The Redondo Beach City Council will reconsider a resolution opposing the construction of a new power plant at an upcoming meeting, four councilmen decided Tuesday night. Councilman Bill Brand, an ardent opponent of the power plant, was absent.
Additionally, councilman asked city staff to explore the impacts of a possible moratorium on building on the lot at North Harbor Drive; formally agreed to submit a petition to become an intervenor in California Energy Commission proceedings concerning the repowering of AES Redondo Beach; approved an additional $20,000 for a law firm that provided a data adequacy response from the city to AES' repowering application; approved a consulting agreement with Advanced Energy Solutions for $30,000 for a power flow analysis; and directed city staff to explore the costs of having full engagement by the city council, mayor and city attorney in the intervenor process.
Because the current AES Redondo Beach Generating Station on North Harbor Drive in South Redondo Beach uses once-through cooling, which involves using ocean water to cool the superheated steam used to spin the plant's turbines, it must be retired, repowered (rebuilt), retrofitted or obtain a special exemption to continue operating by 2020 under state regulations.
AES officials say the new plant that they've submitted plans for will run more efficiently, take up much less space and provide flexibility for the grid when energy from renewable resources isn't available.
Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the plant will continue to decrease property values and blight the waterfront, despite a $300 million revitalization effort. Additionally, they point to AES' own application and say a new plant will run more often than the current one, and thus produce five to 15 times more particulate pollution.
Much of the discussion Tuesday night centered upon how the council can work collaboratively with AES to prevent a new plant from being built.
Councilmen asked AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft what it would take for AES to build the plant elsewhere—or not at all.
"We are very interested in working together with you to see if there are alternatives (to park zoning) that can be identified that are not industrial that can give us similar economic value," Pendergraft said. Right now, the property is currently zoned for parkland. The power plant operates under a conditional use permit.
"We will be in very short order exploring alternatives to be looking at exploring alternate land uses," Pendergraft said in response to a question by Mayor Mike Gin as to whether AES would financially contribute to efforts to rezone the property. "This is not our area of expertise. We're on a steep learning curve … We recognize that the city doesn't have the funding to support this. There are probably creative ways we can move forward."
Earlier, Councilman Matt Kilroy indicated that he was "not willing to even discuss zoning changes on that site until a power plant is off the table."
The moratorium, proposed by Kilroy, would be a possible first step to rezoning the property. Under most circumstances, any rezoning proposal would have to go to a vote of the people.
Rezoning the land would also force the CEC to perform an analysis to see if power from AES Redondo Beach would be necessary for grid reliability. The CEC is only required to do a need analysis if the new power plant would conflict with local regulations, according to City Attorney Mike Webb.
Measure A, a citizens' initiative on the ballot that narrowly lost, would have rezoned the property to up to 40 percent commercial and institutional uses, with the rest designated parkland and open space. Members of the city council appeared to agree Tuesday night that the issue with the measure was not the power plant—it was whether the zoning was correct for the area.
"I have no doubt personally that the citizens of Redondo Beach don't want a power plant," said Kilroy.
"My opposition to Measure A was primarily because it blocked an exit strategy for AES," Councilman Steve Diels said.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, several residents spoke against the possibility of a new power plant.
"I would urge this council to pass the moratorium on the property, just to slow it down (and) give us the opportunity to have some in-depth thoughts," said Walt Howells. "Obviously, if the land value changes through zoning … it will have a financial impact on (AES') value for the property."
Howells also noted that AES should help the city fund studies for the potential rezoning.
"I'm just really happy that all of you are hopefully moving in (an anti-power plant) direction," Nadine Meisner said. She also reminded the council of how much money AES spent to defeat Measure A. "If we spent the same amount of dollars, Measure A would have definitely gone in the direction that the people wanted, and that was against the power plant."
Her husband, Al Meisner, agreed.
"A number of you took very bold moves tonight to support the citizenry," he told the council. "I've seen a little bit of dancing to appease AES, but what I heard throughout the evening was a strong, a loud, an appropriate, a combined message from the dais here that will send a message from the city of Redondo Beach, the residents, the council, the mayor that there's a better use for this land."
This will be the second time the council will consider a resolution opposing the power plant. The first time, at least two councilmen refused to vote for any resolution while the initiative was being circulated. Kilroy's motion to approve a resolution opposing the plant but agreeing to work with AES to ensure that a plant, if necessary, would provide minimal health risks and disruption to residents did not get seconded and was never voted on.
City staff will bring the issue back to the council at the regular scheduled meeting on April 2.