Taking a gamble, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a compromise waste disposal plan that it hopes will smooth the way for construction of its stalled $200-million trash-to-energy conversion plant in central Los Angeles.
The council's action, a partial capitulation after months spent unsuccessfully fighting trash wars with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Gov. George Deukmejian, allows the county to place three West Los Angeles canyons--Mission, Rustic and Sullivan--on the county's list of potential dump sites.
The Board of Supervisors, led by Supervisor Pete Schabarum, has long insisted that the sites be included in the county's solid waste management plan. For months, the county has held up approval of the city's pet trash project, the Los Angeles City Energy Recovery Project, or LANCER, until the city gave in to the county demand.
Council members were forced to bargain with the Board of Supervisors after Deukmejian last month vetoed legislation that would have made county approval of the central LANCER plant unnecessary.
The council on Wednesday did not oppose inclusion of the sites on the county's master plan--thereby in effect approving the county plan--but served notice that it has not reversed its long-held opposition to dumping refuse in the three Santa Monica Mountain areas.
Nevertheless, city Bureau of Sanitation Director Delwin A. Biagi said he is "very optimistic" that the county will be mollified by the council's icy approval and allow construction of the LANCER project.
Although pointedly noting that he had received no firm commitments, Biagi said county officials--whom he declined to name--had assured him that the LANCER project will go forward.
"It's time for everyone to get on the bandwagon and make LANCER go," a beaming Biagi said after the council approved the complex trash disposal plan on an 11-2 vote.
Neither Schabarum nor county sanitation officials were available to state whether the county would act as the city hopes--to approve LANCER.
The city plan also called for the eventual construction of two more LANCER projects in coming years--one in West Los Angeles and the second in the San Fernando Valley. Both, like the first plant to be built at 41st and Alameda streets, will burn tons of rubbish each day to produce electricity.
No Criticism of LANCER
The LANCER program itself generated no criticism in the council's trash-disposal hearing, but other facets of the city's plan prompted harsh exchanges between council members. Councilmen Howard Finn and Ernani Bernardi, who both represent the San Fernando Valley, argued unsuccessfully that the plan wrongly sends most of the city's daily refuse to the north valley.
According to the plan, San Fernando Valley dump sites--including Lopez and Sunshine canyons and the Calabasas dump--will by Thanksgiving begin receiving the rubbish that currently is sent to the almost-filled Toyon dump site in Griffith Park.
Finn noted that by 1987-88, city sanitation figures show, Lopez Canyon in his district will receive 810,000 tons of trash per year, roughly 60% of the city total. "We in our district don't want anymore," he said angrily.
Lopez Canyon is also planned as the repository for ash generated by the LANCER projects, although the council agreed Wednesday to consider other sites.
According to preliminary city plans, the Central Los Angeles trash-to-energy plant should be operating by 1989-90. The West Los Angeles plant should open in 1993-94, followed a year later by the San Fernando Valley plant. Exact site locations and the size of the latter two plants have not yet been determined, Biagi said.
City officials have described the trash-to-energy means of disposal as expensive but necessary. The leftover ashes can be buried without the problems of odor, ground water contamination and generation of toxic gases that result from the burying of raw refuse.