After the consideration of the first item on the agenda and the associated public comment lasted more than five hours, the Redondo Beach City Council voted unanimously to continue its discussion on the permitting process for a proposed repowering of to next Tuesday.
During the workshop, the City Council heard from people representing the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Each representative explained his or her agency's or organization's role in the process AES Southland must complete in order to rebuild its power plant on Harbor Drive.
The current plant uses ocean water to cool the superheated steam that turns the turbines, generating electricity; however, new state regulations against once-through cooling mandate the plant be retired by 2020.
Proponents of AES' plan argue that the new plant—which, like the current one, will run on natural gas—will be smaller, run cleaner and provide a backup source of electricity when it can't be produced through "greener" methods, such as using solar or wind energy; opponents, on the other hand, say the new plant will run more often, spew more unhealthy particulate matter and continue to depress property values in the area.
Local groups Building a Better Redondo and No Power Plant are preparing a voter initiative that, if passed, will rezone the AES property for a large park with up to 40 percent commercial use if the whaling wall is preserved.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the City Council’s next step toward deciding whether it will take a position on AES’ plans to repower—or rebuild—the plant. The first item on the agenda—L1—consisted of the presentations from the various agencies and organizations. The second and third items—L2 and L3—involved hearing a report from City Attorney Mike Webb on the city’s legal options in regards to a new power plant and the Council’s next step in the process, respectively. These two items were postponed to next Tuesday’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
Continue reading for the Redondo Beach Patch live blog of the meeting. Entries are in chronological order.
6:15 p.m.: The City Council is worried about how long the meeting will go. Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin says people will be kept to "a very firm three minutes" of speaking time.
6:25 p.m.: Time for the public hearings! "This is something the Council has decided months ago that we wanted to do because we wanted to become educated on the processes," says Gin.
6:28 p.m.: "The framework of the comments must be relevant to the agenda item," says Gin. He later adds, "This is not a time to advocate one way or another for or against the power plant." Instead, he asks that meeting attendees keep their comments confined to the process of approving a new power plant.
He reminds people to keep their comments to within three minutes and asks the other councilmen to hold their comments until the end.
6:30 p.m.: Roger Johnson from the California Energy Department describes the purpose of the CEC. His division is the Power Plant Permitting Division, which assesses the state's power supply.
6:33 p.m.: Johnson is giving a broad overview of the permitting process for a new power plant.
6:38 p.m.: There are four parts to the CEC's licensing process:
- Prefiling, where staff meets with the local agency and the developer to explain the permitting process and application requirements.
- Filing and data adequacy. The developer files an application for certification and pays the feet. These are the minimum requirements to accept an application.
- Discovery and analysis. The two commissioners will come into the community at the project and host workshops and hearings about the process. The staff will also present an Issues Identification Report, where the staff will identify significant issues to make sure they're addressed. The project will then enter the discovery process, where staff will request more data. They'll develop a preliminary staff assessment and put it out to the public.
- Evidentiary hearings and decision. The committee will hold evidentiary hearings and produce a proposed decision for the full commission, which will then make a final decision.
The CEC's oversight will last from the permitting phase until the plant is decommissioned.
6:50 p.m.: Dennis Peters from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) starts speaking. CAISO is a nonprofit public benefit corporation, not a state regulatory agency. It supplies electricity to 80 percent of California consumers. Because it's nonprofit, it doesn't own any assets like power plants, transmission lines, etc.
6:57 p.m.: "We have a challenge ahead of us" with the aggressive renewable goals and the ban on once-through cooling, says Peters. "We're looking to (improve) reliability with fewer gas-fired plants."
7 p.m.: Once-through cooling units help maintain system reliability, provide generation supply and voltage support and back-up renewable energy sources. Los Angeles is an area that depends on once-through cooling plants. Los Angeles-area plants affected by new once-through cooling regulations include Los Alamitos, El Segundo, Huntington Beach, Mandalay, Ormond Beach, Redondo Beach, Encina and San Onofre, Peters says.
7:02 p.m.: The four Los Angeles-area natural-gas fired plants are El Segundo, Redondo Beach, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach. If the four plants were to all retire, the L.A. Basin would be short 3,207 megawatts, Peters says. San Onofre is being treated "somewhat differently" in regards to the once-through cooling regulations because it's a nuclear plant.
7:05 p.m.: Peters explains how once-through cooling plants are used to fill in the gaps when renewable resources—such as wind and solar—aren't available. The ISO annual transmission planning process includes once-through scenario analyses, Peter says.
