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Council Wants Ban on Power Plant Construction Restored : Santa Clarita to Ask Judge to Reconsider Tenneco Ruling

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Clarita City Council decided Tuesday to ask a judge to reverse a court order that has cleared the way for Tenneco Oil Co. to build a controversial power plant in Newhall.

In a hastily called closed meeting, council members decided to file a motion today asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miriam A. Vogel to reconsider her Monday ruling, Mayor Howard P. (Buck) McKeon said.

Vogel voided the city’s stop-work order that has halted construction of the $35-million power plant since Sept. 1. Tenneco is awaiting formalization of the judge’s order and has not resumed work on the plant.

If the judge rules against the city again, it will appeal to a higher court, McKeon said.

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McKeon and other council members said after the closed session that they are confident the city will prevail in its 11-month battle with Tenneco.

The council and the Placerita Canyon Homeowners Assn. contend that the power plant will pollute the air and ground water in Placerita Canyon. Further, the city maintains that the project’s building permits were issued in error and are not valid.

Vogel agreed Monday that the permits were granted by mistake but said Tenneco, which has invested $16 million in the project, should not suffer because of an administrative error.

The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, acting on Santa Clarita’s behalf as the new city was organizing its government, issued the permits last spring. The county officials said they were unaware that the city had passed a moratorium blocking construction on the Tenneco site.

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The city, meanwhile, was unaware of the permits until Aug. 30 and ordered Tenneco to stop building the plant 2 days later.

Councilman Carl Boyer III said City Atty. Carl K. Newton will contend that Vogel misapplied state law when she ordered the city to rescind the stop-work order--essentially the same argument he made Monday.

Newton argued before Vogel that the city halted construction on the plant because the permits were granted contrary to city law.

It makes little sense, he told the judge, to let Tenneco resume construction simply because the county completed the necessary paper work.

To do so, Newton said, would allow ordinary county employees to override the governing powers of an incorporated city.


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