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No Power Plant Mailer Ignites Debate

Comments from Congressman Henry Waxman included in a mailer promoting initiative to rezone the land under AES Redondo Beach are called into question.

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.

Dawn Esser September 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Jaimie - if the Council did not want a new power plant built, they would have passed a resolution against it, but they didn't. The City attorney even told them passing a resolution against the rebuilding of the power plant would not pose any legal constraints on the City from AES and would not cost the City any money and yet they did nothing. Do you want the residents to do nothing too? The Initiative is the only way the residents can and will be heard by this City.
Cheryl Tchir September 17, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Councilmen Diels and Aspel ‘s attack against Bill Brand and Jim Light over the use of Congressman Waxman’s quote in the initiative flyer is missing the big issue. The big issue is whether we get a new polluting power plant or not. I was one of the No Power Plant volunteers collecting signatures, and to my knowledge, no one signed because of Waxman’s words. They signed because they don’t want a power plant spewing its poison over us for the next 50 years. They care about the human and environmental health of our community. They signed to make a positive change for Redondo Beach, a change our council members were unwilling to do. Except for Bill Brand, our council opted for cooperating with AES, which seems to mean, in AES terms, allowing a smaller, cleaner power plant with room for a park alongside. But with greater run times, the new plant will be significantly dirtier – especially in the amount of its particulate emissions. And who would want to exercise or picnic in a park alongside that? Since the council is not representing the wishes of the people, we need to allow the citizens to decide this crucial issue. What I and the majority of the people I spoke with want is NO power plant marring our coast and polluting our city. Cheryl Tchir
Adele Gleichman September 17, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Why is the Redondo Beach City council working for AES instead of the residents of our city? It is time for the Redondo Beach city council to listen to the Redondo Beach citizens who voted them into office and not to AES. Repeatedly the city council has refused to even consider that they must represent the residents and not AES. I keep wondering how much AES is contributing (and has contributed) to support the political campaigns of the Redondo Councilmen who will not state simply that WE do not want a power plant operating in Redondo Beach. The ethical action on the part of our city representatives would be the one that would protect the health of both Redondo children and adults. Is there any way that those councilmen who oppose their constituents will listen to the reality that Redondo Beach will be an immensely better place to live and play when we get rid of the polluting eyesore, the AES Power Generating Plant?
Dennis Smyth September 17, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Please do not take it out on Councilman Aspel. When he had rectal surgery his brain was removed, we all know that. That hot summer we have had is purely a result of the air being blown by this two bit insurance peddler.
Jim Light September 17, 2012 at 07:32 PM
We should not count our chickens before the egg is hatched. The County Registrar must validate how many signatures are good signatures. I suspect many will be ruled invalid over technicalities... a change of address that is not reflected, leaving out the zipcode or town, the signature just doesn't look the same.... etc. And some, the people may just not be registered. But the bottom line is that more people signed the initiative than voted for any of our current Council. The closest, Mayor Gin had in the 6000's. The rest are all below 2000. So if any of the Council cry that 9487 signatures is not indicative of the will of Redondo, then they need to look in the mirror and realize that by their own measure their own legitimacy as elected officials is in question.
L. Campeggi September 17, 2012 at 07:50 PM
You're correct on all counts, Jim. And no, I won't be counting the chickens in my front yard before the eggs are hatched as guess what? I can't raise and sell chickens in my front yard. It's not zoned for that. I also can't build a power plant in my front yard. It's not zoned for that either! And hey, here's a news flash for Diels - rezone the AES property for commercial, instutional and open space, per the initiative, and AES CANNOT build a new power plant there, either!
Michael E. September 17, 2012 at 08:11 PM
It's again plainly evident that Bill Brand is the only member of the city council who is honorably fulfilling his duty to represent the PEOPLE of Redondo Beach, not the 'profit-at-any-cost' corporate interests of AES! Thanks for his steadfast and professional upholding of this principle. As well, everyone should be grateful to Jim Light, Sheri Patterson, and ALL the volunteers who have worked so hard toward this goal of ridding the South Bay of the waterfront blight created by this nasty pollution machine! I've seen how certain councilmen behave at the meetings; leading with their egos, as though it's ALL ABOUT THEM! Don't be fooled by their attempts to muddy the waters with their deceitful claims. The right choice for the betterment of our collective environment and improved health for our progeny, is to stay the course, and insure that AES DOES NOT REBUILD!
lori harper September 17, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Wow very mean spirited this needs to stop
Daniel Levin September 17, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Aspel lies to you, Waxman tried to tell the truth, and Brand has got it right...
Alexander Starr September 18, 2012 at 12:35 AM
"CA Senator Ted Lieu officially asks that Power Plant Phase Out Initiative be Expedited" http://aesredondomustgo.blog.com Why do our councilmen ASPEL and Diels attack residents trying to get rid of the powerplant and our CA Senator tries to speed up and supports the initiative?? Aspel, Diels, Aust, Kilroy, and Mayor GIn support CORPORATE INTERESTS above resident welfare. Bottom line.
