Council's Opposition to AES Redondo Beach Moves Forward

The Redondo Beach City Council considered Tuesday night its next steps to oppose AES Redondo Beach's plans to rebuild.

FILE PHOTO: AES Redondo Beach power plant. Photo credit John Schreiber.
FILE PHOTO: AES Redondo Beach power plant. Photo credit John Schreiber.

The Redondo Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution supporting the South Coast Air Quality Management District's proposal to assess annual fees on new power plants for the use of emissions exemptions, such as those proposed for the rebuilt AES Redondo Beach Generating Station on Harbor Drive.

The fees would be based on the generating facility's emissions, capacity and other factors.

The current power plant on Harbor Drive must be retired, retrofitted, rebuilt or provided with exemptions to continue operating past 2020 to comply with the state of California's ban on once-through cooling, which uses ocean water to cool the superheated steam generated to spin turbines and create electricity in power plants.

AES Southland, the parent company of the Redondo Beach power plant, has filed an application with the California Energy Commission to rebuild the power plant. Officials say the new plant will take up a smaller footprint and run more efficiently.

Opponents of the plant, on the other hand, argue that AES' application shows that the new plant will run more often than the current one and produce more pollution and continue to depress property values in the area.

The Redondo Beach City Council in July voted to oppose AES' application to repower the plant. Additionally, the council decided the city would participate as an intervenor in the process. Intervenors have the power to request documents, cross-examine witnesses and participate more directly in the CEC's application process.

The CEC declared last month that AES' application to repower the plant was data adequate, meaning it contained enough information to move forward into the next stage of the approval process.

In addition to voting to support the SCAQMD's proposal, the City Council directed staff to spend money earmarked for AES-related issues to study and expedite the process of coming up with a suitable moratorium on building new power plants, which would eventually be followed by a zoning change disallowing power generation on the Harbor Drive property.

Officials believe the moratorium and zoning change would create a conflict between AES' application and local ordinances, forcing the CEC to conduct a power need analysis to determine whether additional power generating capacity is needed in that area. If the CEC decides that the power is not needed, it must deny the permit; if the power is needed, the CEC has the authority to override local ordinances to permit the power plant.

The CEC will not perform a need analysis unless there is a conflict between the application and local laws.

Representatives of the CEC will visit Redondo Beach in October to begin engaging with the public about the proposed power plant.


Read below for the Redondo Beach Patch live blog of the relevant portion of the meeting. Entries are in chronological order; please forgive any typos or misspellings!

7:15 a.m.: Aspel explains that he and Councilman Bill Brand attended the California Energy Commission meeting to tell the commission that the city was adamantly opposed to the construction of a new power plant.

"It went as planned," Brand said. "Technically they approved the application data adequate ... We were opposed to the power plant—yes, Measure A lost, but it was not to be read as a yea or nay vote on the power plant."

Brand says the CEC will come to the city in October to start the process.

"My experience from the research I've done ... the Energy Commission is not in the business of denying permits," he says. "They're only one piece of the puzzle. The other big piece is the (Public Utilities Commission)."

7:21 p.m.: City Manager Bill Workman explains that there were three major outtakes from the meeting:

1.  CEC declared the application data adequate.

2.  The commission directed their staff to address the lack of detailed alternatives to the power plant. "It was one of the areas that we were very vocal about that typ an enviro review … you have some v. well-defined alternatives. there were some puny sentences in there that wouldn't pass review here in these council chambers," Workman said.

3.  Two commissioners assigned to be the committee to work with the community, council and applicant over the 18-24 month review process.

Brand notes that the CEC confirmed that it would not do a needs analysis to see if the power is required unless there is a conflict with local ordinances, e.g. a moratorium or zoning conflict.

7:25 p.m.: Pat Aust is talking. He says he pushed a moratorium more than a year ago to try to force the CEC to do a needs analysis. "Now I think we need to be more streamlined and focus in on if we do a moratorium then the moratorium is focused on the fact that they would have to do a needs analysis to prove that the power plant were necessary," he says. "I would be in favor of a moratorium and then a future zoning change."

7:35 p.m.: City Attorney Mike Webb says the city could use some of the money set aside for AES-related expenses to finance a study that would explain why the Redondo Beach moratorium and zoning change are different than those done by Carlsbad, in which the moratorium was apparently deemed irrelevant. 

"It's better to get it right, than to rush it through," he says.

He says the council should consider the zoning, as they won't want to trigger a Measure DD vote—time is of the essence, here.

Webb turns the council's attention to another resolution that involves the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"There is a near monopoly for older, out of date power plants where they have access to the ... offset bank that South Coast AQMD does," Webb says. The SCAQMD is considering changing the rules so that facilities must still pay fees for new plants. AES said in the past that it could not repower if the rules were changed.

The deadline for this resolution is Friday.

