The Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach city councils are faulting state utility regulators for neglecting to detail the local environmental effects of the proposed merger of Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
In separate meetings Tuesday, the two councils voted to tell the California Public Utilities Commission that its environmental impact studies on the merger do not adequately address plant noise, air pollution and other consequences of greater electric generation at Edison's Redondo Beach power station.
The Redondo Beach council went one step further, deciding also to go on record opposing the $2.4-billion merger, which would shift power generation from older San Diego plants to more efficient Edison stations in communities including Redondo Beach and El Segundo.
"Nobody has come to us and said this what the effect will be on your community," Stevan Colin, a Redondo Beach city councilman, said Wednesday. "We don't know how much more noise we'll be getting, how much more air pollution. There was nothing."
Hermosa Beach Mayor Chuck Sheldon, noting that the seaside Redondo Beach plant is just across Hermosa's southern border, said his city is equally concerned: "We probably have a third of our residents within a mile of that plant. Our most dense population is in southwest Hermosa Beach."
The utility merger, which would make Edison the country's largest supplier of electricity, is being considered by the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Rulings are expected before the end of the year.
By their votes on Tuesday, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach have joined a growing list of cities that have expressed concern about the proposed merger. Cities opposing it outright include San Diego, Anaheim, Riverside, Simi Valley and Ventura.
Other opponents include the state attorney general's office, the American Lung Assn. of California and Toward Utility Rate Normalization, a statewide rate-payers group.
The El Segundo City Council has not discussed the merger and is not scheduled to do so, the city's planning director, Kendra Morries, said this week.
An Edison spokesman said Wednesday that his company is not concerned that arguments raised by Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach or others will derail the company's proposal.
"I think we have presented a record of the strong public benefits of this merger," said Spokesman Lewis Phelps, addressing Redondo Beach's decision to oppose the proposal. "I think when the commission reviews the evidence they will conclude that this merger is in the public interest."
Bill Edmunds, a spokesman for the utilities commission, said arguements by Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach will be considered if they are submitted by Oct. 9, the deadline for responses to the commission's latest environmental report on the merger plan.
According to Edison, under the merger, the Redondo Beach plant would generate about 16% more power in the next 10 years, whereas the El Segundo plant's output would increase by about 44%.
Appearing at both city council meetings Tuesday, different Edison officials reiterated the firm's promise to more than offset added air pollution in the Los Angeles region by promoting the conversion of stationary diesel and gas motors to electrical power. The South Coast Air Quality Management District endorsed that strategy last month.
The officials also noted that the utility commission's studies conclude that the merger would not significantly increase air pollution or noise in any of the communities immediately surrounding company plants.
"The merger will not, and I emphasize, will not result in significant impacts that could not be mitigated," Sebastian Nola, Edison's South Bay district manager, said at the Redondo Beach council meeting.
Despite the assurances, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach officials expressed concern that the commission's environmental studies do not detail the merger's impact in all the communities where Edison power generation would rise.
The utilities commission has limited its investigation of local environmental effects to the cities in which it believed these impacts would be greatest. Neither Redondo Beach nor El Segundo were studied in detail.
The officials got plenty of response Tuesday from residents who turned out to speak against the merger. Residents said it threatens to worsen existing problems surrounding the Redondo Beach plant.
Redondo Beach has had a history of problems with noise from the plant. Two weeks ago it decided to prosecute Edison for violating the local noise ordinance. The city is also fighting a plan by Edison to store 20,000 gallons of toxic anhydrous ammonia at the power station as part of a new pollution control system.
"The council has finally made the right vote, but the battle to protect the community has just begun," said Redondo Beach resident Thomas O'Leary, 75, dashing to the Hermosa Beach deliberations after his own city's leaders had voted against the Edison merger. "I just hope the community doesn't go to sleep."