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Bill May Clear Way for Trash-to-Energy Plant

April 14, 1985|ERIC BAILEY | Times Staff Writer

Two state senators plan to introduce legislation that would clear the way for a proposed $66-million trash-to-energy plant in Long Beach that has been blocked by the state Waste Management Board.

Sens. Ralph C. Dills (D-Gardena) and Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) will introduce a bill Wednesday that would authorize construction of the plant, according to Long Beach City Manager John Dever.

The plant, called the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility, has been caught in a three-way struggle among the state, county officials and the City of Los Angeles.

On April 4, the state Waste Management Board refused to grant final approval to the proposed trash-to-energy plant because Los Angeles County has failed to update its waste management plan.

Long Beach 'a Pawn'

"We've been engaged in this project for five years," Dills said. "The waste management board is using Long Beach as a pawn in the fight to get the Board of Supervisors to adopt a countywide plan."

Beverly could not be reached for comment.

Sherman Roodzant, chairman of the state Waste Management Board, said that under state law the board cannot approve projects in counties that do not have updated waste plans. Los Angeles County has not submitted a plan since 1977.

But Long Beach officials have maintained that the state waste board is "holding the project hostage" in an effort to force the county to submit its plan, which is a blueprint for the management of waste in the Los Angeles area over the next decade.

Hands Are Tied

Roodzant said Thursday that the state waste board backs the Long Beach project but had its hands tied because of state law.

"We've been very supportive of the project, but we've had to operate under the constraints of the law," Roodzant said. "If the Legislature wants to change the law, we will support it."

Roodzant expressed concern, however, that any action by the Legislature could set a precedent, opening the door for projects from other counties that have failed to upgrade their waste management plans. Los Angeles County is among 10 counties in the state that have not updated their plans.

In addition to introducing legislation, Dills has attempted to block the confirmation of Roodzant and two others appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian to the state Waste Management Board in June, 1984. By law, the three must be confirmed within a year of appointment or they are out of a job.

Roodzant said he believes Dills will probably drop the effort. When the senator took the action last Monday, he was "not aware what our side of the story was," Roodzant said.

May Not Back Down

But Dills said he is not yet prepared to back down.

"I hope they would understand that the time is not right for us to confirm them when they've blocked this project," Dills said.

Los Angeles County's waste management plan has been held up because of a bureaucratic tug of war between county officials and the City of Los Angeles.

County officials want two canyons in the San Fernando Valley included in the management plan as future landfill sites. They say Rustic-Sullivan and Mission canyons are needed so Los Angeles can handle the thousands of tons of trash city residents produce each day.

But Los Angeles city officials, pushed by residents living on the slopes above the canyons, have refused to let the two sites be used as landfills.

Dever said the legal counsel to the state Legislature was drafting the statute for Long Beach on Thursday. On Wednesday, the legislation is to go before the Senate Rules Committee and should be presented before the Senate during the next week, Dills said.

Delay Increases Cost

"If everyone really pulls out all the stops, and there's no opposition, it could be adopted in a couple of weeks," Dever said. "But it's likely to be a month or so."

That delay would not jeopardize the project but would add to the cost of the plant, Dever said. Because of inflation, the plant's cost increases $318,000 each month it is delayed, said Bill Davis, manager of the city's solid waste program.

The project, which is scheduled to be operating by 1988, would be the largest trash-to-energy plant in Southern California, handling about 900 tons of garbage each day.

In addition, enough electricity would be produced each day to power 18,000 houses.

The city has already purchased a 17-acre site for the plant on Terminal Island using $6.8 million in redevelopment funds.

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