The Redondo Beach Board of Education on Tuesday night passed a resolution 4-1 concerning plans to repower AES Redondo Beach. School board member Jane Diehl dissented.
The resolution was written by school board vice president Laura Emdee and member Drew Gamet. It states that the school board will oppose the construction of a new power plant unless the new power plant meets all of the following conditions:
The proposed Power Plant meets all the requirements, regulations and standards of the Federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency), the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Quality Management District; and
The proposed Power Plant installs the best available pollution control technology; and
The proposed Power Plant is of vital necessity to the energy security of the Redondo Beach Unified School District.
Because it uses a method called once-through cooling to lower the temperature of the superheated steam that spins the gas turbines, the current power plant must be retired, repowered (rebuilt), retrofitted or receive an exemption to continue operating by 2020, per the state of California. The power contract for the current plant expires in 2018.
Power plant opponents have placed an initiative on the ballot that seeks to prevent AES Southland from building a new power plant on the property. Measure A would rezone the property to a mixture of up to 40 percent commercial or institutional zoning, depending on the use. The rest of the property would be zoned as open space or parkland, with power generation an incompatible use.
- Complete coverage: AES Redondo Beach Power Plant Debate
In the meantime, AES has submitted a plan to repower the current plant to the California Energy Commission. Though the CEC deemed the initial application "data inadequate," AES plans to submit supplemental data to complete the application by the commission's next meeting.
Proponents of the new natural-gas plant say that it will run cleaner, take up less space and provide California's energy grid with flexibility as the state aims to increase the amount of power it gets from renewable resources; however, opponents of the new plant point to AES' application, which states that if the plant runs as often as AES would like it to, pollution would increase dramatically. Opponents also say the power plant would continue to depress property values and slow economic growth in the area.
Power plant opponents have urged both the Redondo Beach City Council and the Board of Education to take a position opposing a new plant. The city council has not taken a position on the issue; however, it has decided that it will act as an "intervenor"—the highest level of participation afforded a person or group—during the CEC's hearings.
The school board decided in December that it would consider a resolution opposing a new power plant based on the potential health impacts. The board decided that it would not take a position on Measure A.
See below for the live blog. Entries are in chronological order. Please forgive any typos or misspellings!
6:50 p.m.: It's a packed house when the meeting gets around to the public hearing section. There are people in the audience wearing giant green pins with the words “Yes AES” and a graphic of the words “RES” crossed out, like a “no smoking” sign, in addition to the people from the NoPowerPlant.com political action committee. People can speak now or right before the power plant item comes up.
The time limit for all comments on the power plant will 30 minutes—15 minutes for each side. "There will be respect in this room. I don't want to hear any eh eh eh when someone else is talking. If we do not have any respect ... we will stop the meeting," says president Anita Avrick.
Avrick says she personally received 182 emails. "I read every single one of them and ... up until 11 o'clock this morning, I answered them," she says. "Understand that we have heard you, and we have heard what you have to say.
At least seven people pass before a woman whose name I didn't catch comes up.
"I think that if we were to do away with AES, it would be to eliminate a part of Redondo Beach that is a legacy," she says. Keeping the power plant would keep Redondo a unique place in the power industry.
After a few more passes, James Howard comes up. He's wearing a "YES AES." Button
"I don't know why you people think you should vote on this," he says. He says that the school board "(doesn't) take care of business like this" because it's the city council's job. Actually, it's the business of the California Energy Commission.
Gary, whose last name I don't catch, says he kind of agrees. He reads the Beach Reporter and the Easy Reader and hopes they're here reporting. He's questioning whether the letters are really as one-sided against the power plant. (He didn't mention Patch, but we print all letters we get, unless they're completely crackpot—reptilian lizards taking over the world come to mind.)
6:59 p.m.: Lezlie Campeggi, a NoPowerPlant.com supporter, steps up to the podium. "This is not a resolution to vote yes or no on a power plant, as a lot of people are already saying," she says. "This is a ... school board who has taken their time to write a beautifully crafted resolution talking about what their concerns are and possibly addressing that ... to the CEC."
She continues, "This is not a school board saying 'yes' or 'no' on Measure A." She notes that the district may experience reduced revenue from a power plant's purported blighting influence because Measure Q, among others, depend on property values.
"This is what the resolution does, it says, 'hey, CEC sit up and take notice,'" Campeggi says.
7:02 p.m.: Dr. Roger Light, who spoke at the last meeting about the power plant, is against the plant.
"Make no mistake, a new power plant ... will lead to more premature death," he says. "There's no safe level of air pollution. The APA develops guidelines and standards of acceptable pollution."
