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Assembly Panel Advances Tougher Waste Measures

March 26, 1987|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Monday approved four bills designed to make it tougher to dispose of waste--either at landfills or trash incinerators--in the San Gabriel Valley.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte), also would require Los Angeles County for the first time to establish a plan to spread trash disposal throughout the county. Tanner estimated that about two-thirds of the county's trash is dumped in the San Gabriel Valley.

Tanner predicted that if her bills become law "we will reduce the amount of waste that we take into the San Gabriel Valley."

Three of the measures were sent to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the fourth was sent to the Assembly floor. Tanner acknowledged that they face an uncertain fate, saying, "This isn't going to be a cakewalk. It's going to be a tough fight."

Supporters of Tanner's bills include Miller Brewing Co., which has opposed a waste-to-energy plant proposed near its Irwindale brewery, and the city of Duarte. Among the critics were Pacific Waste Management Corp., which has proposed the Irwindale plant, and business groups concerned that changes in air quality regulations could block construction of industrial plants.

Tanner seeks to force any waste-to-energy plant to draw 50% of its trash from surrounding homes and businesses. In the case of Pacific Waste or any other incinerator planned in the San Gabriel Valley, half the trash would be required to come from the San Gabriel Valley.

Pacific Waste, which initially wants to burn 2,250 tons of trash a day, so far has signed contracts for 2,000 tons of waste with Carson-based Western Waste Industries, which collects most of its trash in the South Bay.

After the hearing, Mark White, a Pacific Waste vice president, criticized the bill as a potential "roadblock" to construction of its $395-million Irwindale plant.

"If it was law now, it would be very difficult for us" because "we'd have to get waste from within the valley," White said.

The project is already facing other roadblocks. Pacific Waste's permit application for the plant was suspended by the state Energy Commission last year. On Wednesday, the commission's siting committee recommended that the permit process be terminated, saying Pacific Waste has failed to meet air-pollution offset requirements and citing what it called "misuse of the commission's regulatory process."

Stiffer Standards Sought

In another bill, Tanner seeks to stiffen the standards for offset credits granted for plants proposed in "sensitive zones" such as the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys and the Riverside-San Bernardino area, where the air is heavily polluted.

Under current law, a plant proposed in the San Gabriel Valley could offset its pollution by purchasing offset credits in Santa Monica. But under Tanner's bill, before the offset would be granted, the plant would be required to demonstrate that the valley's air quality would directly benefit from an offset so far away.

Jack Michael, a lobbyist for Los Angeles County, questioned Tuesday whether the air quality district has the technology to determine if an offset has helped a specific area such as the San Gabriel Valley.

A third Tanner bill would establish a "fair share" system for trash disposal in Los Angeles County. Tanner said her intent is to force different parts of the county to "recognize (that) if they generate a certain amount of waste they will have to manage it."

The bill requires that the county's solid waste management plan be revised to provide for equitable distribution of trash disposal in the county. Currently, one trash-to-energy plant has been completed in the City of Commerce, another is under construction in Long Beach and others are proposed in the San Gabriel Valley and near downtown Los Angeles.

Projects Might Go Elsewhere

"The net effect (of the bill) might mean the projects are built elsewhere," said a consultant to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Los Angeles County lobbyist Michael said the bills might also step up pressure to consider controversial proposals to use Westside canyon areas as landfills.

Michael said the county already has begun to take steps to spread trash disposal throughout the county. He said the county expects to meet that goal in all areas, except possibly the South Bay. "There's a lot of waste generated down there, but there's no place for a facility," he said.

A fourth Tanner bill--which was sent to the Assembly floor--deals with the time allowed for the air quality district to approve permits for waste-to-energy plants. Under current law, air districts have up to a year to rule on an application; otherwise, the plant is deemed to be approved. Tanner's bill would eliminate that automatic approval.

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