Citing fears of increased smog, the Ojai City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the pending merger of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.
The city of Ventura postponed taking a position on the merger Monday because its council meeting was running too long to discuss the matter, said Margaret Armstrong, assistant to the city manager. The matter was rescheduled for next Monday.
Following a recent similar action by Simi Valley, the Ojai council directed its staff to write a letter to the state Public Utilities Commission voicing its opposition to the merger.
"If this merger did not take place, this county could come much closer to having clean air," said Mayor Nina Shelley.
If the commission approves the merger later this year, Edison's two power plants at Ormond Beach and Mandalay Bay in south Oxnard will step up their electrical production and raise the average emissions of pollutants by 200 tons a year. Operating at less than half their capacity, the plants already generate 18% of the smog components produced in the county.
Due to its warm climate and air that is trapped by mountains, Ojai is second to Simi Valley in having the county's worst air quality.
Last month, Ojai joined Oxnard in asking the supervisors to delay signing an agreement with Edison officials that requires the utility to offset its anticipated increase in air pollution.
The supervisors, acting as the Ventura County Air Pollution Control Board, signed the agreement on June 19 over protests from the cities and environmentalists. Opponents urged the supervisors to wait until the PUC had determined specific increases in air pollution in its final environmental impact report. The commission was expected to complete the EIR in late June but has delayed its release until Aug. 10.
Pat Baggerly of Ojai, a member of the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County, presented the Ojai council with a long list of concerns about the agreement and the merger's potential impacts on the environment.
Representatives from Edison and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District told the council the agreement requires the electric company to take steps to reduce air pollution over the next five years that would more than compensate for any additional emissions from the power plants.
The American Lung Assn. of California also recently opposed the merger, calling the county's agreement premature and imprudent. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended the merger's EIR be redesigned to show how any increase in pollution could interfere with the county's court order to meet federal clean air standards.