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SAN JOSE-The California Energy Commission has unanimously approved a controversial 600-megawatt power plant in South San Jose. The Metcalf Energy Center is being proposed by locally-based Calpine Corp. and San Francisco-based Bechtel Enterprises Holdings Inc.

The natural gas-fired power plant has generated opposition from South San Jose residents because of the risks of plant pollution involved in building it. San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and the city council rejected the proposal last year. Calpine then appealed to the California Energy Commission, which has the power to overrule the council.

The state energy crisis made power plant construction a priority to Gov. Gray Davis who endorsed Metcalf in April. Davis appointed a majority of the commission’s board members.

In June, the San Jose City Council voted to approve essentially the same plant it had rejected seven months earlier. Despite the June vote by the San Jose City Council, the commission still considers today’s vote an override of local authority. It is the first time the commission has overridden a local authority since 1981, according to a spokeswoman for CEC.

Calpine Corp. and Bechtel Enterprises are prepared to begin construction on the 20-acre site this October. Construction is estimated to take approximately two years. The project is expected to begin commercial operation during the summer/fall of 2003.

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