Tag Archives: AES Redondo Beach


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Finally, a plan for the AES property

Full Disclosure: As of this date, I have never met nor have I had a conversation with any employee of AES.  In spite of accusations posted here and elsewhere, I have never been paid one cent by AES or anyone representing the company. I met one time with someone I’ve known for a few years who recently started working as a contractor (I assume) for AES but that’s as far as my contact with the company goes and has ever gone. Oh yeah, I did call the plant for a comment on a story I wrote about noise a couple years ago.

I guess I also have to disclose I attended an event on Saturday, November 3rd during which plans for the new power plant were unveiled. AES bought me lunch but for anyone who may want to spin that into something more sinister I offer this assurance. If I ever decide to sell my opinions, it will cost a lot more than lunch to buy them.

My biggest criticism of the highly vocal and visible little group of people who want to force the power plant out of Redondo Beach has been that they don’t have a viable plan. All they would have to do to prove me wrong is to act like every other group of people who have a plan to develop a plot of land in the United States. Acquire the land, go through the regulatory and permit process and start building.

Nopowerplant.com cannot and will not follow this simple process that everyone else in the country who has a plan for land development has to follow. Why? Because they have no plan, at least no real plan.

AES has a plan and about 150 invited guests got to see it Saturday. Noticeably absent were all our elected officials and the true leaders of Redondo Beach, the city staff. I guess plans for radical changes to the largest single piece of property along our waterfront,  with the potential for development, aren’t very interesting to these people. I would have thought the opposite.

The AES plan will build a new power plant and vacate 75% of the land that currently houses power generating equipment and supports various functions related to power generation. AES spokesperson Jennifer Didlow summarized the company’s plans to remove the existing structures and clean 38 acres of land, much of which borders Harbor Drive. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how that development could change the entire character of Redondo Beach.

Didlow vowed to do it all without any taxpayer money. I guarantee nopowerplant will not and cannot make the same claim. In fact, their initiative has already cost Redondo tax payers money. Wait until the lawsuits start.

Didlow didn’t seem to acknowledge much of a threat from nopowerplant. Honestly, I’d have to agree. The enthusiastic crowd at the plant Saturday proved that there are quite a few people in the city who won’t be led by lies and distortions like, “Do you want to sign a petition to get rid of the power plant?”

Lying to all those people in front of Albertson’s and Whole Foods may have gotten nopowerplant a small victory before the war even began but the claim that 7500 signatures on petitions that were acquired by false pretense somehow represents the will of the community is a much bigger and more self-defeating lie. I saw the proof on Saturday.

Waxman and Hahn agree working with AES is the solution

It’s nice to know that the reasonable, rational people  who have expressed an opinion about how to solve the AES problem, all seem to agree that it can only be accomplished by working with AES.

In a letter to the California Energy Commission posted on the no powerplant web site, Representative, Janice Hahn, wrote, “I urge your organization to work with CPUC, CAISO and AES to retire this facility.” Notice she said “work with” and nothing about working against.

A press release quotes Representative Henry Waxman as saying, “I encourage AES and  California’s regulatory agencies to take this opportunity to permanently retire this facility and  to allow redevelopment of the site.”

Did either of  those representatives say anything about forcing AES out of business? Did they mention circumventing the city’s political process, the one that determines zoning and re-zoning? Did they even mention using an initiative to make it illegal for AES to conduct business in Redondo Beach?

No, no and no. And they never will because these seasoned politicians would never endorse tactics that are clearly counterproductive. They know there’s a right way and a wrong way to achieve our shared objective of discontinuing electricity production in Redondo Beach.

Unfortunately, the people who so desperately want you to support their ballot initiative hope you won’t notice that opposition to the power plant does not equate to an endorsement of their initiative. Nor is it an endorsement of the other tactics the no powerplant people use to get their park.

This is true for the politicians who have come out in favor or retiring the power plant and it can also be true about you. You can hate the powerplant and feel no need to sign a petition to change the zoning. I do.

What’s this? Haven’t I been keeping up with the news? It was recently announced that the proposed zoning will include museums, and some limited commercial development, not just a park.

I did get that news. I haven’t read the document describing the proposed zoning but I will guarantee the following. There is some backdoor way into 100% park/open space. How do I know this without even reading the document? Because the park people haven’t changed their objectives one bit. They’ve simply found a new tactic they hope to use to their benefit and they will continue to spin it the way they spin so many other parts of their message.

Before you read this post, didn’t you think Janice Hahn and Henry Waxman supported the initiative? It should be clear now they don’t and they won’t. Do you like being duped? I don’t.