7:08 p.m.: It's time for Southern California Air Quality Management District Deputy Executive Director Mohsen Nazemi to speak.
7:11 p.m.: AQMD is a co-permitting authority for power plants; however, it does not make zoning decisions. It only makes sure the air quality complies with "all applicable rules and regulations," says Nazemi. There are three cornerstones of the permitting process: new source review, localized impacts due to air toxic emissions and the SEQA analysis, he says.
7:15 p.m.: Sources exempt from the AQMD's NSR Rules include sewage treatment and landfill facilities, prison and police facilities, firefighting facilities, schools, hospitals, etc. If an existing power plant is not increasing its production and is modernizing its equipment, it's exempt from certain offset requirements, Nazemi says.
7:17 p.m.: Nazemi gives a brief history of AES Redondo Beach.
7:21 p.m.: Nazemi: The "facility cannot begin construction until they receive a permit from (AQMD)."
7:22 p.m.: Denise Tyrrell from the California Public Utilities Commission explains the role of the PUC. Her comment, "I'm sorry to say we no longer regulate hot-air balloons," draws a few chuckles.
7:25 p.m.: "If you are determined to geek out, (follow proceeding No.) R-12-003-014," Tyrrell says. "Our main concern is that we address the needs of the people of the state of California to have sufficient power."
"We do not get involved in the process of how the utilities decide who they are going to contract yet when they purchase their power," Tyrrell says, adding that they do want healthy competition for the contracts. "We also encourage the widest array of options. (We) also feel that that is the safest way for us to continue."
Utilities go to the PUC with a long-term purchasing agreement, and the PUC will determine whether the agreement is reasonable. "We can ... reject a contract if we feel the cost is indeed too high," Tyrrell says. The PUC can't determine where the contract will come from.
7:28 p.m.: "Let me say at the outset: Edison does not own the Redondo Beach plant site," says Patricia Arons from Southern California Edison, which might purchase a power contract from AES if the plant is repowered. "We believe the use of existing coastal plant sites will be undoubtedly less expensive for our customers" than new sites.
7:30 p.m.: It appears that Arons believes that AES Redondo Beach should be repowered because the infrastructure already exists and "land-use impacts have already been mitigated from the original plant development": "The transition involves numerous capital investments that will ultimately be reflected in the rates customers pay."
She says that it will be cheaper for SCE customers if electricity is generated through existing coastal sites.
7:33 p.m.: "Edison believes that the public-interest question should be examined from all the affected areas, not just the local area where power is generated," Arons says.
7:35 p.m.: "We commend the city for starting this conversation and support the open dialogue taking place here. We only ask that the city consider ... the broader consumer impacts and the principle of public interest," Arons says.
7:35 p.m.: Time for questions from city councilmen.
7:44 p.m.: Councilman Bill Brand asks whether a project has been overturned by the state supreme court. According to Johnson, projects have been appealed but never overturned.
Brand: Will the concerns of other cities weigh into the decisions of the CEC?
Johnson: "If they're known, they will be." It's a regional analysis, depending on the technical area. For air pollution, it will be more regional. "It depends on the impact and what's the range of that impact."
7:47 p.m.: Brand asks about the El Segundo plant's license application. The CEC staff apparently recommended against the project because of concerns about once-through cooling; however, the full commission approved the project with once-through cooling and mitigation efforts. "We appreciate when the commission agrees with staff, but they don't always agree with staff," Johnson says.
7:49 p.m.: Brand: Do most projects get a license first, then get a power-purchasing agreement? Johnson says not necessarily. If you get the purchasing agreement first, you're relying on an estimated cost. You might have to go back and renegotiate the agreement.
7:52 p.m.: Brand wants to talk to Peters again about the once-through cooling plants. If all four of the natural gas once-through cooling plants were retired, the area would be short more than 3,000 megawatts. "That tells me that not all the once-through cooling plants have to retire," Brand says.
7:56 p.m.: In response to a question from Brand, Peters says that it's better CAISO know sooner rather than later if a power plant will be retired.
Brand: "Is AES Redondo a 'must-run facility'?"
Peters: "It is not."
8:02 p.m.: Brand questions Arons about the purpose of the Edison switchyard at AES Redondo Beach. Arons says the switchyard interconnects and delivers the plant's electric output with the grid and houses protective equipment, such as breakers. Lines from the switchyard go to La Cienega, La Fresa and Mesa.
Brand: If the AES Redondo Power Plant were to retire, would you need the power lines?
