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A reasonable plan for the future of the AES site

The nopowerplant.com approach to removing the AES power plant from Redondo Beach has a number of flaws I’ve noted in previous blog posts. Let’s suppose they succeed. Suppose the public outcry against the power plant and the related yet misguided efforts to force AES out by doing things like changing zoning, do exactly what they’re intended to do.

It’s hard to handicap the conflict between well intentioned citizens and the huge corporation. Power plant opponents cite instances of public sentiment against local power generation forcing power plants out. Have they also let their supporters know about how often applications are approved in spite of vigorous public opposition? That number would probably help with the handicapping process but let’s be generous and say there’s a 50/50 likelihood the no power plant people will prevail in getting a new permit denied.

The big flaw, the one that shouldn’t be underestimated, is that there’s no clear and persuasive plan for what happens next. That’s the question the would-be leaders of the no power plant movement should answer. What’s the step by step plan for what happens the day after AES stops generating power in Redondo Beach?

Does anyone really believe AES will just fold up shop and leave 51 acres of prime, oceanfront land behind? Does anyone believe the $5 donation they make to build a park will add up to a sum that will cover the purchase price of the land and what it costs to clear and restore it? I certainly don’t.

More likely, AES drags Redondo Beach into court or they wait until the political climate changes enough to enable them to make a move that’s beneficial to the company. Both of those possibilities could spell years, possibly decades of waiting for a resolution and boat loads of money the city either won’t get or has to pay to see this thing to its logical conclusion.

There’s only one way to avoid those enormous unknown and unintended results of actions that are being taken today. The end of the power plant and all the steps that lead to the next chapter of the story of that waterfront property, need to be structured in cooperation with AES.

Here’s how I’d do it. AES is fully aware of the public outcry against a new license. They know it won’t be easy to get renewed. In fact, AES Southland President, Eric Pendergraft, has already suggested to the city council that the company would be willing to offer something like 38 acres for alternate uses and to clean the whole parcel. In return, AES would expect cooperation from the city on its license renewal application.

The city got all that without a minute of negotiation. We have leverage and lots of it. The next thing we should do is use it effectively.

The next thing Redondo Beach would need to do is to ask AES a relatively simple question. How long would the company need to generate power after 2018 to enable the company to remove the new power plant, clean the entire location and make the remaining property available for alternate uses? There is a number and it may be smaller than we might imagine.

I know the idea of allowing AES to build a new power plant is unthinkable to the no power plant people. But how do we know whether we can or cannot live with it until we know how long the new plant would be there?

There’s also a strong possibility AES will get its new license in spite of local opposition. If that happens, the company will have no reason to agree to leave Redondo Beach at any pre-determined, future date. In all likelihood they will continue doing business as usual, no 38 acres, no date or plan for removing the power plant. They do what corporations do. They protect their investment.

No one has any idea what kind of quagmire the city might find itself in, how long it would last or how much it would cost to continue to push AES into a corner from which it has no alternative but to fight its way out. The city and the entire community would be better served to have a date-certain and a concrete plan for termination of power generation and removal of the plant. I believe we have the leverage we need to get AES to agree to such a plan.

The primary responses this idea is likely to evoke would have to do with what everyone knows. Everyone knows AES wouldn’t agree to leave Redondo Beach. Everyone knows the new plant would continue ruining our health. No, everyone doesn’t know those things.

The same people who cite “what everyone knows” about AES would have said the company would never suggest that it clean and make available 38 acres of the property it owns. It’s never a good idea to presume you know the outcome of something with the potential impact of negotiating a deal between AES and the city of Redondo Beach.

There are people leading the opposition movement who would tell you exactly that, they know what AES would and would not do. Not only don’t they know, they don’t have a clue. Why? Because they haven’t engaged in any meaningful dialogue with the company. They say they have but as I said in another post, reading your list of demands is not dialogue.

Do I want to continue breathing the exhaust from combustion at the AES plant? Of course not but the real public health damage the plant causes hasn’t been determined. The evidence that I’ve seen is largely of the “what everyone knows” variety.  Everyone knows breathing that stuff is bad but how bad is it? How much of it do we actually breath?

There are 2 grammar schools about a half mile, directly downwind from the plant. About 1200 children spend 6 hours a day, 180 days a year in those schools. My kid is one of them.

If those kids are suffering from some respiratory or other power plant-related epidemic, show me the evidence and I’ll carry a sign at the next public protest against the power plant. If those kids can’t play sports or they’re prevented from participating in activities kids in other communities enjoy because of the power plant, show me the evidence and I’ll retract every statement I’ve made against the tactics of the no power plant people.