Walt Howells September 18, 2012 at 12:50 AM
My wife & myself were both signature gathers up until we left on our vacation. We just returned from Europe last Wednesday, I had a great time enjoying Italy by train visiting nine cities. I was able to follow along with current events using my laptop & smart phone. While visiting Italy by high speed trains, I couldn't help but notice that power generation was away from the cities, towns & villages. One of our stops was Lake Como, a very story-book place without a power generating station to be seen. Also Venice, the power plant was on the outskirts of the city between the train station & the airport. I point this out because I had power generation on the brain, and was noticing how such a beautiful country could balance the natural beauty with current grid needs. My point is, we have such natural beauty right here in Redondo Beach it's time to rid our city & waterfront of power generation & if the mayor, councilmen, commissioners or anyone else in our city government can't see that it's time for them to go as well. I'm not into name calling or nit-picking documents. I'm into action & when our city leaders act like twelve year olds it's time to get a new crop of citizens in office that will serve the people, not special interest! Over 9000 signatures is specific direction to the mayor & council to act, not act-up!
Bob Boren September 18, 2012 at 02:57 AM
It's been a long time since I've seen so many people drink the Statist koolaid. I don't agree with Waxman very often, since he is also a statist, but he understands that trying to zone a business's right to function out from under them will bring lawsuits. Jim Light and his puppet master Brand are going to cost Redondo Beach a lot of money. And besides, despite the lies we hear coming from the no power plant "movement", we need that power plant. If we didn't, then why do we get flex alerts when it gets hot? We've been lucky to have a very cool summer this year, but next year could have 2 or 3 times as many hot days as this summer did. The only reason to run Flex Alerts is lack of surge power capacity. And all of the air quality garbage is just that - we are talking about natural gas here, folks. Do you have a lot of "particulates" in your kitchens when you are cooking up some soup? Geez, don't be so stupid. Sure, there will be some emissions from this power plant, but probably less than all of the BMWs crusing past the power plant on a nice summer day. Use your heads and vote this down. Redondo Beach has been doing pretty well from a budget standpoint in a really nasty economy, which is a credit to our fine city government - why join Hermosa Beach in having to pay millions to lawyers over the needless whims of stupid activists?
Bob Boren September 18, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Hey, Jim Light, will you pledge to spend your personal funds for defense of our city if your initiative passes and Redondo Beach gets sued? How about you, Bill Brand? Or will you do the usual thing that leftist "community organizers" do, and let the taxpayers cover it?
Jim Light September 18, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Not a leftist Bob. You don't really know me at all. Bob, are you going to pay the lost business revenues, lost property values and the increased medical costs for those impact by the power plant?
Bob Boren September 18, 2012 at 04:59 AM
No, leftist, I won't pay because I'm not meddling, and there is no correlation between the problems you mention and my support of property rights. There is exact correlation between your activities and the lawsuits that we know will be coming at Redondo Beach.
Jim Light September 18, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Hey Bob. Please look at the 2013 forecast without SONGS recently published by the CAISO. Excess capacity in our area (Western LA Basin) and that is before El Segundo comes online. Look at last week's designation of Huntington Beach Units 3 and 4 as Reliability Must-Run. Hmmm - funny how Redondo is not even mentioned. Reported run capacity on AES through the end of June is less than 7% of capacity - oh that was without San Onofre. But then you don't care about facts Bob...its all about whatever you want to make up, isn't it? As to emissions - 22 to 40 tons of particulates per year is nothing to ignore. We know you don't care, Bob, but you don't speak for all of us. Our city has enough for a $250K per year consultant for the harbor. We subsidize the operation of the Performing Arts Center. We just built a new Harbor Master building and bought back millions worth of leaseholds. Certainly we can afford some money for ridding our waterfront of polluting blight. Redondo residents should not squander this once in a lifetime opportunity to rid our waterfront of the polluting, blighting, unneeded behemoth. We should not cringe and cower to the lawsuit threats from the big bully from Virginia. We have to live here. They don't.
Jim Light September 18, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Not a leftist Bob those who know me would vouch for that, but I guess that's all you got, divisive labeling, because the facts don't support your assertions. The ARB and City Analyses disagree with you on the correlation of the impacts of the power plant. Just because someone threatens a lawsuit does not mean we should not do what is right for Redondo and for generations to come.