8:05 p.m.: "I think it's very easy to develop a hypothetical," but it's not so easy to remove the lines in practice, Arons says. SCE can't just drop wires into the ground, and the mitigations "can be very expensive" because they might have to build another substation. "It's not an easy question and the consequences of a decision to try to remove those electrical facilities is not one that can easily be answered."
Brand: "Well that's great. So we really don't know" and a study needs to be done to know if they can remove the lines.
8:13 p.m.: Brand has questions for Tyrrell.
Brand: Have you guys ever rejected a contract that's been brought to you?
Tyrrell: Contracts are usually rejected because of price.
Brand: How often does that happen?
Tyrrell: "I don't know how often that happens, but it does happen."
8:16 p.m.: "Can you build too many power plants" and thus make the ratepayers pay more? Brand asks. Tyrrell says the cost would be borne by the ratepayers if there's a surplus.
"There's a margin of error built into there," Tyrrell says. Smart grind and smart meter programs will help predict power usage more precisely "so we don't have to hedge our bets as it were." Nevertheless, this particular group of commissioners is sensitive to issues of brownouts, she says.
Brand asks whether the competition is robust. Tyrell says she expects that there would be "very intense bidding."
8:17 p.m.: And now Brand has questions for Nazemi from the AQMD about offsets.
8:20 p.m.: Could somebody purchase the AES Redondo Beach emissions as offsets if the plant is retired? Brand asks.
Nazemi: The units must be sold, then retired.
Offsets can be pricey, Nazemi says. Some can cost up to $300,000 per pound per day.
"That's a lot of money," says Brand.
8:21 p.m.: Time to talk particulates. How are particulate numbers determined? Brand asks.
"Typically those emissions are based on actual source tests that have been conducted at different facilities," Nazemi says. Through the tests, the emissions are calculated based on how much fuel is burned.
8:24 p.m.: "What does the AQMD think about them doubling their particulate emissions?" Brand asks.
Nazemi hedges and speaks in hypotheticals. Companies are required to provide for the worst-case or highest-use scenarios. "It's a little bit of apples and oranges" because the worst-case scenario is different than the actual scenario, he says.
8:27 p.m.: Fun fact: Nazemi sends some of his AQMD staff to "smoke school."
8:30 p.m.: After Brand decides to do some math on how much AES could make if it sells its offsets, Councilman Matt Kilroy gets in on the Q&A action.
8:40 p.m.: Kilroy: Does the CEC look at health affects for residents downwind of the plant? Johnson says yes, and that it would definitely consider the fact that Redondo Union High School is downwind of the plant.
8:42 p.m.: Kilroy starts asking about noise complaints. Can people file them with the CEC? Johnson says they don't have jurisdiction for the current plant; however, after a new one is built, people can complain to the CEC.
The CEC can "ultimately" yank the permit if the noise complaints continue, but they'll first work with the developer to minimize complaints and level fines for noncompliance, Johnson says.
8:50 p.m.: Kilroy is asking lots of technical questions of both Peters and Nazemi.
8:56 p.m.: Now we're learning about particulates formed when nitrogen oxide combines with the ammonia released by the concentrated dairy population in Chino.
9 p.m.: Councilman Pat Aust takes his turn. He wants to know if the city is a "formal intervener" (e.g. it can participate in the hearing with a greater role), can it get its costs reimbursed? Johnson says no—but if the city wants to participate without cross-examining people, it can be reimbursed.
Johnson: "You need to intervene before we go to hearings. There's a cutoff date."
Aust: "I'm kind of skeptical." Doesn't always trust the government.
Look at some of the CEC's reports and analysis—it's very thorough, says Johnson.
9:04 p.m.: AES has not started the process because an application has not been submitted, correct? Aust asks. This has been a point of contention for him throughout all the power plant discussions.
Johnson says the process has not been started. Once it starts, it will last about 18 months.
"Would you consider this a lot of participation for a city of our size?" Aust asks.
"Nope," says Johnson. People tell him to look outside.
9:09 p.m.: AES Redondo Beach might be the largest polluter in Redondo Beach; however, the Port of Los Angeles is a bigger polluter, says Nazemi in response to a question from Pat Aust.
9:16 p.m.: Aust now has questions for SCE. He wants to know if the location of a plant matters.
"How would Redondo Beach rate as a demand, as a place that needs that power?" Aust asks.
"I would say every customer in Redondo Beach uses electricity and has a demand on the electric grid," Aron says.