So don’t let them dupe you into believing I’m a supporter of the powerplant. I’m not. Don’t let them make it about me. It isn’t. I’m just the messenger. Don’t shoot!

Misplaced Initiative

The July 10th City Council meeting was a real eye-opener. One of the things we learned forces me to retract statements I’ve made earlier and admit I was completely wrong.

I had assumed there were two sides to the AES Redondo Beach debate. The no power plant side that wants to force AES to stop generating power, had dominated the discussion. There also seem to be a few voices like mine saying we should work with AES to get the best deal for Redondo Beach, side #2.

We discovered Tuesday night there’s another side. There are people in the community who want a power plant in Redondo Beach. According to Councilman Aust’s count, only 40% of the people who spoke at the meeting supported no power plant. It’s never fun admitting you’re wrong but that’s what I’m doing. I’ve written repeatedly, no one wants the power plant and I was proven wrong.

We also discovered that the 4 of 5 coucilmen won’t let the high-volume rhetoric and threats of being characterized as taking no action on the power plant issue force them into voting for some meaningless resolution that sends a message that simply isn’t true. Councilman Brand says a resolution will send a message to the California Energy Commission (CEC). But considering there are at least two points of view that conflict with the no power plant opinion, can we really say that the community has a single message to send? Answer : no, and 4 of our 5 councilmen understood that fact and resisted pressure to follow the crowd. Bravo!

Councilman Brand and his long-time, no growth crusading partner Jim Light, have filed a document with the city of Redondo Beach stating they intend to circulate a petition to have an initiative placed on the March, 2013 ballot. The Light/Brand team may have lost the Measure G bout by a decisive knockout but they’re back in the zoning ring and ready to slug it out with anyone who dares to challenge them.

The initiative would call on voters to agree to phase out industrial uses of the AES land. A statement by Councilman Brand said, “The new zoning allows for 30-40% commercial development such as hotels, and 60-70% for museums, sports fields, wetlands, educational facilities and open space, among other uses.”

We sure are lucky to have people like Messrs. Light and Brand to figure all this stuff out for the rest of us and put it all into a neat package. We’re fortunate these two individuals routinely take the burden of figuring out things like community planning off the shoulders of our elected officials and do all the heavy lifting for the City Council and the rest of us.

In fairness to Mr. Brand, he is a member of the City Council. He was elected with 827 votes, which were all cast in district 2. With approximately 40,000 registered voters in the city, that comes to about 2% of the total voting population who have affirmed Mr. Brand’s authority to represent them. As far as I know, Mr. Light doesn’t currently hold any elected, appointed or hired position with the city of Redondo Beach.

The 2% of the people who chose Mr. Brand may be happy that he does much of their thinking for them but I’m pretty sure the 98% of the rest of us feel we might stand a fair chance of understanding and making decision all by ourselves. For the moment I’m going to stay away from examining the unfettered arrogance of these two men thinking they and they alone have the answers to how, when and why the AES site should be transformed and the only thing the rest of us need to do is sign off on their plan by giving them our votes in March.

Instead, I’m going to speak to the people who, like me, agree that we would be better off without a power plant in the South Bay. Mr. Brand and Mr. Light are hoping your agreement on that issue will allow them to leverage the rest of their no-growth agenda. Here’s where I’d like to ask my friends and neighbors to be very, very careful.

I see the situation this way. When politicians ask me if I want lower taxes, I say yes. So they can now legitimately say Harry Munns is on their side.

When they take steps to lower taxes that include laying off my nephew the firefighter, moving my sister the teacher into a lower-paying job and chiseling away at my mother, the retired teacher’s pension and benefits, I’m not necessarily still on their side. Yet, they still count me as a supporter even though I had no say in the tactics they used to achieve our common goal.

That’s exactly what’s happening here. The latest number of no power plant petition signatures I heard was 4,000+. Were all 4,000 of those people involved in deciding on 30-40% commercial development and 60-70% open space? Do they all know the full impact an initiative to change zoning will have on future and current development plans? Do they all know how much it will cost? I could come up with a whole list of other questions, all of which have the same answer, no.

There are 2 people driving this movement and almost none of the rest of us voted for the one that’s on the council and no one voted for the other one. The vast majority of voters weren’t even eligible to vote for the one who was elected. We have had no say in the decisions they made on details of an initiative that could have a huge impact on all our futures.

It’s OK to want cleaner air, a more attractive waterfront and new uses for the AES land that better serve the needs of the community. Almost everyone agrees with that.

The two main tactics Messrs. Brand and Light have proposed, a resolution from the City Council stating the community doesn’t want the power plant and an initiative to re-zone the AES land to exclude industrial uses are short-sighted, ill-conceived and potentially dangerous and costly mistakes.

