cutter houses and strip malls.

    The sense of entitlement, selfishness and total lack of awareness of so many in Orange County never ceases to amaze or depress me.

  20. Tom
    January 6, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Egg on my face for missing the comments addressing solar panels above, I’m glad people are thinking about things like this. I second the thoughts that HOAs prohibiting panels probably isn’t legal (and definitely shouldn’t be), and should be challenged.

    Prohibiting solar panels because they are ‘eyesores’ really speaks to the selfishness I already mentioned. Nobody there cares if they have $800 a month electric bills, so long as the coal that is burned to generate that electricity is polluting some other (poorer) community somewhere else. As soon as the power generation hits closer to home, people freak out. And solar panels are “eyesores”?!?

  21. Andrew Davey
    January 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm


    Interesting point… I’m thinking about just that. While I feel for all the concerns Ladera residents have now, I also wonder why no one was talking about any of this when Ladera was being planned. Why no plans to conserve power better? Why no plans for smarter development? Why no plans for more renewable power?

    Why no thought before this power plant debacle began?

  22. just...asking
    January 7, 2008 at 9:06 am


    Cities cannot legally stop you from installing solar panels on your home. Legislation passed a few years ago removes that power from California cities. Some HOA’s have found ways around this law, but courts are expected to strike those down if anyone takes it to court.

    Cities can require permits and inspections for panels but cannot place any limits on position or alignments of the panels. Recently toured a home in Cerritos that is 100% solar, quite impressive. Homeowner did a lot of the work himself. Only bill is a connect charge, they even have an electric car that charges overnight and a 2nd car that runs on natural gas.

  23. just...asking
    January 7, 2008 at 9:17 am

    As for the plant, it sounds like agency did the bare minimum of notice to get this plant approved, typical of energy companies. SDG&E has been establishing contacts with local electeds and OC Business Council to pave the way for more expansion. They have been more active recently on local political boards and chambers. It is thought that they have some even larger projects in the works.

    As an aside, I listened to mag-lev train supporters recently touting their 300mph train proposals. One question that is never answered is where will all the power come from to run these lines? In China they move villages that are over 1000 years old to make way for plants and pollute rivers that were the livelyhood for so many to generate power for their trains which will take tourists to Olympic destinations. While I don’t think this would happen here, we should look to Ladera as an example of what happens with unchecked growth and short-sighted planning.

    Hope the residents concerns are adequately addressed.

  24. January 8, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I’m relatively new to South County and can’t understand how the new High School ends up on top of an active garbage dump and a proposed power plant ends up next to a residential community?

    Who made these decisions?

  25. Probably Jim Schmitt
    January 10, 2008 at 9:52 pm


  26. Kari
    January 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I have to wonder if there wasn’t such a high demand for Mc Mansions in the area and if people didn’t insist on running their AC 24/7 all summer long, if there would even be a need for this plant. My family of 5 lives in a 1250 sq. foot house and I try not to run the AC unless it is unbearable in the house. I have been absolutely shocked and appalled when friends have told me about their $800-$1000 power bills in the summer months. Of course their houses are three times as large as mine. This is the price we’re paying for our greed. We can’t keep on going like this and expect their not to be grave consequences on the earth. People need to change their attitudes. They think that as long as they can financially afford to spend that much on gas and electricity that it is their right to do so. Unfortunatly, we are all paying the price.

  27. Realist
    January 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    i agree with the guy that said we should put these in Santa Ana. Let the Mexicans deal with it. They shouldnt even be here in the first place.

    For those of you who got mad about that comment, thank you. Your anger and misery make me thrive. May it be heaped upon you.

  28. Lisa W
    January 16, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Why not spend the $$ to build the power plant on solar cells for all the roofs in Ladera Ranch (See Natural Court as an example), so they can sell all the extra power back to the power company?

    Stall ’em til Obama or Hilary gets here.

    To the rescue!

  29. Beth
    January 18, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I am fairly new to Orange County, I love in Ladera Ranch and I really don’t understand where this hostility toward Ladera Ranch comes from. We moved here 2.5 years ago from out of state and fell in love with Ladera. We liked many areas in OC but decided to buy in Ladera. I didn’t know anything about the opposition that people had against Ladera being built. Wasn’t all of Orange County beautiful pastoral land at some point? Regardless, now my family lives down the street (less than 1/2 mile) from the site where this power plant is proposed to be put. We found out about it on Dec 11. The deadline for the TitleV Public Hearing – which would have given us the opportunity to ask questions and get the needed information – had passed on Nov 27. The only option we had was to file a lawsuit. Are you saying that my 4 kids don’t deserve to be healthy, just because we live in an area that you don’t think should have been developed? SDG&E has other sites available to them. This was just the easiest and most cost-effective site for them. Isn’t the health of our children more important than money?