Aust wants to know whether electricity is being transmitted through SCE's switchyard 100 percent of the time. Aron says not necessarily—"it's a continually changing load because things are happening continuously across the grid."
9:18 p.m.: "Back when Edison was running this plant, what was its main function?" Aust asks. SCE has not run the plant since 1997.
9:19 p.m.: Diels: "Well this is magnificent!" It's his turn to talk. Calls the situation a point of irony—it's a local plant with local environmental impacts, but it will be part of a regional solution for cleaner air.
9:23 p.m.: Though the CEC has jurisdiction over the construction of the plant through the end of its life; however, the CEC does not have jurisdiction over the current plant. Johnson doesn't know who has jurisdiction over this plant.
"Do we know the approximate size of this unproposed plant yet?" Diels asks.
Johnson says no—he'll have to ask AES.
9:25 p.m.: If we were the actual permitting authority, there would be no power lines, no emissions and a salt pond, Diels says. The first power plant on the site was built on top of a salt lake.
9:28 p.m.: "If the CEC can override local zoning, can it override local ordinances (e.g. noise) as well?" Diels asks.
"That's a possibility," but it depends on the situation, Johnson says.
Diels brings up initiative to change zoning after Johnson says the current zoning is OK. "So we would have a situation where it went from its industrial zoning to now a new zoning that would disallow the power plant use," Diels says.
"So there might be a decision by the commission to override that," Johnson says, though he adds that the commission still hasn't received any information or application from AES.
In Carlsbad, "I believe the commission is going to recommend override (the zoning change)," Johnson says.
9:30 p.m.: Webb explains the legal situation with the CEC and Carlsbad. The CEC has primary jurisdiction; however, it can only override if there's a real need or reason for the plant and no alternative. The need has been determined in Carlsbad.
Carlsbad also became an intervener late in the process, Webb says.
9:34 p.m.: There are going to be people who don't want the power plant here, "no matter what," says Diels. Couldn't have said it better myself.
9:39 p.m.: Diels wants to know if AQMD has jurisdiction over the plant; Nazemi says yes, when it comes to air quality.
"I think the current plant was permitted long before SEQA was ever in existence," Diels says. He wants to know whether air quality dispersion modeling was done on this plant.
Nazemi says he doesn't know, but he can check.
9:48 p.m.: Now Diels wants to talk to Tyrrell. He asks her about power purchasing agreements.
If such an agreement is less than 5 years, the PUC would not have authority over the purchasing agreement, Tyrrell says.
"Does the City Council have any influence with the PUC to influence or overturn a decision?" Diels asks.
The PUC commissioners will meet with the city, Tyrrell says. "Your participation at the PUC level has a formidable impact."
9:51 p.m.: Last, but certainly not least, is Gin. In the meantime, it looks like the 25 or so people who were watching in the overflow room in the library have gone home.
9:53 p.m.: Gin wonders if local people can get reimbursed for their costs in fighting the power plant. Johnson says no, only local agencies can.
10 p.m.: Gin asks Nazemi from AQMD about whether the plant could be deemed a public nuisance. Nazemi says if it caused harm, nuisance or annoyance to a significant number of individuals or caused property damage or injury, it could be deemd a public nuisance.
The smell of a skunk has begun to permeate the council chambers. Could this be public comment from the local fauna?
10:03 p.m.: Back to Aspel. He recognizes that this meeting will take forever if they also cover L2 and L3 in addition to public comment. "I would hate to (make any decision) at midnight, and I hope people here would agree," he says.
People are dropping like flies here.
Webb suggests that they take L1 public comment now, then look at whether to continue L2 and L3 after 10:30 p.m.
10:08 p.m.: And now time for public comment! The first two people in line already left, so it's Redondo Beach resident 's turn. He's wearing an oxygen tank on his back, and he says he suffers from lung disease.
"I am concerned about particulates—NOx and SOx," Buck says before reeling off figures and statistics that AES reported about pollution.
10:16 p.m.: The woman who performed the independent study (funded by the California Coastal Conservancy) of whether AES Redondo Beach is necessary runs out of time, but at the request of Kilroy and Brand, her time is extended.
10:26 p.m.: Jennifer Didlo, AES project manager for the repowering, takes the podium. "We really think the AES plant is the right solution," Didlo says. She also says the city is an important partner in the project, which will provide jobs, tax revenue and free up waterfront property.
AES Southland President follows. He says AES is pursuing permits for all three of its Los Angeles-area power plants. "Whether we (repower all three) is a completely different story."
