Glendale officials abandon plans to expand Scholl Canyon Landfill

Glendale utility officials said several years ago that Scholl Canyon Landfill, pictured above, could reach capacity by 2021. Now, they believe it has 10 years left.
Glendale utility officials said several years ago that Scholl Canyon Landfill, pictured above, could reach capacity by 2021. Now, they believe it has 10 years left.
(Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

Glendale officials have abandoned plans to expand operations at the Scholl Canyon Landfill in southeast Glendale after at least four years of consideration.

After internal discussions, city officials notified the Los Angeles County sanitation districts in May 2018 that Glendale was no longer looking to increase the size of the 535-acre facility, Glendale city spokeswoman Eliza Papazian said in an email.

“We intended to explore other options,” Papazian said in the email when asked why the plans were withdrawn last year.

In 2014, two options were on the table that would have increased the size of the site by about 11.5- or 16.5-million cubic yards and lengthened the landfill’s life by 13 or 19 years, respectively, according to which option was selected.

At the time, it was thought the landfill would reach capacity by 2021 or sooner.

Now, officials think the landfill has approximately 10 years left, according to Papazian’s email.

“But the number is very fluid based on annual tonnage deposits,” she added.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis lauded the move, calling the issue “an environmental injustice for the residents of my district” in a recent statement.

“Shuttering plans to expand this landfill is a win for all Angelenos, and a step forward for considering smarter waste solutions,” said Solis, who represents parts of northeast Los Angeles, in the statement.

Hans Johnson, president of East Area Progressive Democrats, said he was disappointed the city did not announce its decision publicly. He said he found out only recently that the plans were abandoned through a public records request.

“This city has been treating the lives and health of its nearby residents as expendable and collateral damage to its profits off of dumping,” said Johnson, who lives in Glendale-adjacent Eagle Rock, which borders the landfill in some areas. He has long opposed the plans.

While the expansion is off the table, Glendale officials are still pursuing a renewable-energy plant fueled by landfill gas at the site — a project that’s been in the works since at least 2014 and has also drawn significant neighborhood scrutiny.

Earlier this year, an environmental-impact report was initiated for the 12-megawatt power-generation facility proposed at Scholl Canyon that would break down organic waste at the landfill into methane, or biogas, to generate electric energy.

While the city was only legally required to conduct a less-intensive review, known as a mitigated negative declaration, Glendale City Council members opted to pursue additional review after droves of community members called for it during a meeting in March 2018.

A draft of the report will likely be completed by a city-hired consultant in October and released internally, Papazian said. A public release date has not been set, she added.

Los Angeles City Council members recently inserted themselves into the discussion over how to proceed with the plant, voting last Wednesday to submit a list of alternatives to the project that should be considered.

The recommendations for review — which include looking for cleaner ways to use the gas and moving the project site — arrived following months of health and environmental concerns expressed by Los Angeles residents, primarily in Eagle Rock, who live near the proposed project.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Eagle Rock, moved the motion to make the recommendations during the L.A. City Council meeting last Wednesday. It passed 11-0.

“It’s a stern rebuke to Glendale’s recommendations” for the plant, according to Johnson.

Huizar’s office has been commenting on the project throughout its development, according to Papazian.

The alternatives, which include burning the gas at Glendale’s Grayson Power Plant, directing the gas to a larger utility and using the gas to fuel vehicles, were already being studied by the consultant heading the environmental review, Papazian added.

Huizar’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Currently, Glendale Water & Power is burning off excess methane produced at the landfill using a method known as flaring.

It had been burning the gas in turbines at Grayson Power Plant, but switched to flaring last year at Scholl Canyon when a separate environmental report showed there were concerning emissions related to burning the gas at Grayson, officials said at the time.

There’s no disagreement that the methane needs to be treated in some way, according to Dan Brotman, founder of the Glendale Environmental Coalition.

It can’t be released into the atmosphere and flaring it doesn’t make environmental or economic sense, said Brotman, who is also running for a Glendale City Council seat.

“All anyone can ask for is that the alternatives get a serious, good-faith evaluation and the city adopt any alternative that is cleaner, even if it might be a little bit more expensive,” Brotman said.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.