Opponents of AES Redondo Beach will have to wait a few more weeks before their initiative is put on the March ballot, the Redondo Beach City Council decided with a 4-1 vote during its meeting Tuesday night.
The Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative officially qualified for the ballot last week with nearly 7,500 valid signatures. The initiative, if passed, would rezone AES' property on Harbor Drive for up to 40 percent commercial and institutional use; the rest would be parkland. Power generation would not be allowed after 2020.
The current AES contract expires in 2018. In the meantime, AES Southland officials say they're preparing to file an application to repower—rebuild—the Redondo Beach plant. Supporters of a new plant contend that the rebuilt plant would run quieter, cleaner and more efficiently, as well as provide needed flexibility for times when power can't be generated from wind or solar.
- Complete coverage: AES Redondo Beach Power Plant Debate
Opponents say the new plant will continue to depress property values and pollute more.
Because the Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative is both a charter amendment and an initiative ordinance, different portions of the law cover how it would get on the ballot, according to City Attorney Mike Webb.
At issue is when the initiative would go on the ballot. According to state elections law, if the initiative is not placed on the March 3 ballot, it would be placed on an upcoming statewide primary or general election ballot. The next statewide ballot is in June 2014.
"You don't have a choice (whether to put the initiative on the ballot) because you don't like it or you have qualms about the legality," Webb told the council. "You have to do so."
Because of AES' intention to apply for a permit to repower from the California Energy Commission, power plant opponents want residents to vote on the initiative before a permit is granted.
Webb offered the council three choices: vote to place the initiative on the ballot during Tuesday's meeting; instruct city staff to complete an environmental impact report and detailed traffic studies before the measure is added to the ballot; or take 30 days to study the measure before voting to place it on the ballot.
The council voted to allow Webb three weeks to research the legal issues surrounding the initiative.
No matter the decision the council eventually makes, there is a significant chance that a lawsuit would be filed. A letter from an attorney representing NoPowerPlant.com—the group that spearheaded the initiative—told the city council that the group would sue to have the initiative put on the ballot if the council did not do so in a timely manner.
On the other side, AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft strongly implied in a letter that the company would sue the city if city staff did not complete the more detailed review process, according to Webb.
"So it doesn't matter—we get sued either way … and pay either way," said Councilman Steve Aspel, who represents District One. "We're like damned if you do, damned if you don't at this point."
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