He mentions that the power plant has been on Harbor Drive since the early 1900s. "People generally knew what they were getting into" when they moved near the plant, he says. The statement is met with jeers from the audience.
Diels also asks whether the city can entice AES to move the plant elsewhere. Pendergraft implies the city can purchase the site.
Brand: "I think you just declared yourself a willing seller."
He also asks Pendergraft if he could retire a plant, which one would be retired. Pendergraft jokingly answers El Segundo, a plant not owned by AES.
10:31 p.m.: It's 's turn. He thanks the agency representatives for coming and staying to listen to public comment. "My concern is, if we're talking about economical electricity for people, it almost gives me the impression of kind of a monopoly," he says.
Reardon also wonders about AES' possible involvement in the energy crisis about 2000.
10:33 p.m.: Tom Campbell, a 30-year Redondo resident, is "very surprised at the quality of the questions" the councilmen asked, though he's not quite happy with the answers from the agencies.
10:39 p.m.: It's 10:35 p.m., so Gin wants to know if they can continue L2 and L3 to another meeting. By a unanimous vote, they will be continued to next Tuesday's (April 17) meeting. Only 13 more written requests to go!
10:44 p.m.: Congressional candidate tries to avoid campaigning at the podium, but can't help but slip in his website URL at the end.
10:45 p.m.: "I'm Jim Montgomery and I'm not running for office."
10:49 p.m.: Dehlia Vechi reads her statement. "This will be your legacy," she tells the councilmen, and she urges them to recapture the waterfront forever.
10:52 p.m.: "We already know that AES provides a miniscule and sporadic amount of energy" that for years was shipped out of state, says the next speaker. He's essentially calling this a class war.
He also says the workshop should have been scheduled in two parts.
10:56 p.m.: , Manhattan Beach resident, sees this as a regional issue. "I think we all learned a lot tonight," he says. Some of his comments get a smattering of applause. He tells the council that AES will get its permit if the city does not act.
10:59 p.m.: A faint alarm goes off as Dean Francois gives his speech.
11 p.m.: We hit the five-hour mark as self-described "simple man" Gary Thompson says that it's no longer necessary to have a power plant next to the ocean anymore, especially since it blights the area and runs at only 5 percent capacity.
11:04 p.m.: Hermosa Beach resident John Wike says the air in Redondo Beach is filthy. "Our view is ugly, as opposed to the sunsets that we should have that are being blocked out by these smoke stacks" both from AES Redondo Beach and the plant in El Segundo, he says.
11:07 p.m.: This speaker says the nearest air quality monitoring station is on the north side of Los Angeles International Airport. He suggests that the AQMD put in a monitoring station in Redondo Beach. "Get yourself a consultant," he says.
He also brings up the specter of desalination: "We can't afford to lose any facility that can provide water in the future ... you don't have water, you don't have crops. You don't have crops, you don't have food. You don't have food, you die. It's that simple."
11:09 p.m.: More concerns about pollution. I think the public comment has gone way off the "keep your comments to talking about the process itself, not the plant" track.
11:12 p.m.: "Surprisingly, I'm not going to stand here and ask you to preserve the power plant," says a former preservation commissioner.
11:14 p.m.: We're getting a history report on the power plant. You can read a little more about the .
11:16 p.m.: Bruce Feerer brings up the desalination that will apparently accompany the repowering of the plant. AES is not in the desalination business. The West Basin Municipal Water District is.
11:18 p.m.: Gin: "It's 11:20 right now, so I want to encourage brevity."
11:20 p.m.: Decked out in her "No Power Plant" shirt, Melanie Cohen pleads with the state agencies to deny a permit for a new plant.
"Why is AES Redondo critical?" she asks.
11:23 p.m.: It's 's turn. He talks pollution, blighting impacts and lots of reports.
"I think it's very clear that there is excess power capacity on the grid today," he says. "There's new power coming online in 2016 ... I have to believe there is a way to find that you do not need this plant for grid reliability...
"I've never seen a report that calls out AES Redondo as required."
11:24 p.m.: City Council receives and files the reports, but Gin has one more quick question for Nazemi about nonattainment in the area.
Nazemi says almost the whole state is classified as nonattainment, and that doesn't necessarily mean that new growth is not allowed—it's just strictly controlled.
11:28 p.m.: Gin thanks each of the representatives from the agencies. "I think we all were enlightened tonight," he says. He says the city will be in touch.
The council unanimously votes to receive and file, and Assistant City Manager Pete Grant says there's nothing else on the agenda. IT'S OVER!