Alyssa Morin

Redondo Beach power plant noise focus of complaints

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AES’s images of the current and proposed power plant at 1100 North Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach.

AES’s images of the current and proposed power plant at 1100 North Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach.

The state agency overseeing the AES power plant’s application to repower on the Redondo Beach waterfront held a public workshop Monday night and heard an earful about noise.

The California Energy Commission’s workshop, attended by about 75 community members at the Portofino Hotel conference center, was intended to give an airing to local concerns regarding the power plant.  In late 2102, AES, seeking to comply with new state laws that outlaw the existing plant’s “once through” use of ocean water for cooling, formally applied with the CEC to construct a smaller, more modern plant.

In August of last year, the CEC accepted the application as “data adequate” moving the process into the second stage, discovery and analysis.

What the CEC discovered Monday is that some local residents find existing noise levels emanating from the plant unacceptable, and city officials from both Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach don’t believe AES’s projections for the noise impacts of a future plant are being conducted in good faith.

The panel leading Tuesday night’s workshop included Patricia Kelly, project manager for the CEC, Stephen O’Kane, AES’ manager of sustainability and regulatory compliance, Bill Brand of the Redondo Beach City Council, John Wellner, outside counsel for Redondo Beach and Jim Light of civic activist group “Building a Better Redondo.”

The first hours of the four-hour meeting were centered around the question of noise.

AES had been asked last year to expand its area of noise monitoring to better predict the impact of noise and vibration an active power plant would have on the neighboring residents.  Brand voiced concern over the scope of the noise monitoring.

“The plant is right on the Hermosa line,” said Brand. “Why wasn’t Hermosa monitored?”

Recently elected Hermosa Beach City Council Member Hany Fangary echoed Brand’s suspicion when he took to the podium moments later.

“When I was running for City Council I walked around these neighborhoods,” Fangary said. “There are hundreds of homes in Hermosa that are closer to the facility than in Redondo. People bought those houses thinking that the plant would be going away. I have some serious concerns about this for my community.”

O’Kane responded that the noise monitoring is only at the beginning stages.

“These points are just to calibrate the model,” he said. “We will be expanding the area of monitoring. There will be noise predictions all over the neighborhood.”

Kelly suggested that Fangary or the City of Hermosa Beach file to become a formal intervener in the process so that he can join the discussion.

Wellner , the attorney representing Redondo Beach, then spoke frankly about the city’s issues with AES’s noise data.

“We think that AES, from the beginning of the process, has been difficult and given us trouble at every turn to provide basic noise data,” he said. “The operation site of the plant will shift to the far northeast corner. From the beginning, AES has been providing noise data from the far west and far south. In addition, the initial CEC request was not for what study would be proposed but for the results of the studies and that was due on Oct 15. Now it’s February and we are hoping to get data on far reduced studies by the summer.”

“The CEC is desperately trying to get info to make their decision and they are being blocked repeatedly by AES,” Wellner continued. “The CEC is not powerless in this process — they don’t have to approve the facility if they don’t have significant information. We seem to have a recalcitrant applicant and I urge you not to reward them. It is not sufficient to promise not violate rules in future when AES’s track record is so dismal in the past.”

Light received widespread applause from the audience when he questioned the CEC’s ability to regulate noise at the power plant.

“AES has been a bad neighbor to us,” Light said. “I live over a mile away and there are times when I get woken up. This has been going on since AES bought the plant. We are skeptical that any future noise requirements and a complaint hotline is going to address that.”

“Forgive us for not trusting you,” he said. “You’re telling me when I have an open window with a screen, the screen will drop the noise level by ten decibels? And if not, I call a hotline. So by the time we leave a message on the hotline and someone listens to it, then what? If I as a resident thinks it’s too loud, how do I prove that it is too loud? I don’t have the equipment.”

After discussion of possible traffic implications for an active power plant, the community members in the audience got their chance at the podium. Many of the commenters were familiar faces in the power plant battle.

Zein Obagi, current candidate for Congress, spoke largely of health concerns surrounding the plant.

“Wind flows inland so any emissions from this plant will go inward,” said Obagi. “Cancer is world’s largest killer and the greatest killer in cancer is lung cancer. The seventh highest factor in lung cancer in urban air pollution. And there was just a study put out last month by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences studying a natural gas facility in rural Colorado. It found that, in a ten mile radius of the plant, there are twice as many defects in babies, and babies [are] 38 percent more likely to have heart defects….Putting a gas plant in a densely populated doesn’t sound like a smart idea to me.”

Arlene Staich, former Redondo Beach school board member and outspoken proponent of the power plant, once again expressed support of the AES project.

“The noise levels are a matter of change daily,” said Staich. “It does take time to gather the data and analyze it. I expect that they will comply. In terms of health effects, the plant will create less particulates in the air than the cars on our streets. I think the AES will be open to multiple uses to work on the waterfront and change their footprint in the community. How much money does Redondo Beach want to spend to stop the process, a process that I think is a good one?”

The workshop adjourned after over four hours of discussion. It has not yet been announced when the CEC will host another workshop to further explore the data and analysis required of AES.