After hearing from members of the public both in support of and against the AES proposal to re-build its Harbor Drive plant Tuesday night, the Redondo Beach Board of Education passed a resolution 4-1, with Jane Diehl dissenting, that states opposition to the project if it fails to meet certain criteria.
Responding to resident concerns about whether the school board has the “authority” to make a decision about the issue, Board President Anita Avrick said the resolution has “nothing to do with Measure A.” She said the resolution represents an opportunity for the board to express to the California Energy Commission – which will decide whether the AES plant is necessary for meeting the area’s energy production needs – its concerns about the welfare of Redondo Beach students.
There are approximately 6,500 students attending schools within a 1.5 mile radius of the power plant.
Initially, the resolution stated that the Board of Education will oppose the re-powering project unless the new plant “meets all the requirements, regulations and standards of the Federal Clean Air Act, the US EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Quality Management District, without any exemptions.”
At Tuesday’s meeting there was hemming and hawing about the verbiage of the resolution, drafted by members Laura Emdee and Drew Gamet, and ultimately the board voted 3-2 to strike the words “without any exemptions” from the document.
Opponents of the power plant said after the meeting they were pleased with the school board’s decision, but disappointed with the removal of the exemptions clause from the resolution.
“This plant is not going to be cleaner – that’s why they [AES] are asking for exemptions,” District 2 Councilman Bill Brand said during the meeting.
About 50 people turned out to Tuesday’s meeting, many of them wearing ‘Yes AES’ badges and some wearing ‘NoPowerPlant’ pins.
For a total of 15 minutes, opponents raised concerns about the impact they believe a new power plant will have on the health of local students.
Neurologist Roger Light told the board he hears “from AES apologists that cars or fireplaces put out more pollution” than the power plant, and suggested that argument was akin to “saying we should not try to cure cancer because more people die from heart disease.”
He argued the plant will be the “number one single polluter in Redondo Beach and will lead to more premature death and disability.”
Board member Todd Loewenstein said his first priority is student health, noting that 33,000 people died from Chernobyl radiation and that in one year (2000), 288,000 people died globally from particulate matter generated by the burning of fossil fuels. He asked everyone present to “go home and Google particulate matter.”
Dr. Lori Zaremski thanked the Board of Education for living up to its “responsibility to look at the proposed source of pollution through the lens of student well-being.”
For another 15 minutes, supporters of the power plant (or opponents of Measure A) had their say.
Resident Joe Lenihan said that “the power plant has been there for 100 years,” and that thousands of “intelligent, bright, wonderful students” have passed through the Redondo Beach schools, which “have done terrific, both locally and nationally” despite their proximity to the power plant.
A resident who has called Redondo Beach home for 53 years said he trusts that authorities in Sacramento “are going to make sure we don’t get a bad plant” by ensuring the AES project meets statewide environmental standards.
AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft told the board that power plant opponents are “misleading the community” and that the proposed plant will be “cleaner” and “more efficient” than the current version. He called the exemption clause within the school board resolution “tricky and controversial.”
Pendergraft explained that the proposed plant “meets certain criteria that allow it to use a regulation that the [Air Quality Management District, or AQMD] has put in place that says the AQMD will supply the [emission reduction] credits, not AES.”
He described the exemption as an “incentive to replace old power plants with newer technology that is better for the environment” and said AES’ project will not be “circumventing air quality regulations… [which] would never be allowed in California.”
The final resolution passed Tuesday indicates the school board will oppose the project unless it “meets all the requirements, regulations and standards of the Federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Quality Management District; and…installs the best available pollution control technology; and…is of vital necessity to the energy security of the Redondo Beach Unified School District.”
In other power plant news, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, the League of Women Voters is hosting a meeting at the Redondo Beach Public Library from 5:45 p.m., at which both opponents and proponents of Measure A are scheduled to speak. ER