The NoPowerPlant.com movement may have reached its goal of gathering enough signatures for a ballot initiative to attempt to prevent AES from rebuilding its power plant on Harbor Drive, but those on opposite sides of the issue are still butting heads.
AES Redondo Beach must retrofit, retire or apply for a special exemption to continue to use once-through cooling—which involves ocean water to cool the superheated steam generated by the boilers to spin the turbines by 2020 to comply with state regulations. AES Southland, the parent company, has indicated that it will retire the old plant and build a new one in its place.
AES officials say the proposed new plant will be smaller, run cleaner and provide power when renewable resources are offline. Opponents say a new plant would run more often and emit more harmful particulate pollution, as well as continue to depress property values.
The anti-power plant initiative calls for the land to be rezoned for up to 40 percent commercial and institutional use, with the rest reserved for parkland with no power generation allowed.
Jim Light, one of the chief organizers of the anti-power plant movement, said the organization gathered 9,487 signatures in their initiative petition, but it is what the group drafted in a mailer they distributed that has been called into question.
At issue is a quote from Rep. Henry Waxman, who is running to represent the newly created 33rd Congressional District, which includes Redondo Beach. The mailer quotes Waxman as saying in a statement:
“As the author of the 1990 Clean Air Act, I think it is absolutely essential that we do all we can to cut air pollution in the region. There is no question that burning fossil fuels causes significant pollution and health impacts. We need to be shifting to clean energy. I believe we should remove the power plant from Redondo Beach. I encourage AES and California’s regulatory agencies to take this opportunity to permanently retire this facility and allow redevelopment of the site.”
Waxman was unavailable for further comment, according to his campaign manager, Lindsay Bubar; however, in an interview with Patch editor Marie Cunningham earlier this month, he said he didn't "think it's a good idea to rezone the land."
"I think (rezoning the land) opens up the city to a lot of litigation," he told Cunningham. "It's not the way to approach taking away private property."
Nevertheless, Waxman indicated that he would support retiring the power plant.
"I wrote a letter ... suggesting that since the AES power plant in Redondo Beach is not at full capacity and is likely to be replaced because it has lived out its usefulness, that AES and the (California) energy commission consider not having the power plant there at all," he said. "I would want them to review that possibility and see if they can reach that conclusion."
City Councilmen Steve Aspel and Steve Diels have been outspoken critics against information contained in the mailer. Diels said the use of the quote from Waxman makes it appear that he supports the No Power Plant movement’s initiative. Diels wrote Waxman a letter himself to get to the bottom of the issue.
“It appeared that he was endorsing the initiative, so I simply asked him for clarification,” Diels said. “Waxman responded to my questions. He does not support the initiative.”
Diels also said the mailer consists of outright "lies.”
“For Bill Brand and Jim Light to claim the initiative will make the power plant go away if they change local zoning is untrue,” Diels said. “The initiative doesn’t have anything to do with the power plant in reality because the initiative changes the zoning for which we have no authority. (Neither) the citizens of Redondo Beach nor the City Council have authority over power plant zoning. That authority resides with the California Energy Commission.”
Light refutes Diels’ claims and stands by the quote from Waxman, saying "there is no 'fraud' or 'lie'" in the mailer.
City Councilman Bill Brand also takes issue with what Aspel and Diels have to say.
“Every word is accurate,” Brand said of the mailer. “I don’t understand what the controversy is. It doesn’t surprise me they have resorted to false accusations and name calling. They’ve been on the wrong side of the issue ever since it started.”
Light is also critical of both Diels and Aspel and the criticisms they have voiced in recent weeks.
“Aspel has threatened to turn this over to the Fair Political Practices Commission,” Light said. “That is more than he has done on opposing the power plant. This reveals their true colors. They would rather attack residents than oppose the power plant.”
However, Diels said there are future ramifications to what the NoPowerPlant movement has begun.
"AES needs an exit strategy, or they rebuild the power plant—it's that simple," Diels said. "Jim Light and Bill Brand are removing AES’s alternatives for exit strategies. Therefore, AES will rebuild the power plant if Bill Brand and Jim Light succeed. This is the time for searching for exit strategies for AES; not for eliminating them."
Aspel was out of town at press time and unavailable to comment.