The Sierra Club has endorsed Redondo Beach’s Measure A, formerly known as the Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative, the organization announced in its January-February 2013 newsletter.
If it passes, Measure A would rezone the AES property on Harbor Drive to a mixture of 30-40 percent commercial and institutional use. The remaining land would be designated parkland and open space.
By rezoning the land, anti-power-plant activists hope that the California Energy Commission will deny AES its application to repower due to local opposition.
It’s always been a goal of the Sierra Club to turn the property into parkland or open space, said Al Sattler, head of the local Sierra Club group.
The current AES Redondo Beach power plant uses once-through cooling, where ocean water is pumped in to cool the superheated steam that spins the turbines to create electricity. State regulations on once-through cooling plants mandate that the current plant be retired, repowered (rebuilt) or retrofitted to no longer use once-through cooling.
“The old power plant must be shut down because it has been sucking in ocean water for cooling, and killing marine life by cooking it,” the Sierra Club said in the newsletter.
In November, AES Southland filed an application with the California Energy Commission to repower the aging power plant along Harbor Drive. AES says the new AES Redondo Beach will be a “smaller, cleaner, quieter modern plant” that will bridge the gap when electricity from renewable sources is not available.
Opponents from the NoPowerPlant.com political action committee, which spearheaded the push to put Measure A on the ballot, disagree. They say that even though the new plant will run cleaner, AES wants it to run more often, and thus it will produce more particulate pollution annually than the current plant. Additionally, opponents say that a new plant would continue to depress property values and economic growth in the area.
In discussing the Sierra Club’s decision to endorse Measure A, Sattler pointed to a Redondo Beach City Council meeting in 2012 where a representative from the California Independent Systems Operator said there was enough excess capacity in the near future to retire permanently one of the once-through cooling plants in the area.
Sattler also pointed out that increased air pollution and additional investment in fossil fuels would divert money from green technologies, a backwards step from where alternative energy proponents are headed.
“Fossil fuels are not the future for energy, especially in California,” said Redondo Beach City Councilman Bill Brand, who co-wrote Measure A. “Ultimately, AES Redondo wants to build the power plant to maximize AES profits, and the power plant won’t maximize Redondo Beach revenue.”
Representatives from AES Southland did not return requests for comment.