Both AES and anti-power plant activists are heralding the Redondo Beach Board of Education's passage of a resolution Tuesday night opposing the construction of a new power plant if the new plant does not meet all state and federal pollution requirements, does not use the best-available pollution control technology and is not necessary for grid reliability.
"AES is pleased that the Redondo Beach Unified School District Board voted last night to support the California Energy Commission's long-standing and proven process for reviewing and approving new, modern power plants," AES Southland president Eric Pendergraft said in a statement from the energy company.
In an email to supporters, Redondo Beach city Councilman Bill Brand—who co-wrote an initiative to rezone AES' property on Harbor Drive with the ultimate goal of permanently retiring the current plant and disallowing the construction of a new one—also lauded the decision.
"It wasn't pretty, and not exactly what we wanted, but the Redondo Beach School Board did vote to oppose a new power plant if it's not essential to their electricity needs, which it's not of course," Brand wrote. "The resolution originally prohibited the use of 'exemptions' from air quality, which is what they will need to justify increasing particulate emissions 5-15X."
- Previously: School Board Approves Power Plant Resolution
The current natural gas plant uses once-through cooling, where water from the ocean is used to cool the superheated steam that spins the turbines that produce electricity. Due to a new ban on once-through cooling, AES Redondo Beach must be retrofitted, retired, repowered (rebuilt) or obtain a special exemption to continue operating beyond 2020. The plant's current power-generating contract expires in 2018.
AES has submitted plans with the California Energy Commission to replace the current plant with what they describe as a smaller, cleaner, more modern plant that will provide the grid with flexibility when power from renewable resources is not available.
Opponents of the plant, including the NoPowerPlant.com political action committee, argue that though the new plant will be cleaner in theory, it will run much more often than the current plant does and thus produce more particulate matter pollution. Opponents also say that a new plant will continue to depress property values and economic growth in King Harbor.
Measure A, a ballot initiative written by Brand and Building a Better Redondo leader Jim Light, would rezone the land on Harbor Drive to a mixture of up to 40 percent commercial and institutional uses and at least 60 percent parkland and open space. Proponents of the measure say that it is the only way to force the CEC to consider whether power is needed from AES Redondo Beach. If the power is not needed, the application for a new plant will probably be denied, according to Light. Opponents of Measure A argue that it is spot zoning and could embroil the city in an expensive lawsuit.
The Redondo Beach City Council has not passed a resolution opposing the construction of a new power plant.
The Redondo Beach Board of Education decided to consider such a resolution late in 2012 upon the request of several parents in the district. Board vice president Laura Emdee and member Drew Gamet were assigned to craft the resolution.
Prior to agreeing to put a resolution concerning the power plant on the agenda, the board decided that it would not take a position on Measure A.
Both AES and NoPowerPlant.com mobilized their supporters in the days leading up to Tuesday's meeting, according to an email from an AES representative and Facebook posts on the No Power Plant Facebook page. Tuesday's meeting was standing-room only, with many people wearing bright green "YES AES" paper buttons and others wearing "No Power Plant" pins.
In a post on their Facebook page on Jan. 20, anti-power plant activists said they'd "received feedback from numerous residents … that received telephone requests from AES to attend the school board meeting Tuesday night to defend AES' 'clean' new power plant."
When asked about the phone calls, AES representative Clarissa Cordova said that AES had heard from "thousands of residents who've told us they support our modernization plans for a smaller, cleaner power plant and asked us to tell them what they can do to help make it a reality."
"When we found out about the school board resolution opposing our plans and the meeting, we got in touch with our friends to tell them it was taking place, just like the NoPowerPlant group alerted their friends," Cordova said in an email to Patch.
Patch could not find a note on the No Power Plant Facebook encouraging residents to attend the school board meeting; however, Brand sent an email to his supporters early last Tuesday morning encouraging them to email members of the school board and providing information about the meeting.
"Believe it or not, the resolution has a good chance of failing," Brand said. "I've CC'd the (five) members of the School Board on this email, so, if you or your child will be exposed to the increased air pollution from a new power plant, feel free to just hit 'reply all' with a quick note that you hope they vote to oppose a new power plant."
The email also contained information about pollution in the area and related health issues.
AES provided pro-power plant attendees of the meeting with a page telling people why they should oppose the board of education resolution against the power plant and what attendees should tell the school board. (See attached .pdf.)
"Some people asked for background on the school board resolution and issue so we provided that as well," Cordova said.
In the statement, Pendergraft said he was "especially delighted to hear from the dozens of Redondo Beach residents who cautioned the school board against voting for any resolution that opposes the new plant."
At the school board meeting, board president Anita Avrick said she received more than 180 emails from supporters and opponents of the resolution.
"I read every single one of them and ... up until 11 o'clock this morning, I answered them," she told the audience. "Understand that we have heard you, and we have heard what you have to say."
Before approving the resolution, the school board agreed to change the title of the resolution to "Position on the Proposed Construction and Certification of the Redondo Beach Energy Project by AES Southland, LLC" from "Opposing the Proposed Construction and Certification of the Redondo Beach Energy Project by AES Southland, LLC," as well as remove the phrase "without any exemptions" from a condition requiring that the 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 (Air) Quality Management District."
Earlier that evening, Pendergraft had requested the school board remove the "without any exemptions" phrase from the resolution. Opponents of the new power plant have said that without these credits, the new power plant will not meet air quality standards for the area.
"The phrase 'without any exemption' is going to set us up for a lot of controversy," he said, noting that the new plant will use exemptions, which are basically emission reduction credits. "Our project meets certain criteria that allow it to use a regulation that the AQMD has put in place that the AQMD will supply the credits, not AES … It is termed an exemption because the AQMD supplies the offsets, not AES."
With that phrase removed, the resolution passed 4-1. Board member Jane Diehl opposed.
"What started off as a move by those opposed to the plant to pressure the board into taking a position in support of Measure A resulted in a resolution that endorses the validity of the state and local review processes for permitting a smaller, cleaner plant that meets the same air quality and energy goals that we all seem to share," Pendergraft said.
Anti-power plant activist Light had a different take.
"This resolution does send a solid message to the CEC … more than our Council has done in over two years," he wrote in a blog post on Patch. "We applaud the School Board."