Jerry Brown's administration says it will support a Canadian company's effort to vaporize garbage and turn it into electricity in Monterey County, despite concerns raised by environmentalists.
Plasco Energy Group's $175 million project is at the center of a regulatory dispute over gasification, an emerging technology in which garbage, under intense heat, is converted into a synthetic fuel used to generate electricity.
At issue is whether the Plasco project qualifies as a renewable energy project under state law. The designation is critical to the project's financing, Plasco says, because it will allow it to sell electricity at a premium to utilities that must buy one-third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery said under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010 that the Plasco facility could be considered a renewable energy project. But the department reversed its decision last month, rescinding its original opinion while planning an overall review of how it evaluates so-called "waste-to-energy" projects.
Environmentalists had protested the state's original interpretation of the law. They called the gasification technology unproven and said it would release toxic contaminants into the air.
On June 1, the Brown administration suggested it will step in on Plasco's behalf.
In a letter to the company, Nancy McFadden, a senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said Brown's office "will be supportive of legislation during the current session to allow Plasco's project to proceed on a pilot basis and be considered an eligible renewable energy resource under state law."
She added a hand-printed note: "We can make this work."