Conrad Lopez notices it late at night: a bloom of smoke blowing from the power plant within eyeshot of his home and 40-acre date farm, blotting the sky over Mecca. Drivers on Route 86 often see billowing black clouds streaming out of the plant too.
The Desert View Power facility bills itself online as a producer of “reliable green energy” that burns urban wood waste, dead orchard trees and even fruit pits. But records show it’s the largest single emitter of smog-causing pollutants in the Coachella Valley — producing nine times as much as the second largest source, the Sentinel Energy Center natural gas-fired plant near Desert Hot Springs.
Nearly 190 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 4 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) poured skyward last year from the Desert View plant. Those are the building blocks of dangerous ozone, swirling in hot California sunshine to produce smog linked to asthma and serious lung disease. Along with 375,000 megawatts of power, the plant also produced particulate soot and other pollutants that cause heart disease, cancer and strokes.
LA traffic top cause of smog for valley, but area power plants, hospitals and tram also contributors, by Janet Wilson, Desert Sun, April 25, 2019.