  30. Beth
    January 18, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I also want to say that I agree that we all need to do more to conserve energy!! I drive very little and the vast majority of the time, I drive just in Ladera. I have a fairly small house as well, but I have never had an electric bill close to $800. I try to do what I can to conserve, but this has been a HUGE wake-up call for me and all of this area. We all need to do more. Please know that this power plant is NOT for Ladera. SDG&E wants a peaker unit somewhere in South County – for all of South County, and possibly even other areas. The energy this plant would produce would just go on the “grid”. Let’s all decrease our need for energy and encourage SDG&E to invest in renewable sources of energy – and stop the “polluting crap”, as Andrew said.

  31. Lynn
    April 20, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I think we all need to work on conservation and alterative fuels. I have to say I moved here from Northern Calif and they were up in arms up there over what was quoted as “the eyesore the windmills create”.. So, I guess everyone would like to use and in many cases over use our resources but they don’t want the solutions placed in their backyard.. With that being said, I DON”T think Ladera is a great place for ia plant.. Ladera is a place people moved to raise families and it seems that there would be less populated areas that would be a better option.. Children are very sensitive to pollutants and ladera already has their share of huge overhead powerlines.. I really don’t think they need all those polluntants released into the air… The plant will literally be next to schools and many homes..

  32. April 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Sure, let the poor kids in places like Stanton suffer with power plants and overhead lines. People pay good money to raise their kids in idyllic Ladera Ranch. Ladera residents need their large climate-controlled homes and gas-guzzling SUVs to commute in comfort. They shouldn’t have to suffer like the Stantonites.

  33. RJ
    May 10, 2008 at 12:56 am

    The Ladera Ranch HOA, LARMAC, met with Wellhead and SDG&E (san Diego Gas & Electric, SEMPRA ENERGY) last year about plans to build a power plant about 300 feet from the community of Ladera Ranch but failed to inform the residents they represent and whose interest they are supposed to serve. Now they do not want to take a position on this issue after hundreds of residents realize a power plant is being shoved into their community.
    To South Orange County residents and homeowners:
    Citizens of Ladera Ranch, Las Flores, Coto, RSM, Mission Viejo, SJC, Wagon Wheel,
    Ladera Hope has critical information for you! Please come to a Town Hall Meeting…
    WHEN: Tuesday, May 13, 7:00 p.m.
    WHERE: Ladera Ranch Elementary Multi-Purpose Room
    WHY: To learn the results of our fact-finding and what you can do to FIGHT THE POWER PLANT!
    If you want to join in the fight, please come ready to contribute financially and with your time. We can’t do this without you!!
    Please help spread the word about this meeting. You can forward this e-mail on to your friends and family. Also, you can download and print flyers from the website at http://www.laderahope.org or go to Toy Town and pick up flyers to pass out. Thanks for your support!!

  34. Nigel F
    May 11, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Southern California has a 2 gigawatt power plant called San Onfre Nuclear Generating Station (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/reactors/sanonofre.html) located 20 miles south of Ladera Ranch. SDG&E, the owners, want to decommission this plant 10 years early because everyone who built it is retiring. This will mean the region will loose those 2 gigawatts. So what is a power company to do? That’s right! Build “peaker” plants. This one will burn natural gas from a pipeline that runs parallel to Ladera Ranch. Interesting idea. Build a power plant that uses a fuel that will run out by 2060 (http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/health/gas.html).

    So, I’m clearly for more nuclear plants than natural gas plants. Then there’s the human aspect of this whole fiasco. The peaker plant will be within a mile or so of almost every point of Ladera Ranch. There is no industry located near Ladera, apart from a power substation, overhead power lines, and a self-storage center. The peaker plant will consist of a 50 foot smoke stack and a very large tank full of ammonia. California’s well known for its earthquakes, so many thousands of gallons of ammonia on my door step doesn’t make me happy, no matter how “safe” it is.

    Finally, SDG&E has some nerve trying to sneak this in. It wasn’t in any of the disclosures from 4 years ago, and the noticies sent around weren’t clear that it was a gas turbine power plant. How can we believe it will be run sparingly. Does it even make sense? Does it make sense to build it in a residential area, when there are plenty of industrial regions they could erect a power plant?

    They want it in Ladera because Ladera sits under the power lines that come straight from San Onfre, so it’s simple to make this resource available to the whole area supplied by the grid. It’s a far more efficient placement than anywhere industrial. The only other place better would be at San Onfre, but I bet they want to sneak a few other plants round and about.

  35. E. Inskeep
    May 23, 2008 at 8:44 am

    The Ladera energy is a logical method of meeting the peak needs of the area. It is fired by natural gas. SDG&E has developed and is developing one of the better energies: natural gas. If we continue to build more large power plants, a larger infrastructure will have to be built. The grid expansion to handle every localized peak demand would be over-kill. It is a good business practice to have a standby to meet that occasional need. Even if the “green” perspective ever allows to have atomic power plant(s) built to handle peak times, the excessive cost of a large plant to handle a small area’s needs will cost all customers of SDG&E to pay heavily for the increased grid. This is a good business decision with all the customers of SDG&E in mind. Of course, it is also a good business decision by SDG&E to not waste money when they are putting in many additions, upgrades, etc. to make life better for all their customers and cleaner for the environment.

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