Santa Clarita to Negotiate on Arco Plant

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Clarita City Council, after trying for more than a year to scuttle a proposed power plant in Newhall, has agreed to begin negotiating a possible settlement to end the city's opposition to the $35-million project.

The council unanimously voted late Tuesday to start the negotiations after discussing a study that declared that the plant, being built by Arco, is environmentally sound.

But council members still expressed grave reservations about the project and quizzed Arco representatives on the plant's potential impact on air and ground water. Arco representatives assured the council that the project's pollution-control equipment and the area's geology would protect the environment.

Through extensive questioning, council members tried to ferret out potential flaws in the project. At one point, Mayor Jan Heidt asked City Atty. Carl K. Newton if Santa Clarita could establish its own clean air standards for the plant to follow. Newton said such laws are outside the city's jurisdiction.

Arco is building the plant atop a 70-year-old oil field near Placerita Canyon Road and Sierra Highway. The company plans to burn gas to produce steam, which will be injected into the ground to loosen and recover oil. Excess steam will power generators to produce electricity for Southern California Edison Co.

Begun by Tenneco

Arco assumed control of the project last year after it purchased Tenneco Oil Co., which launched the project.

The environmental study reviewed Tuesday said the plant would not threaten ground water or produce excessive noise or odors. The study was prepared by Harmsworth Associates, a Laguna Hills consulting firm selected by the council. Arco paid $25,000 for the study.

The plant will emit 372 pounds of nitrogen oxides a day--well above the threshold of 100 pounds a day set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the report said. But the AQMD will permit the extra nitrogen oxides because these emissions will be offset by reductions in the oxides at other industrial sites in Los Angeles County, the report said.

Other air pollutants released by the plant will fall below AQMD threshold levels, the study said.

The city originally tried to block the plant with a moratorium Dec. 15, 1987. But last year Los Angeles County officials, unaware of the moratorium, issued building permits for the project. When the city ordered Tenneco to halt construction in September, the company sued.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge said Arco could continue construction, saying the company should not be punished for the county's error. Santa Clarita is appealing the decision.

On Wednesday, Steve Schafhausen, president of the Placerita Canyon Property Owners Assn., said the environmental study merely rehashed data already supplied by Tenneco. He said the report failed to consider the cumulative effects of pollutants during the plant's projected 30-year life span. The association also has filed a lawsuit to block the plant.

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