Four of 5 city councilmen agreed with me on the first issue. They refused to second a motion by Councilman Brand to bring a resolution to a vote that would have said the city doesn’t want a power plant. Time will tell if the Light/Brand propaganda will continue to claim the City Council failed to act. Rest assured, they acted. They just didn’t act the way Mr. Light and Mr. Brand wanted them to act.

The City Council took action on an item that had already been approved. They voted again to have the city become an intervener in the AES application process. It means our City Council and the staff they rely upon to run the city on our behalf will have a seat at the table throughout the application process.

That settles the resolution. Now the citizens have to take control of the initiative issue the same way we took control of Measure G. Mr. Brand and Mr. Light have already begun asking for your money and your signature to get their initiative on the ballot. Don’t give them either.

Mr. Brand’s best argument for the resolution and the initiative are the need to “send a message” to the CEC. He’s willing to spend our money to send his message. It isn’t the first time.

If this initiative looks like it’s going to appear on the ballot, there’s only one way I see to combat it, one or more competing initiatives on the same ballot. The initiative that’s being proposed gives voters one choice, approve the terms and conditions Mr. Brand and Mr. Light have chosen for the AES property or don’t approve them.

There are other choices but if this initiative appears on the ballot by itself, we’ll never get to consider them. I’ve already heard talk of one or more competing initiatives.  Maybe there will be 3 or 4 competing initiatives and we’ll really have a choice. I won’t make any predictions about whose initiative will win other than to ask whether anyone remembers Measure UU?

Do the citizens of Redondo Beach really believe this is the way to govern our city? Sure it’s legal to follow the proper procedures and get an initiative on the ballot. What happens if every crybaby who doesn’t get his way at city hall re-tries his issue with an initiative? I’ve got a half dozen issues of my own that I believe deserve a vote by the people. I think I could convince enough people to sign a petition to get them on a ballot.

The initiative process is intended to allow citizens to have a method of getting popular, proposed legislation passed if a legislative body fails to comply with the wishes of the electorate. Listen closely to Mr. Brand’s reason for the initiative. He wants to send a message. It won’t change the outcome of AES’s re-powering application, although he claims it will based on his opinion alone. It won’t get the power plant torn down. It won’t get a park built. It will simply send a message. Is there a public outcry for a message? I haven’t heard one.

That message has been crafted by two individuals, one was put on the city council by 2% of the voters and the other holds no office. I hope I’m not the only one who noticed how wrong this is.

As Mr. Brand was repeating some part of his manifesto for the umpteenth time last night, he said, not passing the initiative was a green light for the CEC to grant AES’s license renewal. Dude, seriously? You expect anyone to buy that nonsense?

I agree that it’s time to send a message. My message goes Messrs. Brand and Light. Your agenda is not our agenda even though we may agree on some issues. Don’t continue to insult us by assuming we won’t notice you’re making huge, inaccurate presumptions about what the people of this city want and don’t want.

I made some inaccurate statements about what the people of this city want and don’t want. I got some new information and I admitted I was wrong at the beginning of this post. Well Mr. Brand and Mr. Light, it’s your turn.

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.

Naivete

I look at the death to AES campaign and see a cynical manipulation of a worthwhile public movement by self-serving political operatives. I can’t help it. That’s what I see.

One part of the campaign seems to be driven more by lack of understanding and business experience than anything more sinister.

The fundamental choice not to include AES and consider the company’s interests in a conversation that is intended to determine the fate of the company’s operations in Redondo Beach could only be categorized as naive. Even if the leadership of the anti-AES movement is correct and the popular sentiment against power generation in the South Bay manages to push AES into a corner, it’s naive to think the decisions the company makes will not have a huge impact on what ultimately transpires between AES and Redondo Beach. Those decisions may have more impact on the overall outcome than anything coming out of the California Energy Commission.

Big, strategic decisions in corporations are made by boards of directors (BOD). I currently serve on the board of directors of a company that conducts business around the world. I also served on the board of a national industry association for 6 years. That board was made up of CEOs of all major businesses within the industry.

I only mention this because I think I can provide some valuable insight based on experiences I’ve had that the people leading the charge to crush AES have not had. We’re not talking about your condo owners association. The people who sit on BOD are industry leaders. They’re the one percenters, the people Republicans call job creators.

A quick look at the AES board will reveal some credentials like Freddie Mac, World Bank, IRS Commissioner and work in the office of Secretary of Defense, to name a few. It’s worth checking out, AES Board.

