SACRAMENTO — In a setback for opponents of waste-to-energy plants in the San Gabriel Valley, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee has rejected a bill by Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte) aimed at preventing the construction of three high-tech incinerators proposed for Puente Hills and Irwindale.
Tanner could persuade only three committee members to support her bill, while eight voted against it.
Among the supporters were Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier), whose district covers part of the San Gabriel Valley, and Assemblyman Charles Bader (R-Pomona).
On Thursday, Tanner said that in her four terms as a lawmaker she had "never been so devastated" by the defeat of a bill because the waste-to-energy plants would exacerbate the already polluted air in the San Gabriel Valley.
Tanner said her bill was designed to short-circuit plans for two plants--Pacific Waste Management Corp.'s 80-megawatt facility, proposed to burn 3,000 tons of trash a day in Irwindale, and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts' two proposed incinerators at the Puente Hills landfill that could burn as much as 10,000 tons of trash daily.
Tanner's bill would have prohibited local and state agencies from granting approval for incinerators that generate at least 30 megawatts of electricity in the South Coast air basin and in such areas as the San Gabriel Valley, where more than half the municipal waste produced in Los Angeles County is disposed of.
Tanner said that 10 Ways and Means Committee members had been informally committed to supporting her proposal. She contended that they backed down under intense lobbying by a coalition of waste-to-energy firms, construction unions, engineering firms that design equipment for the plants and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts.
Tanner pointed out that Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Alhambra), who represents parts of the San Gabriel Valley, was at the hearing but declined to vote on the issue.
Calderon, who said that Tanner had not spoken to him about the bill, acknowledged that the bill was "heavily lobbied" by the waste-to-energy industry.
Calderon said that he prefers another measure by Assemblyman Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto), which would require that waste-to-energy plants add new pollution control equipment to meet future air quality standards.
"Waste-to-energy technology may not be the answer, but it is the most promising that has emerged as one alternative to the waste management problem," Calderon asserted.
Assemblyman Hill said that opponents turned the legislation into a "cause celebre" that would affect the entire state.
Instead, he contended, it was a "district bill," which would affect only the San Gabriel Valley. Often, legislators defer to their colleagues on district issues.
The dispute over waste-to-energy plants, especially the amount of pollutants that would go into the air, has sparked a major debate in the Legislature this year. More than a dozen bills have been introduced, ranging from plans to speed development to prohibitions of all or some plants.
Controversy over the issue, in large measure, has been fueled by plans of Pacific Waste Management to burn trash at an Irwindale plant and generate electricity to be sold to Southern California Edison Co.