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Brand: AES Redondo Beach Must Go

Councilman Bill Brand explains why he believes people should sign the petition for an initiative that would ask voters to retire permanently the power plant on Harbor Drive.

The hulking industrial behemoth that has marred the South Bay waterfront for over 50 years needs to go. Permanently! Three power plants on the coast of California have retired recently, and the AES Redondo facility should be next.

Plants were retired due to public opposition and political pressure. In all three cases, a power company like PG&E or Dynegy was claiming they were critical to our future energy needs, and the new plant would be smaller and cleaner. Sound familiar?

Contrary to AES Redondo claims, there is nothing special about this location that requires a new plant to be built here. There will be three brand new power plants up and running this time next year just in the LA Basin, with 3X the capacity AES is planning for a new Redondo plant. 

This is not a case of “not in my backyard.” If Redondo is retired, the capacity will not go somewhere else. It has already gone somewhere else. Those three new plants are being built partly because AES Redondo is old, inefficient, rarely operating and there is public support, or very little opposition, to building in those communities.

As for the San Onofre nuclear station being down, if the electricity market knows both AES Redondo and San Onofre will be gone in the next 10 years, the market will respond to meet the need just as it always has. The shortages of 2000 were not shortages—they were the result of market manipulation where AES themselves were implicated helping game a poorly designed and executed deregulation of our energy markets.

Not only is AES Redondo not needed, it’s the worst place for a new power plant. The site is now surrounded by very dense residential development in a non-attainment area for air pollution, and is adjacent to a large commercial redevelopment that is just getting started. In fact, after suggesting they will free-up 38-acres of their existing site and painting it ‘green’ in their latest flyer, AES then suggests exacerbating the current situation by allowing them to add a mixed-use development on the un-used portion of their property. The real AES solution would surround their plant even more closely with more incompatible uses!

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically improve the health and vitality of our community by opposing a new power plant. Who’s not responding to this incredible opportunity to remake our waterfront? The Redondo Beach City Council. Consequently, much of the political pressure that other communities successfully mounted to recreate their waterfronts without a power plant is on the sidelines in our town.

Our state Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn, and West Basin Director Carol Kwan, truly get it and don’t equivocate. Kudos to all the politicians who aren’t playing politics with our health. They’re the real leaders in our town. The rest are confused, waiting to lead from behind by allowing themselves to be misled, or outright supporting a new power plant by doing next to nothing. 

In the meantime, the AES Corporation is spending untold dollars misleading an unknowing and fearful public with fancy flyers complete with supermodels on the cover and the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the background. It’s a timeless display of how money begets money.

Forget the politics. A new plant will pump tons of new pollutants into our community for decades. Does this sound alarmist to you? Ask yourself what you know about what comes out of the stacks of a large power plant and what those effects are to your health. If you answer is “not much,” please do your homework and then decide.

For those of you who are struggling to form an opinion based on facts, go to Table 18 on page 17 of this link. This is the permit that was issued by the AQMD for the power plant currently under construction on the beach in El Segundo.  These are emissions for a 570-megawatt natural gas-fired plant operating at 60 percent capacity.  AES Redondo has said their new Redondo plant will be 530 megawatts, and operate between 25-76 percent of capacity.

Based on this data, fifth-grade math shows that running at just 25 percent of capacity, a new Redondo plant will emit five times more annual pollution than AES has reported for their current plant—the equivalent of another Pacific Coast Highway’s worth of traffic in particulate emissions. 

What are particulate emissions? These are invisible, odorless, tasteless microscopic particles that get into your blood stream and cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, and kill more than double the number of people than die from breast cancer every year in California. Particularly sensitive are the young, the elderly, and those that exercise outdoors. Recent research shows that small changes in these pollutants can have a big impact on the developing lungs of children.

Don’t be fooled by AES arguments about concentration decreases, or that we should worry more about the whole region that stretches to Riverside. We should worry that total air pollution in the South Bay is going to increase several-fold because AES Redondo is going to operate much more often. We should worry that all that new air pollution is going to lay closer to the ground because they’re going to reduce the height of their stacks. Proximity matters! 

As for the power lines that stretch all the way to the 405 Freeway, there is a very real possibility that they may be removed if the AES plant is retired. Imagine our waterfront without the power plant and power lines! We should not walk away from this opportunity just because it will be difficult.

Since the Redondo Beach City Council is not acting, the residents have to do it themselves. After months of public comment, including discussions with Coastal Commission staff, fellow Redondo resident Jim Light and I—with input from dozens of residents, business owners, city councilmen and city commissioners—have authored an initiative that phases out industrial uses and rezones the 50-acre site for 30-40 percent commercial development, and 60-70 percent open space. Redondo Beach planning staff recommended phasing out power production and rezoning this site 8 years ago. You can read their lengthy report here

We invited AES Corp. to participate, but they respectfully declined if there was not a power plant allowed.

Rezoning is legal. This is not a taking, and certainly does not invoke the power of eminent domain. AES Redondo will retain ownership, have an appropriate phase out period and be left with very significant economic value. They will argue differently and probably sue, but we should not abdicate our responsibility to protect the health and welfare of our community for fear of a lawsuit.