Webb also explains the Public Utilities Commission's role in the process. He noted that the shutdown of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station may affect how much energy Edison is allowed to purchase, in addition to other technical matters.

7:43 p.m.: Brand calls passing the resolution to send to the SCAQMD a "no brainer." If the resolution passes, Webb will go to the meeting.

"Again, this is my primary job now," Webb notes.

"We have done a needs analysis," Brand continues. The needs analysis was updated after San Onofre shut down. Nevertheless, the Energy Commission will need to do its own needs analysis if a zoning conflict is created.

"Every time we've looked at it, it's shown we don't need AES Redondo for grid reliability," Brand says.

Workman says that the California Independent System Operators (Cal-ISO) and Southern California Edison have both submitted reports to the CEC.

7:49 p.m.: Brand moves to draft the resolution to the SCAQMD supporting Rule 1304.1 on electrical generation offset fees for air quality improvement. It is seconded.

Councilman Matt Kilroy thanks Webb for "jump(ing) into this with both feet."

7:52 p.m.: Public comment! Mike K. is up first.

"I gather that everybody on the council is unanimous," he says, noting they seem to oppose the power plant. Nevertheless, he supports keeping the power plant. "We need the power plant."

He says removing the power lines would add more condos, bringing more people, and thus they would need more electricity. "Tearing it down is not the way to go. We voted to keep the power plant."

Aspel has Webb clarify that a moratorium on building a power plant will simply create a conflict, forcing the CEC to analyze whether a plant is necessary for the public convenience. If the plant is still needed, the CEC can still grant the permit.

"This thing is just to get the wheels in motion to get the needs analysis," Aspel says.

 8:01 p.m.: George Takeda thanks Webb for explaining why the moratorium is necessary. 

Mary Ewell is next. "I certainly am for the moratorium because it gives us some bargaining power for what we need," she says. She opposes AES' plans to repower because of the increase in particulate pollution.

"All too often I hear you making decisions that affect the community out of your own frame of residents," she says. "This is not sufficient because it most often lacks empathy" for other residents. She wants the council to have vision that goes beyond their own life experiences.

And here's Delia Vechi. She is opposed to the power plant; she wants the council, "as elected representatives of the little people who vote," to be leaders and "dragon eradicators" in their opposition to the power plant. 

She ends with a poem and speech about Puff the Magic Dragon and his dream for Redondo Beach. 

8:09 p.m.: I don't think this man's name was mentioned. He is against the power plant; without it, "there will be warm fuzzies for everyone."

John Mirassou, who is a spokesman for AES but says he is speaking in his own capacity now, says the need for a new power plant is there—all the agencies have said it's necessary.

"There's no question—it's done," he says. "There's a huge list of reasons why we need (AES Redondo Beach)."

He says the person who performed the power flow analysis for the city worked at one point for the Coastal Conservancy, a "far left" organization. The city should have another needs analysis done by a neutral party.

Don Szerlip, a former councilman, says he supports the idea of forcing the CEC to sit down and do a needs analysis because the CEC is the only one who will determine if there is a need. He is encouraging adding the direction to staff to make the changes to force the conflict as part of the strategic planning meeting next Thursday.

8:19 p.m.: "It seems like you guys are finally starting to do what the people want you to do and get rid of the stupid power plant," says this District 2 resident. "There's no real reason to have it here. I think we could have it somewhere else."

This person lives right across the street from the power lines, but he doesn't want to see condos there. He's in favor of building power plants in the area as well as forcing a needs analysis. "I think that we could decentralize production"—everyone can put solar panels on their roofs, he says.

The next speaker doesn't say his name. He believes the council is making the right choice; however, he agrees that the power lines coming down could create some long-term negative issues for Redondo Beach, Torrance and wherever else the power lines go. 

"I want to express my very strong support for the resolution and the moratorium," says the next speaker. She thanks Webb for all the work he's been doing. "Of course we ant to do everything we can to ask the very basic question, 'Do we even need the power?'"

It's Lezlie Campeggi! She thanks Aspel and Brand for their testimony to the CEC, especially to explain that the Measure A vote was on the zoning issue. "You said that fundamentally, the people of Redondo Beach would be opposed to a power plant and would be tenacious if they find it's not needed," she says before pointing out that she disagrees with Mirassou—the CEC hasn't said AES Redondo Beach is needed.

Dawn Esser, the leader of the NoPowerPlant.com political action committee, thanks the council for its opposition to the power plant at the CEC meeting. In regard to the power flow analysis, Esser says she doesn't believe the consultant can skew the data for the report to make it slant to the far left.

8:25 p.m.: Councilman Jeff Ginsburg says he would support a zero-emission power plant, but AES is not willing to go that route. "I understand if we ignore all this ... we're going to end up with a power plant ... It's not going to be what they could do," he says. "We need this bargaining chip. I've felt that way for awhile."

