Pulling the plug: Part of old power plant being demolished

Pulling the plug: Part of old power plant being demolished »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A prime piece of Bakersfield real estate is getting a partial makeover. The old and un-used Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power plant at Rosedale Highway and Coffee Road is being partly demolished.

PG&E spokeswoman Katie Allen told Eyewitness News on Tuesday that the company is removing some buildings and cleaning up weeds at the high-profile location.

That's something Bakersfield city officials have hoped for, and Allen said the company is responding.

"We've heard concerns form the community about the visuals of the site," she explained. The old buildings have sat vacant for a long time.

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The company did have a buyer lined up for the site, but Allen said that deal didn't go through.

As Eyewitness News was first to report in September 2008, World Oil was ready to buy the property. That company has a large parcel to the south where they plan a development. But, they've backed out on the idea of acquiring the neighboring property from PG&E.

In a statement Eyewitness News obtains from World Oil, the company said they hoped to find funding assistance to cover the cost of what they called "significant" clean-up required at the site.

"Unfortunately, the economic climate and the current budget constraints in Washington and Sacramento make the clean-up infeasible in the near term," reads the statement.

"In addition to the necessary environmental clean-up, the significant costs of demolishing many of the current power plant and related structures make the purchase no longer economically viable," it adds.

The site has a history of groundwater contamination.

Tearing down the power plant structures is now underway by PG&E. On Tuesday, a large crane pulled down old wooden buildings. Allen said that work should be done this week.

The next phase will be taking out several metal quonset hut-type buildings.

Allen said they're not sure yet what will happen with the large, cement power plant itself. However, power substations are still in use transmitting electricity, and those will stay no matter what happens.

The plant was first built in 1948, and with very old buildings, another concern is the presence of asbestos.

Eyewitness News asked about that, and Allen said precautions were taken.

"We've done a tremendous amount of testing at this site before any demolition was to occur," Allen said. "We did find a trace amount of asbestos in some of the buildings, and we did work immediately to remove it before the demolition was completed."

Allen said the company also got a permit from the San Joaquin Valley Air District for the demo work itself. A lot of dust was visible, kicked up as the buildings were brought down.

PG&E shut down the power plant in 1985. Though the site almost went back to cranking out electricity about 10 years ago.

In 2000, a Colorado company, the North American Power Group, tried to buy the location. They wanted to build a power plant that would use biodiesel.

Bakersfield officials fought that plan, arguing the location is no longer suitable for a power plant. It's now surrounded by stores, restaurants, businesses and homes.

Bakersfield spokeswoman Rhonda Smiley told Eyewitness News the city has hoped for a long time that the old plant site would be cleaned up. They also hope PG&E can find a buyer for the location that will bring in a better use for the site.

Allen said that's also what PG&E wants to see in the future at the old power plant location.

"We're working very hard to clean up this site, and find the right buyer that the community will be happy with what they do with this area," she said. Allen added she didn't know of any buyer being identified yet.