This is not the equivalent of breaking a contract like Hermosa Beach did when their initiative outlawed oil drilling by Macpherson Co.  They had already signed a contract. Redondo does not have a contract with AES, and the new zoning allows them to complete their current 20-year contract with JP Morgan that expires in 2018. Even under current zoning, power plant generation is a “conditional”—not a “permitted”—use. And the California Energy Commission and the SCAQMD have to permit the building and operation of any new plant. AES has no “right” to build a new power plant on this site. AES knew this when they bought the plant in 1998.

And rezoning does not require Redondo to identify funding for anything. And it certainly does not require Redondo to remediate the land. It is AES’ land, but they should have to comply with local zoning laws like every other property owner in town.

But next month, the AES Corporation will be applying to the California Energy Commission for a license to build a new power plant on our waterfront. While the CEC can override local zoning on large power plant sites, they very rarely do. And nothing is more powerful than a public vote that resets zoning.

AES will also be applying for a new air permit with the AQMD and bidding on long-term power contracts next spring. The whole process is geared for approval, and they will get it if we don’t act and act now. Time is running out. 

If you’re a South Bay resident and want to donate, learn more, or help gather signatures, email me at bbrand@earthlink.net.  I’ll answer questions and help you navigate how to help.

If you’re a registered voter in Redondo Beach, be sure to sign the initiative petition when approached. This will just get it on a ballot. Then you can cast your vote when it appears on a ballot. As state Sen. Ted Lieu said recently: "I believe the citizens should have the right to vote for an initiative, because it's such a monumental issue."  

It's the year 2012, not 1912, and we’re planning for 2022 and beyond. We all want a better quality of life and to leave a legacy of revitalization that our future generations deserve. A mix of commercial and defined public amenities that are fiscally sound and provide a better quality of life for all is the answer. But how do you revitalize a waterfront with a brand new industrial polluter dropping anchor in King Harbor for another 50 years? 

A new power plant with new stacks emitting dangerous pollutants that entrenches the power lines for another 50 years would be a disaster! A failure of our generation. Don’t let it happen. Other communities are successfully recreating their waterfronts without a new power plant. So can we! 

Sign the petition!

Bill Brand
Councilmember
Redondo Beach
310-809-4405

Jim Light August 05, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I would bet my neighbors would not like my property to be a sewer treatment plant. The same cannot be said for the power plant site- I believe all of the surrounding property owners would prefer the power plant gone even if they won't publicly admit it (though most have). You are mixing apples and oranges. The power plant has a significant negative impact on all the property around it. Why do you think we have mini storage and a dirt farm two blocks from the water front? The CURRENT zoning has power generation as a CONDITIONAL use not a PERMITTED use. AES cannot assume they have a RIGHT to build a new power plant and they knew that full well when the they bought the plant from Edison. Why do you think they supported Heart of the City????
L. Campeggi August 06, 2012 at 12:36 AM
What the heck Jane? This is an article about rezoning the power plant site at the Redondo Beach waterfront for non-industrial uses, the impact(s) of that to Redondo Beach and surrounding community, the logic in support of the initiative, those who support the same, and where and how to find facts from state and independent resources. It's not a political issue as the "NoPowerPlant" supporters consist of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, etc. The "NoPowerPlant" supporters are men, women, tall, short, young, old, multi-racial, Christian, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic, etc. - and probably don't all agree about the Death Penalty or Roe v. Wade either - or other political matters. I looked back at a lot of your posts and just wonder why most of them are so full of hate and labeling of others. I feel sad that it appears that your sole intent for many of your comments is to cloud the merits of single issues by citing non-related nonsense, that is not always accurate, as if those diversions and inaccuracies should invalidate the item/issue being discussed. It reminds me of the person who can do nothing other than sling a lot of bull-puckey against the wall, hoping it will stick, in the absence of knowledgeable, cogent reasoning. Of course, honest people who are firm in and proud of their beliefs, also use their real names!
Fred Reardon August 06, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Sign the initiative. Vote to change the zoning. Send a message to the agencies that are charged with approving a new power plant that we don't want to breathe in the tons of toxic power plant plume emissions any longer. Stand up and fight for clean air and don't be intimidated by the pro power plant cheerleaders that want to expose our families to outrageously increased odds of getting cancer, lung disease, asthma, etc. Don't cower. Tell power plant supporters that they, and AES, do not own the air we breathe!
Paul David Moses August 06, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Redondo has suffered that industrial wasteland by the sea for 100 years! Why should we suffer anymore? That’s why I’m supporting the initiative. It will send a strong message to the California Energy Commission that there is a majority of Redondo Beach voters who are against any existing or further industrialization of our waterfront. Redondo Beach has already phased out industrial uses on surrounding properties. The AES site is the last piece. It will be the decisive step in rejuvenating our waterfront. There are appropriate sites to generate electricity, like, where it is needed. The South Bay does not need another power plant. We have a nice new one up the road in El Segundo that is built on an appropriate site, next to the sewage treatment plant. What comes next will bring much greater reward than the pittance that AES puts in Redondo’s coffers. Not to mention the huge increase in our quality of life. It is time for our brighter future Redondo Beach.
Dale Smith August 28, 2012 at 07:06 AM
I hope AES moves out of Redondo and takes its power lines with it, you snobs don't deserve any electricity if you vote them out.

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