Residents demand more study of renewable-energy alternatives to Grayson Power Plant renovation

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The proposal to update Glendale’s aging natural-gas power plant came under fire Monday by residents who claimed reports on potential environmental impacts were understated by utility officials and not enough consideration was given to more sustainable alternatives.

During a special meeting of the Glendale, Water & Power Commission, consultants with Stantec presented a draft environmental impact report that examined noise, hazardous materials, greenhouse gases and other possible effects associated with a proposed “re-powering” of the Grayson Power Plant.

In 2015, the City Council ordered utility officials to draft plans to renovate the plant, which serves more than 88,000 electric customers, into a facility that is more reliable, sustainable and affordable.

Removing, rebuilding and replacing seven of the eight electrical-generation units at the location constitutes the bulk of the project. The utility expects the 80-year-old units will fail within the next decade if not replaced.

According to utility officials, the decommissioned units would remove 219 megawatts in generating capacity and be replaced by four units that produce 262 megawatts, an additional 43 megawatts.

Of the nine categories of environmental factors analyzed — which included air quality, noise and hazardous materials — the draft environmental impact report found “less than significant” impact in all instances, some with mitigation.

However, the meeting on Monday was filled with residents who argued that the proposed project is a risky investment for the city — about $500 million in estimated costs — as California is moving away from fossil fuels as well as imposing stricter clean-energy standards.

Dan Brotman, a Glendale Community College economics professor who recently formed the Glendale Environmental Coalition, packed the room with supporters of a more comprehensive, independent study of renewable-energy alternatives.

“We are not a bunch of starry-eyed environmentalists. We’re practical people, and we want them to study a real serious set of alternatives for the city,” Brotman said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We know it’s going to have to be a complicated mix of [renewable and fossil-fuel] solutions.”

Other issues raised during the public-comment portion of the meeting were concerns about rebuilding the facility at its current site, which is in proximity to two fault lines. Also, several residents said they were worried about the economic impacts that the surplus of power generated by the facility would create in the future.

An investigation by The Los Angeles Times this year found that California’s electricity system is overbuilt — led by natural-gas plants — amid an abundance of available clean energy. The state has had to close some plants and resort to paying other states to take the unusable, surplus power California is generating.

Steve Zurn, the local utility’s general manager, said at the meeting that the recommendation of the Grayson project was not based on the sale of power.

At the close of public comments, Glendale Water & Power commissioner Roland Kedikian said the utility should explore a more comprehensive approach to meet the needs and desires of the community.

“We are in a position here, unfortunately, that we let everything run 40 some years without building anything and our options are limited,” Kedikian said. “But to … continue down this path … of solely gas power — I don’t see that as the right path.”

On the same day as the public meeting, plans for a proposed natural-gas power plant in Oxnard were all but killed because its developer asked regulators with the California Energy Commission to suspend all hearings and review of the project after a large public outcry over potential pollution.

Twitter: @JeffLanda