Letter: RBUSD Must Oppose AES Plans to Repower

Emissions from a repowered AES Redondo Beach would have some very serious health effects on children in Redondo Beach Unified School District, writes Roger Light.

I was very disappointed with the Redondo Beach Board of Education’s failure to take any meaningful stand against the rebuilding of the polluting and unnecessary AES power plant at their last public meeting. Once again the leaders we have elected to look out for our interests have demonstrated their limited understanding of the issues and appear to be concerned only with doing what is less confrontational.

While denial is always comfortable, political courage and action are our best tools for positive change. The hypocrisy of attempting to encourage healthy eating habits and develop young minds while refusing to take a stand against rebuilding a power plant that will significantly adversely effect the health and brain development of thousands of our students at a number of our schools in the path of the pollution cloud under the smoke stack of the AES power plant is striking.

A series of recent studies on children have all found a negative impact of air pollution on cognition (thinking ability). These findings are most dramatically associated with particulate pollution, which is expected to increase by a factor of at least 5 according to AES’s own filings. Boston University School of Public Health published a report in 2008 that followed children from birth through 10 years of age. They found that children exposed to greater levels of a certain type of particulate scored significantly worse on tests of memory, as well as both verbal and nonverbal intelligence. More recently, a study published this year by researchers from Columbia University followed children from birth to age 7 and found that children exposed to higher levels of urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while in utero were more likely to experience attention problems and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Similarly a study from the University of Michigan found that children exposed to the highest levels of pollution had the lowest attendance rates and a greater percentage of children who failed to meet state testing standards.

Studies in Mexico City, a notoriously polluted place, have found that the brains of dogs in the city had significantly more signs of brain deterioration (amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles both associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans) compared to dogs outside of the city. MRI scans identified brain changes in children living in Mexico City, as well as lower scores on tests of memory, cognition, and intelligence. Is it our goal to become another Mexico City?

To argue that because there are other greater polluters out there (e.g., large numbers of cars and trucks) we should do nothing to stop a major unnecessary source of pollution is like saying we should not try to cure cancer because more people die from heart disease.

The failure of the majority of the school board to take at least the reasonable position that a power plant next to thousands of their students is a bad idea is unfathomable. Our children deserve better. Please vote YES on Measure A and NO to rebuilding the AES power plant.

Roger Light, Ph.D.
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Redondo Beach

