The state Energy Commission will receive its hearing officer's recommendation next month on whether it should overrule the county Sanitation Districts and assert authority over waste-to-energy and gas-to-energy projects at Puente Hills landfill.
Garret Shean, the hearing officer, conducted hearings last week in La Puente and the City of Industry on a complaint filed by the Hacienda Heights Improvement Assn. 15 months ago against the county Sanitation Districts, which operate the landfill. The complaint accuses the districts of trying to evade the jurisdiction of the commission, which has permitting authority on power projects that generate more than 50 megawatts of electricity.
Shean, who was assigned by the commission to hear the dispute, said he will submit a proposed decision to the commission in late June.
B. Richard Marsh, attorney for the Sanitation Districts, said that neither a plant that is now in operation and burns landfill gas to create electricity nor any proposed waste-to-energy projects are yet at a stage where they would require commission approval.
He said the gas-to-energy plant cannot generate more than 46.5 megawatts of power, although there is ample landfill gas for a larger system. The districts, which are governed by city and county officials, have not decided whether to expand the gas-to-energy plant or choose some other option, such as converting the gas to methanol, he said.
No Commitment to Build
Marsh said the districts have not made a commitment to build plants to burn trash to create electricity at Puente Hills despite the filing of plans with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to build two plants of 47 megawatts each. The filings are merely part of an effort to study and plan facilities and do not represent a decision to build them, he said. Even if the Energy Commission ultimately takes jurisdiction, he said, the Sanitation Districts have a duty to perform their own environmental studies first.
Wil Baca, representing the Hacienda Heights homeowners group, was joined by an attorney representing both the city of Duarte and a city of Industry developer, and by the commission staff in urging that the commission assume jurisdiction. They contended that it is clear that the districts intend to build projects exceeding 50 megawatts.
Baca said the Energy Commission needs to take control because construction of the plants involves not only environmental questions, but also power issues. The Energy Commission is the only agency in a position to assess the need for the electrical power and its cost to consumers, he said.