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Public concerns could shape Scholl Canyon project’s environmental study, officials say

Public concerns could shape Scholl Canyon project’s environmental study, officials say
As a biogas plant planned for Scholl Canyon Landfill heads for additional environmental review, the consultant heading the project is gathering community input to guide the review's focus. (Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

Area residents urged a consultant conducting environmental review of a proposed renewable-energy plant at the Scholl Canyon Landfill in Glendale to consider how the project might affect air quality, children’s health and local aesthetics during a pair of meetings held Thursday to gather public input.

The “scoping meetings” mark an early stage for an environmental impact report, or EIR, that the City Council voted to initiate in December for the proposed 12-megawatt power-generation facility that would break down organic waste at the landfill into methane, or biogas, to generate electric energy.

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Suggestions and concerns were brought up to help guide the focus of the report, slated to arrive as a draft around August. A public hearing for the final report is planned for January.

Community design company Stantec completed an initial project study in late March to determine the review’s focus areas, and eliminate others, but those areas “could change based on the input we receive,” said Steve Zurn, general manager of Glendale Water & Power.

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At the first meeting, longtime Glendale resident Joan Morris pointed out that the landfill has grown significantly since a city report in 1993 determined it was an area of “low-visual sensitivity” nestled in the San Rafael Hills, which the same report called one of Glendale’s “most significant physical landmarks.”

Since it has expanded, “the landfill has … unfortunately, become one of the city’s most significant landmarks,” Morris said, suggesting the city reconsider the site’s blight factor.

Child psychiatrist Christopher Snowdy said in a written statement he was concerned by the project’s potential impact on child development, given its half-mile proximity to the Scholl Canyon Ballfields, where kids often play.

“Pollutants known to arise from plants of this type are toxic to developing neurons in the brain,” said Glenoaks Canyon resident Snowdy in a letter read during the meeting by Bob Hutchins.

Stantec’s initial study excluded “recreation” for further analysis in the review. In light of Snowdy’s comments, Hutchins said that determination should be reconsidered.

Stating concerns about the project’s effect on neighboring communities, Pasadena resident Nina Chomsky said she wanted those areas considered in the study.

“We are the most impacted geographic area, in our opinion,” Chomsky said, referring to the Linda Vista-Annandale area of Pasadena. “Our commitment is not to be ignored and play a key role in this.”

Chomsky added that, with a nearby sediment-removal project in Pasadena progressing concurrently, the consultant needed to consider the cumulative effects of all major projects in the area.

That was a point echoed by Martin Schlageter, a policy director for Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar, who said the effects could reach northeast Los Angeles communities like Eagle Rock. He said another large project on the horizon, the repowering of Grayson Power Plant, should be considered in the same EIR.

Last March, the city’s Planning Commission voted not to adopt a mitigated negative declaration, or MND, on the Scholl project, after hearing more than 100 pleas from residents who demanded additional study. Although the city is legally only required to conduct the less intensive MND, an EIR is being conducted to assuage some residents’ fears about the project’s health and environmental hazards.

Currently, the city is flaring off excess methane at the landfill, which has concerned some residents.

Last spring, a decision was made to lean more heavily on flaring when a separate environmental report showed a concerning level of emissions related to the burning of the gas in turbines at Grayson.

At the most recent meeting, Zurn said the flares have never been out of commission. While the flaring does not convert the gas into a usable energy source, he said the practice is more efficient than processing the gas using Grayson’s burners, some of which are more than 60 years old.

Currently, methane gas released at landfills can be put in an internal combustion engine or turbine, or it can be flared. Legally, it must be controlled in one of those three ways, Zurn said.

Public comment to guide the EIR will be collected until April 22. Written comments can be submitted by visiting glendalebiogasgeneration.com and clicking the “Contact Us” tab. The public will also be able to give input after both the submission of the draft and the final EIR.

“By no means is this your last and only shot [to comment],” said Michael Weber, a project manager from Stantec who led the meeting.

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