Linda Neal September 18, 2012 at 05:44 AM
I recently came on board as a strong supporter of NPP because I respect the research Brand and Light have done. The facts are: the California Energy Commission and the Independent Systems Operators say that a new plant is not needed here for grid reliability, and that this plant is outmoded and has outlived its use (salt water cooling is going to be outlawed). These facts are enough for me to believe we need to "power down" for the health and beauty of our community. As whichever visionary it was (Buckminster Fuller, René Dobos or Jean Houston) said, we need to "think globally and act locally." I really appreciate what Walt Howells said about his travels through Italy, where the power plants are away from heavily populated areas and scenic spots. We have both at the harbor area, and we need to concentrate on that reality and do everything we can to remove power generation from the waterfront. Rezoning is something cities do regularly, for the benefit of their citizens, and I imagine AES could make plenty of money commercially or by selling the land if it's rezoned, buy cheaper land outside the densely populated coast and generate all the power they want and more than we need. If the CEC says in 97% of cases they side with the citizens in retiring power plants, I say let's be part of the 97%! Linda Neal
Jane September 20, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Isn't Waxman's plain English statement of "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." all that really needs to be said? I seldom agree with Henry, but he's got this one 100% correct. Rezoning to parkland? Good God, that's a taking under any legal review. On the bright side, Prop 8 has made it clear that the City does NOT have to waste our money on any legal defense of the initiative if it passes.
Jane September 20, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Henry Waxman has it right that this would be a litigious taking under the USSC's rulings.
Jim Light September 20, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Jane, come on at least read the initiative. The zoning is not just parkland. The initiative gives them plenty of residual value in the property and allows them to operate the plant through 2020 if they want. No Jane...no taking here. This year Redondo has doled out millions for a new Harbor Patrol building, $250K for a harbor consultant, over $300K to keep the Performing Arts Center open.... I could go on and on. Here we have an issue that will impact our community for generations to come. Many of us feel the risk of a hypothetical lawsuit is worth it when you look at the implications to the waterfront and surrounding community for the foreseeable future. Unlike our weak-kneed city council, we will not be bullied into submission by a company in Virginia. Isn't Prop 8 the same sex marriage prop? Not sure what that has to do with this.
Jim Light September 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM
You miss the big point that Waxman opposes the power plant and he did something about it... unlike our city council. Anyone can sue over anything...the question is what are their chances for success. Two independent land use attorneys reviewed our zoning and disagree with your assessment. AES has no right to build a new power plant per city zoning and state law. The negative impacts of the plant are very well documented. The initiative provides them time to finish their current power contract and substantial residual value in the zoning. Jane - if this is a taking why was the city-wide downzoning in the 1992 General Plan not a taking?
sheri patterson September 21, 2012 at 06:45 PM
To witness 2 elected officials (Diels and Aspel) maliciously accusing another elected official of "lying" and "fraud" when there is no evidence to support such accusations is crossing the line and could have legal consequences. Councilman Aspel made these claims to the local papers and Councilman Diels did the same as well as on record in last week's city council meeting. Defamation of character is a serious issue with serious consequences for the men engaging in such behavior as well as newspapers willing to print these unfounded claims. NoPowerPlant.com raised the funds for, designed and sent out our educational mailer to fellow residents. There are numerous well-respected residents that played a part in the design and content of our mailer. Deliberate and harmful accusations will not be tolerated and especially not by elected officials representing the City of Redondo Beach.
Jane September 24, 2012 at 05:45 AM
Reply to Jim Light's Reply - Ok Jim, let's spot rezone your house's lot 50% R-1, 50% parkland with no compensation. Now, is that still not a taking? Really? Nice try, but you're command of real estate law is about as poor as whomever your counsel is that wrote the initiative. Seriously, with a straight face, you're going to say that a SPOT REZONZING of JIM LIGHT'S (or BILL BRAND'S) PERSONAL REAL ESTATE to 50% R-1 and 50% PARKLAND wouldn't be a TAKING? I darned well doubt that would be your position in that case.
Jane September 24, 2012 at 05:46 AM
I get Waxman's point completely, by reading HIS OWN WORDS. He says that the initiative is WRONG, it is headed for LITIGATION.
Jane September 24, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Well, it was actually true that Waxman was misrepresented. In plain English, Brand LIED.
sheri patterson September 24, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Regarding Waxman, when pressed on the legal merit of his commentary on the initiative and potential litigation, he then retracted his statements to Diels as he is not an attorney and wasn't qualified to comment on a specific coastal zoning land use issue. He then reaffirmed his position supporting the residents of Redondo Beach. He clearly does NOT feel that NPP misrepresented him. And Jane, sorry to hear you were kicked off of Hermosa's Patch. I wonder why they would do such a thing...
Jim Light September 24, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Come on Jane - Really? The four parcels that make up AES are about 600x the size of my property. No other property is zoned power generation. We affected all property zoned power generation. There is a huge difference.
Jim Light September 24, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Please enlighten us Jane...where did Brand lie exactly? The mailer includes all of Waxman's quote under the heading "Our Congressional Representatives Oppose a New Power Plant". The heading is accurate. The quote if verbatim.
Jim Light September 24, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Jane - Waxman does not say the initiative is "wrong". Here is Waxman's statement from his staff regarding the initiative specifically: "While I did not support the ballot proposal, I feel I should not take a position in opposition to it either because the legal issues are not clear. Many who support the initiative think the community should have a right to vote on such a significant issue. I can understand that point of view and we share opposition to the power plant."


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