Children exposed to the highest level of pollutions have the lowest test scores and attendance rates, according to one study he quotes.
7:06 p.m.: Lori Zaremski, who also spoke against the plant at the last school board meeting dealing with the issue, praises the board of education for coming up with the resolution and urges them to vote for it.
"I had the pleasure of attending the CEC meeting in Sacramento," she says. "I learned that actually it is not the role of the CEC to protect Redondo Beach students—that that is the role of the Redondo Beach (Unified) School District."
She calls the CEC process "amazingly complicated." She implies that the "data inadequacy" ruling from the CEC means that AES was trying to subvert the process; however, AES has indicated that it is normal for the CEC to determine the initial application for a project "data inadequate."
7:08 p.m.: Joe Lenihan asks if they can turn the lights off "because that's what (the no power plant people) want to do." He says he doesn't see the issue
"What we're gonna get here is a better power plant than we have now," he says. "(AES) has a right to do this. And they have a right to build a cleaner power plant."
He says the school district will get less money if the city puts in a park or if the city gets sued. Actually, I believe the only money the city gives to the school district is on leases for properties owned by the school district.
7:11 p.m.: Eugene has lived in Redondo for 53 years. He's wearing a green button. "I'm trying not to be senile ... I can't understand why we're shooting ourselves in the foot," he says. "If it's approved by CEC, regardless of what they say here ... I would think that our Environmental Protection Agency will make sure we don't get bad plant."
"I don't think this is the ... right way to go," he says. He wants to wait until the CEC makes its ruling, then launch the opposition. Unfortunately, the CEC has the ultimate authority on this—once it makes its ruling, I don't think it can be overturned.
He says the person who tried to get him to sign a petition for the power plant was very "controversial" with him, and now he won't vote for Measure A.
7:12 p.m.: Tony Czuleger thanks the school board for considering the resolution.
"We need to look at the situation in a whole. This is an educational organization here. You're going to make an educational decision. You're not going to make a knee-jerk decision," he says. I think the knee-jerk decision is one to oppose a new power plant.
He says he's a general contractor, and that plans at the Planning Commission "never pass the first time." I think he's referring to the AES data inadequacy ruling from the CEC.
7:15 p.m.: Susan, a physics professor at El Camino College, says she settled on Redondo Beach after three years because she thought the air quality would be good.
She commends the school board for thinking about children's health—for her as a parent, and for her as an asthmatic. She urges the board to pass the resolution.
7:18 p.m.: An aerospace engineer who's name I didn't catch is encouraging the school district to pass the resolution. "Clean gas" is a carcinogen, she says. "Advocate for real change and technology change and consider the financial impacts, the amount of tax revenues that the city of Redondo Beach is getting from AES is appallingly low."
Time is up for discussion items. It sounds as though they're giving the pro-resolution folks three minutes to speak before the action items and the anti-resolution folks six minutes to speak before the action items. (The sides used 12 minutes and 9 minutes, respectively.)
7:21 p.m.: Back to action items and the resolution. "This resolution has absolutely nothing to do with Measure A, no matter how we vote, it may not be used in any way to say that we are in support of or against Measure A," says Avrick. "It is a resolution on how we feel about having a power plant with our children, if things are not met, but it has nothing to do with Measure A in any way, shape or form."
There's time for one person in favor and two people against, max.
7:25 p.m.: Eric Pendergraft, president of AES Southland, gets up to speak.
He's focusing on three points: new power plant will be cleaner, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than the existing plant. It will produce about 35 percent more electricity and produce about the same emissions of the new plant, which they say will run at about 20 percent.
"We don't think the board should take any position on our plant," says Pendergraft. He doesn't want them to pass the resolution.
"The phrase 'without any exemption' is going to set us all up for a lot of controversy," says Pendergraft. The plant will be using an exemption—an emission reduction credit. "It will have to surrender these credits ... however, our project meets certain criteria that allow it to use a regulation that the AQMD has put in place that says the AQMD will supply the credits, not AES ... It is termed an exemption because the AQMD supplies the offsets, not AES."
He suggests they delay the vote to "ensure that the language you are considering meets the language of what you're trying to do."
7:27 p.m.: Arlene Staich, a former school board member, is at the podium. "The power plant does have potential to emit hazardous particles, but they are known, and the CPUC will determine where the power is needed, and the other people will determine if the plant, where it should be located," she says. She says the school district's wellness policy refers to internal, not external items.
"We need to know more about the facts before you make this resolution," she says. She wants them to support a more environmentally friendly plant
7:28 p.m.: Councilman Bill Brand says, "This plant is not going to be cleaner. That's why they are asking for exemptions," he says.