He disagrees with dictating what people can do with their land, but he's in support of the moratorium unless AES comes back and agrees to build a zero-emission power plant. "Not a business-as-usual power plant. That I wouldn't support."

Kilroy points out that the flex alerts are from the grid structure, not the generating capacity itself. "Cal-ISO was pretty clear when they came here a year ago ... that out to 2022 ... there was excess capacity," he says. He admits that the reports make a lot of assumptions, and that tons of factors are involved. He wants to see those numbers updated. "If AES is so adamant that we've got to have the power, they should be completely comfortable with this process. They should be confident that it will show it's needed."

He reiterates that he's never been for the power plant. He wants the question to be answered once and for all. Forcing a conflict would result in the best mitigation possible, he believes. 

Also, tonight is not the night to talk about the power lines. It's zoned for a public right of way; to build condos, ti would have to go to a vote of the people, per Measure DD. "(Talking condos is) just sheer hysteria. It would create hysteria," he adds.

8:38 p.m.: Brand says the future of power generation is going to come from a mix of renewable and non-renewable sources. He notes that the consultant who produced the power flow analysis was an independent analyst. He tells Mirassou that the Coastal Conservancy is a state agency—not a far-left organization. 

"We can't protect ourselves from condos going up in Torrance by building a power plant in Redondo Beach," he says, adding that AES will only use 13 of the 50 acres, so condos could very well be put there next to the new plant.

"Hopefully tonight, we will pass ... giving (the moratorium) to the city attorney to focus it and write it up towards pushing the CEC to do a needs analysis," Aust says. He also remarks on the power lines, noting that it's part of the Edison

"We like to use fear—you know, certain people like to use it. They tailor it to how they want to scare you," he says, calling it a False Evaluation of Actual Reality. "They cannot build condos on the Edison right-of-way because it would be a change in the zoning ... there are no permanent habitable structures on that right-of-way."

Aust offers a cash prize to anyone in the room that can say they were in the city before 1947—when they built the Edison power plant. Nobody takes him up on it. Aust moved to the city in '48. "So Puff the Magic Dragon didn't sneak in one night when we all weren't looking," he says, adding that people were proud of the power plant back then. "It's not like this all got snuck in on us and a mean council gave you this stuff."

"I'm not for or against a power plant at this point," he says, quickly adding that neither AES nor Edison is a friend of the city. 

8:39 p.m.: The motion on the floor will pass the proposed resolution for the SCAQMD and direct city staff to expedite and use funds to do an initial study and bring back the moratorium as expeditiously as possible.

The motion and resolution pass unanimously.

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Jerry Patrick Wood September 04, 2013 at 10:05 AM
This seems short-sighted in the premise that you can prevent people from wanting to move to Redondo and live in redondo and shop in Redondo all predicated in attacking a myth of some future technology which will arrive when it is invented. Nothing is stopping people from getting and installing alternate energy sources. When these passive systems are inoperable and energy is needed do you really want your neighbors generators running all night? A moribund economy with ever increasing regulations increasing taxes on "the rich" corporations; which holds jobs for most of us and our children's children will succumb and go away. then we can rely on mother Government to make us organic p'nut butter sandwiches. As a native Californian we have lost our golden state to the pod people.
Tim Sole September 04, 2013 at 03:35 PM
So, the people spoke via "Measure A" and then the council goes their own way? Really! IS this how it works now, the people vote and the politicos do what ever they please anyway.
David Mallen September 04, 2013 at 08:52 PM
To the Hon. Mayor Steve Aspel, City Attorney, City Manager, and City Council: Let us hope that last night's meeting is just the beginning of one of the finest moments in the history of the great City of Redondo Beach. From your comments, it is obvious that you have considered all sides of a complex issue. You have demonstrated strong leadership, acting in unison and initiating counter-measures calling for a needs analysis by the California Energy Commission. You have encouraged public comment and kept us informed. You have sent a clear message to AES: "We are ready to negotiate, but no more B.S." My wife, three children and I want to thank you, again, for your diligence and hard work. We have your back. So do our friends, our neighbors, and most Redondo Beach residents. We sink or swim together as a City. Please, let us know how we can volunteer our time and energy to help! Respectfully yours, David Mallen District 3
Wolfman September 09, 2013 at 12:46 PM
while we are all waiting AES or the city should clean that place up
Lori Thompson September 17, 2013 at 03:42 PM
If it was not a yes or no answer on the power plant then, what was it? What a brew of politicians. Did you forget you were supposed to be a servant to the people? You act like all the rest and that is why California is not the California I was born in and thrived. From the White House to our city government you really disgust me. Do you not work where the power goes out? Or, where we have to contend with brown outs? What the hell do you mean we don't need the electricity. You all eat your own vomit.


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