Board members make the most critical decisions within a corporation yet hardly any of them have any operations experience in the company. They’re the big, global thinkers. They don’t need to know how to turn on the power plant or clean the smoke stacks. They need to know how to set the company’s strategic goals and move toward them.

These people know where to look for the information they need. They know how to sift through it quickly and get to the most important material. They rarely hesitate to make big decisions because their own business success came from making the right decisions more often than making the wrong decisions. They have a confidence that’s bolstered by habitual success.

I’ve participated in hundreds of board meetings. Here are two situations that are entirely possible, maybe even likely, based on that experience.

(Note: The following accounts of board meetings are COMPLETELY fictional. I made them up. Also, unlike my fellow board members, I am not a one percenter. I don’t have an attorney on retainer who can advise me on the legality of using real names so I opt for names I’ve made up.)

Situation #1

Chairman: “Our next agenda item is the future of AES Redondo Beach. You all know AES Southland President, Ed Entwhistle. I’d like to call Ed up to fill us all in on the status of the plant and the repowering application.”

Entwhistle: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. As you all know, we’re up for a license review and renewal. The current license expires in 2018.”

“You’re also well aware we’ve had considerable resistance from various factions within the community, to any plan to repower and resume operations beyond the 2018 expiration date. We have a city council that seems to blow in the direction of the prevailing wind so we can’t expect any guidance from them.”

“The people behind the public opposition just want a fight. They won’t talk or consider anything other than a complete shut down of the plant.”

“The board may want to consider some limited options for maximizing the return from the underlying real estate in the event we fail to get permitted. For now, I believe we need to focus all our lobbying and legal resources behind pushing the permitting process through the CEC. We may find a reason or an opportunity sometime in the future to offer some concession on land, operations or both but for now there’s no one to negotiate with. My recommendation is to petition state regulators for an expansion and complete build out of the plant to its total, potential capacity.”

Situation #2

Chairman: “Our next agenda item is the future of AES Redondo Beach. You all know AES Southland President, Ed Entwhistle. I’d like to call Ed up to fill us all in on the status of the plant and the repowering application.”

Entwhistle: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. As you all know, we’re up for a license review and renewal. The current license expires in 2018.”

“You’re also well aware we’ve had considerable resistance from various factions within the community to any plan to repower and resume operations beyond the 2018 expiration date. The city council has shown considerable leadership in facilitating dialogue between the staunchly, anti-power plant citizens and the people within the community who believe the best thing for Redondo Beach and the South Bay is for some kind of negotiated solution.”

“We have a community that’s somewhat receptive to a solution that provides some significant benefits to the city and surrounding areas. My recommendation is that AES capitalize on this opportunity for dialogue and make every effort to find a way to bridge the significant gaps between the interests of the company and those of the community.”

Of course, Mr. Entwhistle’s address to the BOD would have much more data and substance but his observations on the ground and his recommendations would most likely influence the board’s decision.

The anti-AES leadership would probably respond to these imaginary conversations by saying they didn’t care. They don’t need or want AES to participate in the discussion of the company’s future in the South Bay.

That predicted response is based on their behavior thus far on the powerplant issue and past behavior on DD and Measure G. But does everyone else in the community who wants the powerplant to shut down believe we are going to get the best deal possible with the least damage to the city by staging an assault that doesn’t even acknowledge AES’s rights as a property owner and partner in the community?

I remember one time I went to court to fight a ticket I got for turning right at a red light that was posted, no turning. I took pictures of the branches that obscured the sign and created speed calculations that clearly showed I couldn’t have seen the sign. After showing it all to the judge he said, “So?” That was that. I paid a $200 fine.

Every argument the anti-AES people have, the plant isn’t needed, no one wants it, etc. may be completely valid and true. But in the end, being right about all of it my have little or no impact on the CEC ruling for the new license.

When that ruling comes down, 2 or 3 years from now, AES might get everything they want, a permit for a new plant, maybe even an expansion. It’s anyone’s guess how that decision will go.

Which BOD do you want in charge of AES if that happens, the one from Situation #1 that’s been pulled into a fight with Redondo or the one from Situation #2 that’s agreed to try to find an equitable solution?

If that decision comes down in favor of AES’s application to re-power, the company will have no further incentive to give up any land or any part of its operations. If the relationship to the city is hostile, you can bet the city will get nothing. Although it might get a hefty legal bill if the anti-AES folks drag us in that direction.

On the other hand, the process of facilitating the concessions the company made to the city could be well underway at that point. There would be no going back regardless of how good a deal they got from the CEC.

I can only speak for one person who would like to see a Redondo Beach with no powerplant on its waterfront. That’s me. I’d rather deal with a big business in a business-like manner, than take a naive position that risks landing the city in a worse place than where it began.