The $500-million project to update Glendale’s aging natural-gas power plant will undergo additional scrutiny next month over its potential increase of greenhouse gas emissions in light of council’s recent support of the United Nations Paris Agreement.
During the staff-comments portion of the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Zareh Sinanyan asked for his colleagues’ support in requesting city staff and Glendale Water & Power officials pause the “repowering” of the facility ahead of draft environmental impact report, or EIR, which is tentatively scheduled for council consideration on March 6.
“[City staff should] come back with an exhaustive comprehensive analysis of all the alternatives that are out there, which will achieve our goal of limiting emissions and decreasing them and complying with the increasing demand that are… thankfully imposed on us by our state authorities,” Sinanyan said.
“And, at the same time, [we should] make sure that it’s not cost prohibitive or [that] our residents will not be detrimentally impacted by the results,” he added.
Sinanyan said his suggestion stems from the draft EIR’s conclusion that the power plant may increase greenhouse gas emissions and would run counter to the City Council’s July resolution to join other cities nationwide in expressing Glendale’s support of the Paris Agreement.
The agreement aims to keep a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The ongoing Grayson Power Plant renovation is designed to update the facility into a more reliable and sustainable one, with plans to remove, rebuild and replace seven of its eight electrical-generation units. If left as is, utility officials previously said they expect the 80-year-old units to fail within the next decade.
In an October presentation of the draft EIR, consultants stated that of the nine categories of environmental factors evaluated — which included air quality, noise and hazardous materials — the report found “less than significant” impacts in all instances, some with mitigation.
However, Sinanyan said city officials should evaluate Grayson differently because he thinks the renewable-energy alternatives included in the draft EIR are not “deep” or “comprehensive” enough.
“I want the entire universe of options to be looked at independently of repowering Grayson,” he said.
Sinanyan suggested a different approach to the power plant project, suggesting that instead of a repower first approach, city officials should prioritize what energy technologies are being offered and, based on that, decide whether they want to move forward with repowering Grayson.
“The goal should be where are we going, where are we, where will we be tomorrow, what are the technologies going to be, is it worth half a [billion] dollars and increasing our [greenhouse gas] emissions anywhere from 25% to 75%?” he said.
In response, Steve Zurn, the utility’s general manager, said the repowering of Grayson is only one aspect of a broader plan that adheres to California’s mandate to achieve 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
“I built into this process three years ago the option to always go back and look at that technology again and, if it had gotten to a point where it became more desirable economically or operationally, we could fold that back in,” Zurn said.
During the community-events announcement portion of the meeting, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said he supported the request to pause the Grayson project.
“[I’m here] to support what Council member Sinanyan suggested as far as alternatives,” he said.
“As you know, there’s significant legislation working through the capital that would basically put some shackles on plants like this. And I think whether they pass now or if they will pass in the future, and I think that’s very important to the conversation, so I want to add that Sacramento perspective.”