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Council Postpones Vote to Put Anti-Power Plant Initiative on Ballot

The decision comes after the council receives competing letters—one threatening a lawsuit, the other implying it.

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.

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."

Check back later for further updates on this story.

Jim Light October 23, 2012 at 05:35 PM
On signature validity rate: The rule of thumb for California petitions is to collect 150% of the signatures you need. Validation rates range from 59% to 98% in a 2004 study with the average being 78%. For contests where all signatures were verified (versus sampling) the average is a 75.5% validation rate. In this case, all signatures were counted. Our validation rate was over 78%. On Measure DD our validation rate was about 70%. So we did better this time. We certainly understand the process better, which may account for some of it. But we also took six months on DD whereas we did the power plant phase out petitions in just 40 days. People get invalidated because : - They have a Redondo address but actually are in Torrance (always a pain here) - People forgot they already signed - People did not change their address when they moved to Redondo - People's signatures did not look the same - People were not registered - People had not voted in so long, their registration was no longer valid - People neglected to submit a registration card in time or filled it out wrong - The registration card was not processed in time by the county So there are lots of legitimate reasons that signatures on petitions get invalidated. From out experience, this was our highest validation rate of any of our petition campaigns.
sheri patterson October 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM
As a concerned citizen, I am grateful that Redondo residents had the opportunity to sue our city (or should I say our misguided city councilmen since it was 100% their choice to break the law). Is it pathetic that residents had to do this with regard to Measure G harbor zoning? Absolutely! It's very sad. But if not for BBR and the fine work (and honest work) that Jim and his supporters do, residents would have been stuck with elected officials believing they are above the law. The Redondo City Council and Chamber for years have been "the good ole boys club" -- and I hope more residents start paying attention so this comes to an end. On another note, how long does the city council need to weigh their options carefully when they have done zero to explore the impact a new power plant would bring? They aren't working behind the scenes. They have to vote to approve any work they do and they've never voted to approve exploring this issue at all. I can't see how any resident that has been following this issue closely for the last 20 months can say they are doing their due diligence and being cautious. That's just silly. They have done nothing. Nada. And meanwhile the clock is ticking in AES' favor. The councilmen are like heads on a stick --all talk, zero action. So is 20 months of giving them time long enough? Or should we wait until it's too late and AES has their permit?
sheri patterson October 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM
If residents understood the way the energy market works in Calif, they'd understand that greedy AES will pursue a multi-million dollar contract whether needed or not. They get paid to do nothing. And our rates go up to sustain these unnecessary plants and enormous contracts. The process of approving power plants is not one where residents or Jim Light can simply "use their intellect" to solve the problem. Intelligent individuals that have expertise in this field (like Jim L) understand the process and how to succeed. Yes there is risk. But there is a lot more risk breathing in 509 TONS of particulates, NOX and acid vapor into your lungs year after year. And that is 509 TONS annually (it's like the gift that keeps on giving). The documented impacts on our city from the loud and constant hum of their new cooling towers, to blighting impacts which hurts businesses and property values to the health and well being of our city--it's inexcusable for the community to not get smart and phase out the cancer in this town. Most residents understand this. It's a no-brainer. And unfortunately, most redondo elections only bring out about 7,500 voters (actually, that may be high). So considering the number of signatures we collected, it is a very good representation of how residents feel. There are a lot more opposing AES' plan than supporting it.
Dale Smith October 25, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Does anyone know how many tax dollars the city will lose if the AES power plant does go away? Is this going to impact the city government in any way? Has anyone even asked this question? Are electric rates going to go up? What happens if San Onofre never comes back online or has a meltdown?
Jim Light October 25, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Dale, This was one of our first questions. We have been briefing our findings since last summer and it has been posted on our FAQ's page for over a year. The City will lose about $400K in annual revenues from AES per AES' admission. That is about 4/10th of 1% of annual city revenues. The pier parking lot brings in about $1.8M per year for comparison. A city study looked at property values and business revenues over a 9 year period. Harbor area business revenues grew at 4/10ths the rate of businesses elsewhere in Redondo; and, property values were impacted 40%. The study attributed this to the AES plant calling it "the major blighting influence" in the harbor area. So the City has lost lots of revenue because of the AES plant. There is sufficient local power generation in the 2018 timeframe (when its current contract expires) so that AES Redondo is not needed. From that perspective, it will not affect rates. Remember, ratepayers pay for each plant regardless of how much it runs. As to San Onofre, AES Redondo is needed through next summer if San Onofre stays offline as a contingency to supply power to the LA Basin. After next summer, three new power plants will come online adding 1,900 MW of new power generation capacity. After next summer and looking as far as the CAISO has projected, power from AES Redondo is not needed with or without San Onofre.

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