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Stu December 18, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Is Dr Roger related to Jim Light?
Jim Light December 18, 2012 at 01:44 AM
sheri patterson December 18, 2012 at 03:01 AM
"A growing number of studies suggest there is no threshold below which these particulates don’t cause health problems. More worrisome, and harder to quantify, are even smaller, ultrafine particles — under 2.5 microns — that natural gas plants also produce", Michael Kleinman, Professor at UCI School of Medicine, said. Ultrafine particle pollution is increasing a minimum of 500% in Redondo should this plant get repowered. Again, 500%! That info is per AES' state filing submitted on Nov 20th. The power plant won't be a little bit dirtier, it will be A LOT dirtier. NOx and Ammonia will dramatically increase as well. Angela Johnson Meszaros, attorney for California Communities Against Toxics, calls the ultra-fines the worst sort of pollution. “This is not dust from a road,” she said. “These are ultra-fines that are going to embed themselves in your DNA; these are the products of incomplete combustion.” James Gauderman, a professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, has tracked the connection between lung development and air pollution in children across Southern California for nearly 20 years. “These ultrafine particles contain a lot of chemicals that are generated during combustion, many of them are known to be mutagenic and carcinogenic,” he said. Personally, the thought of pouring more tax $$ via bond measures to improve our schools and then tolerate dangerous air emissions that will make our schools less desirable would be very irresponsible.
Fred Reardon December 18, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Dr. Light, Thank you for being one of the few members of the medical community to stand up and have the courage to speak about this increased particulate matter threat to the health and safety of our families.
Kathryn M Wright December 18, 2012 at 05:43 AM
How will an area with such a dense population per sq. mi. power all the needs for this population without a retrofitted power plant nearby? The needs of students, the elderly make for quite a pull from the power grid regardless of the health needs of the population Would brown outs and black outs be welcomed if the grid goes down in another part of the area where the power is generated. I don't think there is enough "green energy" to go around for the growth that I have seen in the area where I was educated from kindergarten to high school. The smog was very bad in my youth and the power generation had maybe half the need it has now. I can excuse any bad behavior on my part as a senior now at 66 on my youth and misplaced neurons during those formative years? And are not there other ways to spoil your neurons in your youth other than power generation and miniscule particulate matter in our atmosphere? What about the daily breeze that blows all those dangerous particulates over the rest of the county? Does not their dispersal into the atmosphere rob them of their danger?
Jim Light December 18, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Kathryn, Te current plant runs at an average of about 5% of annual capacity. With San Onofre down that has increased about 1%. The majority of our power comes from other plants. Next year two new plants will be online in El Segundo and City Of Industry. So we will have ample nearby local power generation. CAISO studies show AES Alamitos and AES Huntington plants are critical but not AES Redondo. Our area f the grid has ample excess power through as far as CAISO predicts 2021, without AES Redondo. Our power needs have not grown substantially ... More efficient appliances and buildings contribute to that. In fact in the latest 2013 study, CAISO reduced their projections for our area by about 1000 MW. Not sure what you mean by the breezes. Stopping the AES Redondo reduces pollution,and prevents an increase. According to AES' own analysis, we do not meet Fed and State standards for particulate pollution. Allowing the unneeded power plant makes it worse. The pollution numbers we cite do not include secondary particulate formation from AES' other pollutants. All this of course ignores the significant negative fiscal impacts of the plant on property values, business revenues, and city revenues. Your argument about what you grew up in makes no sense. Why continue something that is bad for kids just because you survived it well? My grandfather smoked and lived to 88. Should we push cigarettes on kids based on thy anecdote?
Fred Reardon December 18, 2012 at 08:09 AM
Should we trust AES to help our community? From the "Los Angeles Times" November 16, 2002 by Nancy Rivera Brooks, Times Staff Writer "New Evidence of Fraud in Power Crisis" Workers at AES Corp. and Williams Cos. agreed to idle California plants to drive up electricity prices, federal regulators allege. http://articles.latimes.com/2002/nov/16/business/fi-williams16 There is not enough of a buffer between the proposed AES toxic stacks and therefore not enough area for the toxins to dissipate before entering our (and our children's) lungs. No economic or grid supplement argument can justify the risk to our communities health and safety. AES does not own the air we breathe. Be mindful and concerned about the overwhelming evidence related to the increased odds of getting autism, cancer, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, pregnancy complications, etc. when living in close proximity to a power plant toxic plume.
Fred Reardon December 18, 2012 at 08:11 AM
New plant supporters are hoping that, because the toxins released from smoke stacks are invisible, people will think it's ok for AES to pollute the air we breathe. I see the giant toxic plume and wonder how many pollution particles are entering the lungs of my family and neighbors? I wonder why someone would want to place a new power plant, spewing even more pollution into our lungs, in this densely populated area? I see the toxic plume and I wonder why is the closest monitoring system of the Air Quality Management District 4 miles or more away? I witness the toxic plume and I wonder why, in this day and age, are we still placing smoke stacks in an area so close to people without a buffer? I wonder how anyone, with any common sense, can think that spewing tons and tons of dangerous toxins (particulate mater) into the air, so close to people, isn't going to harm them? I wonder why some people have a sense of entitlement to pollute the air we breathe? I see the toxic smokestacks and wonder why our public officials are not looking out for our health and safety?
Fred Reardon December 18, 2012 at 08:15 AM
Answer: Supplement the grid with clean renewable energy/electricity. In other communities, people are doing everything they can to clean up the environment, the air, and create a smart, clean, renewable energy supplemented grid. Redondo Beach is a perfect example of city held captive by a huge polluting greedy company and lazy local government and community officials. The only people doing the heavy lifting are volunteers? It would be easier, to be less critical, if some individuals, on the payroll, would actually do something. This unnecessary, unwanted, polluting fossil fuel based power generator is trying to maintain its death grip on the fat contracts and also pursue (appears to be the true agenda) aquatic life killing desalination.
Fred Reardon December 18, 2012 at 08:15 AM
AES is not needed, pollutes, and detracts from a sustainable energy based future for California. Every time one of these (not identified as a necessary "must run" plant) AES type dinosaurs gets built, clean, sustainable renewable energy loses. In this case, a Virginia company profits, we lose California based renewable energy related jobs and, as an extra bonus, get to breathe in nasty toxic emissions. Where is the Redondo Beach Green Task Force? When is our local government and groups in our community, that get paid to protect our health and safety, going to get off their rear ends, drive to Sacramento and other cities where the entities that are charged with making a decision on this plant are located? When are they going to start doing some of the heavy lifting? Please take a stand and help support a zoning change that will send a strong message to the community and those agencies charged with approving a new power plant that we do not want to expose our community to this toxic polluting threat. Vote Yes on Measure A.
Laura Emdee December 19, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Dear Dr. Light, I am disappointed at your bold, inflammatory statements about the RBUSD School Board. The RBUSD has not failed at anything regarding AES. We placed the AES issue as a discussion item on the agenda at the request of Dawn Esser and Scott Kaplan within 2 meetings of their request. The item was discussed then it was transferred to an action item. A discussion item allows for a discussion only, it is the simply the beginning. A place to decide if we want to move forward with an idea. The RBUSD decided to make the issue an action item. Now, that the item is an action item, information will be studied and a resolution will be drafted. Drew Gamet and I have been tasked with this item. The board operates within the laws, the Ed Code, the Brown Act and Robert's Rules of Order. Laura Emdee
Fred Reardon December 19, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Please don't contemplate too long. Delay and inaction will not keep the particulate matter from entering our children's lungs.


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