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AES, NoPowerPlant.com Claim Victory With Passage of School Board Resolution

The Redondo Beach Board of Education passed a resolution about AES Redondo Beach on Tuesday to send to the California Energy Commission.

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."

Fred Reardon January 28, 2013 at 09:49 PM
When is PenderGraft going to speak to this?: 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 Should we trust AES to help our community? 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.
Jim Light January 28, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Spot zoning is defined as: "The granting to a particular parcel of land a classification concerning its use that differs from the classification of other land in the immediate area." Measure A is based on harbor zoning and is designed to make new development on the AES more compatible with surrounding uses. Thus Measure A does not fit the definition of "spot zoning". If anything, the current zoning for the AES is spot zoning, because it is incompatible with zoning on all sides of the property. Also it's not just Measure A supporters who state Measure A zoning forces the CEC to do a power needs assessment... in his impartial analysis of Measure A, the City Attorney comes to the same conclusion: "However, if approved, Measure A would require the CEC to meet more stringent requirements before certifying a new power plant. Specifically, the CEC may not certify a power plant that does not conform with any applicable local ordinances or laws, unless the commission determines that the facility is required for public convenience and necessity and that there are not more prudent and feasible means of achieving public convenience and necessity."
Gerry O'Connor January 28, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Bill Brand zeroed in on the bottom line: " ... 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." Even AES' Eric Pendergraft didn't attempt to spin his way out of that one.
sheri patterson January 28, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Why was AES President Eric Pendergraft so worried about their state exemptions? Because they are a BIG deal and they are standing in the way of AES following normal protocol increasing significant particulates and pollutants into our already above federal and state guidelines for air quality- even in Redondo Beach. They are lowering the stacks and increasing pollutants. We should all thank them for the increased risk to cancer and respiratory illness. It's interesting how many think that just because health studies have not been commissioned here in Redondo, that everyone is fine. What you don't know won't hurt you?? Is that it? There have been studies done near other So Bay refineries and industrial facilities and the birth defect rates are significantly higher. But heck, what you don't know won't hurt you right? My kids will NOT be attending Beryl Heights should AES repower- a decision many other parents agree with. That will be ranked as the worst school to send your children to in the area. And if we lived in N. Redondo, we'd be choosing Mira Costa in a heart beat. Vote yes on A so we have a chance of putting our tax dollars from the various bond measures to the best use for the district.
Fred Reardon January 29, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Time and time again, new power plant supporters avoid the main concern…proximity to the TOXIC PLUME. It appears AES may get an exemption from performing a “Dispersion Modeling Analysis” for the proposed new plant? Therefore, it is not premature to discuss pollution since it appears we may not receive information about the danger zones. Where is the poison going? Don’t wait for information that may never get released. Stop the pollution. Vote Yes on A.
mark schoennagel January 29, 2013 at 05:41 AM
"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."" In AES's own application to the CEC it's stated the new "cleaner" power plant would release a MINIMUM of 5 times the current amount of pollution into the South Bay. If AES decides to run at capacity that number rises to 15 times! Fifteen TIMES the pollution in Redondo Beach!! No way! I am curious Clarissa from AES, just how do you and your company define "cleaner?"
Christine Wike January 29, 2013 at 07:00 AM
Great point, Mark! AES’s own filings show us that fine particulate pollution will be more than 6 tons per month from this “clean” plant. Anyone still believe AES? You can read AES’s own application here: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/redondo_beach/documents/applicant/AFC/Vol_1/. Charts in section 5.1 (air quality) show the increase in toxins, including the most dangerous small fine particulates (defined as smaller than 2.5 microns). You can also watch the EPA’s slideshow at http://www.epa.gov/airnow/pm/pm.html that describes some of the adverse health effects of these poisons.
CLaude Todoroff March 09, 2013 at 01:45 AM
What would be too funny is if their air conditioners, lights etc. were turned off because of rolling blackouts. The electricity has to be produced somewhere and green energy is just too costly and solar doesn't work at night. Windmills are an eyesore and kill birds. You people want electric cars and where does that electricity come from? Do you really think Obama has a magic wand that creates electricity out of thin air?

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