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2 Other Gravel Pits Available : Firm Plans Waste Plant Despite Raiders Taking Site

August 30, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

IRWINDALE — Pacific Waste Management Corp. officials say they still plan to build a waste-to-energy plant here even though the site first planned for it is being given to the Los Angeles Raiders for a football stadium.

John McGrain, who heads Pacific Waste, said his company is looking at two other potential sites in gravel pits along the 605 Freeway south of Arrow Highway for the waste incineration plant. He expects his company to announce a firm proposal within 30 days.

But Irwindale City Manager Charles Martin said it is "virtually impossible" for Pacific Waste to meet terms of a contract it signed with the city Redevelopment Agency in 1984. He doubts that the plant will ever be built.

The contract requires Pacific Waste to complete an environmental impact report, line up a waste supply and obtain water and air quality permits for the plant by May 30, 1989.

Although it might be theoretically possible to meet that deadline, Martin said it does not seem likely. The city, wanting to determine where it stood legally, sought outside advice. Attorney James Coughlin concluded that Pacific Waste has already breached the contract by falling behind a time schedule in the agreement.

Despite Coughlin's opinion, Martin said it is unlikely that the city will cancel the agreement before 1989 because that might invite a lawsuit from Pacific Waste. It would be better to let the project "die a lingering death" than to risk a lawsuit, he said.

Martin said that in 1984 the city offered Pacific Waste a choice of three gravel pits as locations for a plant. The site Pacific Waste selected, north of the Foothill Freeway at Irwindale Avenue, has been promised to the Los Angeles Raiders for a football stadium.

Martin said Pacific Waste was "very cooperative" in relinquishing its claim to the site to allow the city to work out an agreement with the Raiders.

With the preferred site no longer available, Pacific Waste is again looking at the two other pits. Martin said the 1984 agreement allows Pacific Waste to select either pit.

The Irwindale Resource Recovery Authority sold $395 million in bonds for the Pacific Waste plant in 1984. The financing plan, which has been Pacific Waste's key asset in trying to develop the project, cannot be used unless the plant is built in Irwindale. Bondholders will get their money back if the plant is not built.

Last April, after trying for more than two years to fulfill requirements imposed by the state Energy Commission, Pacific Waste sought to withdraw its application to build a plant to burn 3,000 tons of trash a day. The commission refused to allow Pacific Waste to withdraw the application and instead voted to terminate the proceedings.

McGrain then announced that Pacific Waste would redesign the project so it would burn up to 1,000 tons of trash a day and would be small enough to no longer require a permit from the Energy Commission.

But the smaller plant would need several other permits, including a conditional use permit from Irwindale and an air quality permit from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

One of the stumbling blocks to the project has been Pacific Waste's inability to satisfy state and federal air pollution requirements. Neighboring cities, citizens groups and others claim that the plant would release pollutants that would damage air quality and threaten public health. Pacific Waste has contended that it can meet air pollution requirements through stringent controls on the plant and by arranging to reduce pollution from other sources.

McGrain said Pacific Waste has spent more than $10 million on the Irwindale project. Most of the money has come from interest earned on proceeds from the $395-million bond issue.

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