AES Redondo Beach isn’t Chernobyl or Fukushima yet the people leading the charge against the company are trying to incite the kind of passion people feel toward those kinds of environmental catastrophes.

I expect ridicule over these statements but I also expect it will be based on “what everyone knows” rather than solid facts so it’s OK.

Until the no power plant people can tell us how they will remove the structures on that property and make it suitable for alternate uses, when they will do it, who will pay for it and how much it will cost the city, they simply don’t have a plan. They have great intentions and high hopes. They may have a fair chance of getting the new permit denied but having a partial plan or asking people to believe it will all work itself out isn’t the way responsible leaders carry out community planning.

There’s been a power plant on that property for about 100 years. I’m sure it made sense when it was built but it doesn’t make sense anymore. This community may have an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and comprehensive course of action that will lead to an end of power generation in the South Bay and the removal or the power plant.

Do we want to be able to tell our kids that we engaged in actions that led to the ultimate removal of the power plant and we put the land to some use that better serves the needs of the community? Or do we want to tell them that we got swept up in the phony passions of a few people and took actions that got part of the job done but we really don’t know how to bring it to its most favorable conclusion?  For me, that answer is as clear as I hope the view of the Pacific from 190th and Prospect will be one day.

2 thoughts on “A reasonable plan for the future of the AES site

  1. Dan Buck

    Mr. Munns, in your article you say, “If those kids are suffering from some respiratory or other power plant-related epidemic, show me the evidence and I’ll carry a sign at the next public protest against the power plant.”

    I say, let’s protect our local children. Here’s the evidence, most of it from The Childrens Health Study, an 8 year study performed by EPA and USC right here is southern California; California Air Resources Board, The Children’s Health Study http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/chs/chs.htm
    “Children living in communities with higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and acid vapor had lungs that both developed and grew more slowly and were less able to move air through them. This decreased lung development may have permanent adverse effects in adulthood.”

    This article has links to NEJM http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa040610
    The Effect of Air Pollution on Lung Development from 10 to 18 Years of Age
    “CONCLUSIONS The results of this study indicate that current levels of air pollution have chronic, adverse effects on lung development in children from the age of 10 to 18 years, leading to clinically significant deficits in attained FEV1 as children reach adulthood.”

    And another link to Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2000
    which states,”Children who moved away from study communities had increased lung development if the new communities had lower particulate matter levels, and had decreased lung development if the new communities had higher particulate matter levels.” http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/content/164/11/2067.full

    There are more links but seriously, who in Redondo or Hermosa wants to see higher levels of particulate matter? Unfortunately everyone should know this information, but they don’t. If you sincerely care, help share the message.

  2. funbooker Post author

    Mr. Buck,

    I try to post my thoughts and let people who post comments do the same without my interference and let the readers gain what they will from the posts and the comments. Like many of my fellow South Bay residents, your concern is genuine and justified and I won’t try to engage you in an argument.

    I will say only this, in spite of the documentation you provide, there is still no evidence that these kids in this city are suffering from ill effects from this power plant.

    I don’t claim to know the science involved in this issue. But my observations tell me that on the worst day, if you took air samples in Redondo Beach then went 5 blocks east of the 405 anywhere along its length and performed the same test, the second location would consistently show higher readings of all the pollutants that have been mentioned in relation to the AES plant.

    Take that a step further. Go to downtown L. A., Pasadena or Riverside and take the same tests. I believe those comparisons will reveal the South Bay has nearly pure air by comparison.

    I believe these tests and comparisons exist and the reason they haven’t popped up in the discussion is that they don’t support the no power plant agenda.

    When the time comes for he no power plant people to make their pollution case, the CEC is going to want to see the evidence that the power plant has hurt the people of this community. That evidence doesn’t exist. Then they’re going to want to see how much worse the air quality in the South Bay is compared to other parts of L. A. county. It isn’t worse. It’s better.

    The pollution argument is so weak, AES will be able to send an intern to prove their side of it. This is one reason why I have said repeatedly, the solution to the AES problem will come from dialogue and negotiation, not from trying to prove science that simply doesn’t exist and then using that lack of solid data to force the state of California to deny their application.

    I don’t know how many different ways I can say it but following Bill Brand and Jim LIght over this cliff will fail. It will result only in frustration, bitterness and a waste of time and money by a bunch of sincere, caring people like you. I keep writing this stuff because I want to do my part to keep that from happening.



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