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Air Panel Forces Plant Blamed for Odors to Shut

November 01, 1986|MYRON LEVIN | Times Staff Writer

A Sun Valley waste-to-energy plant accused of emitting sickening odors will be at least temporarily shut down Monday morning following a decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to deny it an operating permit.

Pacific Lighting Energy Systems, which generates electricity by burning gas coming from decaying trash at the inactive Penrose Pit landfill at 8301 Tujunga Ave., was notified of the permit denial Friday, which normally would have required immediate shutdown of the power plant.

However, an air-district hearing board approved an emergency variance allowing the company to run the plant through the weekend to conduct tests, air-district and company officials said.

The tests are intended "to determine if the (generator) engine exhausts and the roof vents could be a potential source of odors," said Tony Henrich, manager of investor and public relations for Pacific Lighting Energy Systems.

The variance expires at 4 a.m. Monday, by which time the plant is to be shut down, according to Henrich and Peter Greenwald, senior deputy district counsel for the air-quality district.

Not Certain of Source

Company officials have consistently maintained that they are not certain that the power plant is the cause of the odor problem.

A public hearing on the controversy is to resume Monday morning before the air-district hearing board. Greenwald said Friday night that he and Pacific Lighting officials are trying to negotiate an agreement to put before the board that would allow the power plant to operate at night.

Along with the landfill itself, the 9-megawatt power plant--which produces enough power to serve thousands of homes--has been cited by the air district 23 times in the last three months for emitting noxious odors. Office workers and drivers for two firms next door that provide dial-a-ride transportation for the elderly and handicapped have complained of nausea, headaches and eye irritation because of the odors.

The hearing board on Tuesday began considering the air district's petition for an order to close the power plant until the odor problem is corrected.

Notified of Denial

However, on Friday, when the hearing entered its second day, Pacific Lighting was notified that its operating permit had been formally denied, an action that had the same effect as a shutdown order.

The plant opened 10 months ago under the authority of its construction permit, which served as a temporary license until an operating permit might be issued.

Without an operating permit, the plant can be run only "at the pleasure of . . . the hearing board," Greenwald said. He said air-district officials might agree next week to allow the plant to operate between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. in return for actions by Pacific Lighting "to cure this problem in the long term."

Pacific Lighting Energy Systems has seven other electric power plants that run on gas from decaying trash. The company is a subsidiary of Pacific Lighting Corp., a giant holding company whose principal subsidiary is Southern California Gas Co.

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