"Even at a 20 percent run-rate, you're looking at about 15 tons—that's about a four times increase," he says. He notes that this resolution is in line with what other school boards in other communities have passed. "You're in a good position. I appreciate what you guys are doing. It's a good resolution."
"It'll get built if it's needed," says Brand.
30 seconds left in favor of the resolution; 1 minute, 30 seconds against.
7:31 p.m.: Dawn Esser, head of the NoPowerPlant.com PAC, thanks the school board for the resolution.
"This is a wonderful resolution. It's what we need to do. We need to send a message to the CEC that we have public opposition so thank you very much," she says.
So far, everyone who's wearing a green button has agreed with everything said tonight and is passing their turn.
7:33 p.m.: Eric Rasmussen, a retired professional economist, says he traveled in a lot of countries "where the lights were not on." He asks the board to remember the power outages in the east side of the L.A. basin before the recession.
"As a school board, you have a responsibility to assure that the power is on when the students are here," he says. "We must be very careful about the statistics being bandied about."
7:35 p.m.: The school board has opened their discussion.
"Well, this was something that Ms. Emdee and I sat down and crafted, worked on together and I think in the process of going through this got out exactly what we wanted," says Gamet.
"I'm quite flattered that you all think I have any power. I've been on the school board for 10 years and nobody listens to anything we say," says board member Jane Diehl. "A resolution seems to be a waste of time. Nobody reads them; nobody sees them; nobody cares." She would prefer a letter to the CEC—"all these 'whereas' get lost in my world."
She is appreciative of the work that's been done; she just think that a letter would be "much more effective."
7:39 p.m.: Board member Todd Loewenstein thanks everyone for being there. He says he's concerned that people don't realize that protecting the health of students is the school board's domain (though land use, economics and electricity aren't the board's domain). "Knowing all these people ... none of us makes knee-jerk reactions or knee-jerk decisions. We study things beforehand," he says.
His concern is "particularly about particulate matter." He's on the board of the American Heart Association, so he sees lots of presentations on heart disease and strokes, which can be caused by particulate matter. 288,000 people died in one year from particulate matter caused by burning fossil fuels, according to one study he quotes.
"I think it's great what AES is doing in trying to modernize the plant ... but what gives me great cause for concern is what the experts say about particulate matter," he says, challenging everyone to go home and "Google particulate matter in children."
7:42 p.m.: "We're not allowed to discuss this between us when we're up here," explains Avrick. She says she feels similar to Jane Diehl, and says she thinks a letter would be more effective than a resolution.
She's also uncomfortable with the "Resolved" part. "They'll read a letter better than they will a resolution," says Avrick.
"So you would have us say the same thing?" Gamet asks.
"To me it has more power if we just talk about the schools," says Diehl. "If we really want to speak to these people, why don't we speak to them very clearly?"
7:46 p.m.: "It's two pages—it's not a healthcare bill," says Gamet of the resolution. It sounds as though he's in favor of it. "I guess if there is some concern about verbiage or some sort of amendments to what is here, I think we could entertain that as a board."
He agrees that it's important for the school board to "opine" on this sort of thing. He says he's disheartened that he didn't get "this kind of crowd and interest" for new programs or textbook adoptions.
Emdee asks Superintendent Dr. Steven Keller if there's more weight to a resolution versus a letter. Keller doesn't know.
"I don't know if you put it in a letter if it's going to make any difference if the content is still the same," says Loewenstein. "I think what you did is brilliant."
7:49 p.m.: Diehl thinks that the resolution makes it seem like the board totally opposes the construction of a new power plant. Those in the audience who spoke against the power plant agreed; however, I'm not sure if they read the entire resolution.
"Ninety percent of the emails I got, people didn't read the proposal—they read the top line," says Avrick. "The top line does not say what we're doing." She suggests the school board change the headline to say "position" instead of "opposition." She also wants the "resolved" statement reworded to make it more clear that they board is not against a new plant if it meets all three conditions mentioned at the end.
7:51 p.m.: Emdee says she's considering a motion to change "without any exemptions" to "with minimal exceptions." "The whole point of this whole thing was the pollution, so we don't want there to be loopholes ... so we want to make it clear that that's our concern," she says. "All we're doing is expressing our concerns ... All I want is there to be the least amount of pollution possible."
She moves they strike "without any exemptions." It's seconded and passes 3-2, with Loewenstein and Gamet opposing.
Avrick calls for a vote. It passes 4-1, with Diehl opposing.
8 p.m.: Gamet says he'll make a motion to make slight modifications to the language—changing "opposing" to "position on" in the title and underlining and capping the "unless". That motion passes 4-1, with Diehl opposing.