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Incinerator Vote in L.A. Is Praised : Scholl Canyon: The Los Angeles City Council refuses to support a motion opposing construction of a trash burning plant at the Glendale landfill.

April 26, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council surprised Glendale this week by refusing to support a motion that urged opposition to a proposed incinerator in Scholl Canyon that would burn 350 tons of trash daily.

In fact, several Los Angeles council members praised Glendale for considering an innovative solution to the region's waste disposal problems.

In voting to require all incinerator projects in Southern California to undergo environmental and health risk reviews before approval, the council snubbed an earlier motion by Councilman Richard Alatorre, whose district adjoins the landfill, that had urged opposition to a Glendale incinerator.

The project is under discussion by some Glendale officials. But its strongest proponent, Glendale Councilman Carl Raggio, was encouraged by Tuesday's vote because neighboring Los Angeles could have been a powerful foe if the incinerator plan moves forward.

"I'm happy to hear that," Raggio said, after learning about the Los Angeles vote. "I think they recognize that we'll have to use new and different methods to dispose of waste."

Last summer, Raggio toured an incinerator plant in Commerce that burns 350 tons of garbage daily and generates electricity in the process. Raggio suggested Glendale build a similar plant in its own Scholl Canyon landfill.

But Alatorre urged that his city oppose a Glendale incinerator unless comprehensive environmental reviews and health risk assessments are first completed.

Raggio said he believed Alatorre's move was partly a response to Glendale's earlier decision to stop accepting Los Angeles waste at Scholl Canyon. Glendale's decision generated significant friction between the two cities.

Alatorre's motion was unanimously endorsed by the Los Angeles Council's environmental quality and waste management committee. Its intergovernmental relations committee then expanded the measure to oppose all incinerator projects unless environmental and health reviews are completed.

But at Tuesday's meeting, Los Angeles Councilman Hal Bernson said Glendale should be praised--not discouraged--for considering waste disposal alternatives.

"The city of Glendale is doing what the city of Los Angeles should be doing," Bernson said.

To remove the negative tone from the motion, Bernson proposed that it drop the word "oppose." His revised motion stated that the council will require all incinerator projects in Southern California to undergo environmental and health risk reviews before approval.

Council members Ruth Galanter and Marvin Braude cast the only votes against the motion, saying they preferred the original, stronger wording.

"The question I raised was how can we 'require' it of something that is outside our city," Galanter said.

She said council members such as Bernson and Joel Wachs, who also supported the Glendale project, favor incinerators because of growing landfill problems in or near their districts. Galanter said she endorses expanded recycling.

Environmental groups have opposed incinerator projects, claiming their airborne emissions may pose health risks. In 1987, bowing to a strong public outcry, Los Angeles officials abandoned the ambitious Lancer trash-to-energy incinerator proposed for SouthCentral Los Angeles.

But Raggio said the increasing shortage of landfill space is prompting public officials to reconsider incinerators. He said he was impressed by the Commerce plant, which is considerably smaller than the proposed Lancer project.

"I'd like to see something like that in Glendale eventually," said Raggio, who is an aerospace engineer.

He said Glendale's decision to stop accepting Los Angeles waste at Scholl Canyon has extended the life of that landfill another 20 years. He said that gives Glendale enough time to do extensive studies on the feasibility and safety of a Scholl Canyon incinerator. He said it might be operated in a partnership with neighboring cities such as Pasadena.

Raggio said he is awaiting test results regarding the Commerce incinerator operation. Although the Glendale council as a whole has not initiated a Scholl Canyon incinerator project, Raggio said, local feedback regarding his tour of the Commerce plant left him optimistic.

"I got some very favorable comments on it," the councilman said. "And it came from a cross-section of people."

Times staff writer Amy Pyle contributed to this story.

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