Glendale Water & Power’s proposal for a green-waste, electricity-generating plant at the Scholl Canyon Landfill hit a snag Wednesday as the Planning Commission voted 2-1 against a mitigated negative declaration, or MND, on the project, after hearing more than 100 pleas from residents who demanded an additional study.
An MND is a report that puts forth environmental findings and mitigation measures for a project that has been deemed to have no significant environmental impact, while some other projects require a full environmental review.
The utility has sought to construct a 12-megawatt power-generation facility on the site that would transform landfill gas into renewable energy using a treatment system known as an anaerobic digester, which uses conversion technology to break down organic waste into methane, or biogas, to generate electric energy.
According to a staff report, the proposal would also include construction of two 1,000 square-foot office buildings, a 60,000-gallon fire water tank, a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a natural-gas pipeline system, four 840-square-foot engine generator enclosures with 40-foot-tall exhaust stacks, a 40-foot-tall flare stack and a 384-square-foot power distribution center.
While the Wednesday decision is on its face a win for Glendale and Eagle Rock residents opposed to the project, all three commissioners said they were satisfied with the mitigated negative declaration, and the two who voted against recommending the project — Commissioners Chang Lee and Leonard Manoukian — admitted they were compelled only by the number of concerned residents.
Manoukian said the utility’s report was the most professional and competent application he’s seen during his 10 years on the Planning Commission, but he agreed with Lee that the “residents matter more than the commissioners.”
“If I were the king of Glendale, I would approve this because everything seems to be exactly what it needs to be,” Manoukian said. “But I think we have reached a moment where we have to finally care to a certain extent of the trust the residents of Glendale have in their government.”
In addition to denying the declaration, the commission recommended that city staff prepare on environmental impact report on the project, which would likely share the same environmental safety findings as the declaration but would propose alternatives to the project, according to Commissioner Greg Astorian.
Since the Glendale utility first started studying the feasibility of the project in 2014, residents in Glendale and surrounding neighborhoods either outright rejected the proposal or insisted on an environmental impact report.
Their concerns have been over the project’s potential to contribute to poor air quality, increased traffic, dust and noise in nearby neighborhoods as well as concerns about the potential for an environmental disaster because of the landfill’s proximity to the Verdugo fault line.
At the meeting, most of the 129 comment cards were from those opposing the project including members of the Coalition for Eagle Rock Beautiful, Glendale Environmental Coalition, Glenoaks Canyon Homeowners Assn. and East Area Progressive Democrats, a northeast Los Angeles political group that advocates for environmental justice.
“We created a community opposition that surfaced in Eagle Rock and then Glendale to create a multijurisdiction opposition to the dump,” said Hans Johnson, president of East Area Progressive Democrats. “It’s a rather remarkable result and victory for the breadth of community resistance to the dump expansion.”
In November, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said she outright opposes the project and possible expansion, calling it “an environmental injustice” for the residents of her district.
According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health and Solid Waste Management Program, the landfill is expected to close in April 2030. However, recent waste-reduction practices have lowered the amounts of trash trucked to the facility daily, on average, and increased the landfill’s lifespan.