The University of California Board of Regents has approved the environmental impact report for a proposed "chiller-cogenerator" power plant for the UCLA campus, paving the way for its construction.
But community opponents to the project say they will file suit to block the project because, they say, its environmental effects and alternative sources of energy have not been adequately addressed.
They must wait 30 days before challenging the approved environmental impact report in court.
The regents, in a Los Angeles meeting last week that sparked community protest because it was held on the Jewish New Year, favored the power plant unanimously, based in part on representations from UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young that the chiller-cogenerator would result in an improvement in net air quality on the Westwood campus.
The new plant is desperately needed to provide power to the campus, officials said.
A separate vote of the regents must be taken to approve the project's funding and design, a UCLA spokeswoman said.
The chiller-cogenerator would supply UCLA with steam and electricity and chilled water for air conditioning. It will cost $175 million and be financed through tax-exempt bonds as a joint project with a private firm, Parsons Municipal Services Inc.
Cogeneration is the simultaneous on-site generation of electrical energy and steam or heat from the same plant.
UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young testified at a regents committee hearing earlier last week that, by the university's calculations, the proposed plant would provide a net air quality improvement over the current antiquated system. Responding to criticism of its draft environmental impact report, UCLA added measures to reduce the emission of pollutants to below the currently acceptable standards of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Young said.
However, opponents of the project, including major homeowner groups, object to adding two 125-foot smokestacks in the middle of Westwood, and they contend the populous area is not a fitting place for a major power plant.
Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, said the university's figures come from a one-sided analysis that does not take into account the increased pollution that will result from the university's long-range expansion plan.
UCLA has said the chiller-cogenerator is not a growth-inducing project, a hotly disputed issue with opponents of the plan.
Lake also pointed to a California Supreme Court decision last week that she said would apply to the UCLA plan. The court let stand an appellate court ruling blocking operation of an already-built Hanford, Calif., coal-burning power plant. The court ruled that the environmental impact report failed to adequately consider the plant's effect on air quality throughout the region and to fully weigh less harmful alternatives.
A letter from the state attorney general's office to UCLA criticized the draft environmental report as "wholly inadequate" in informing the public of the project's effects because the report was so "poorly written and confusing" that even an expert in their office had trouble deciphering it.