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Rep. Waxman asks state to reject new Redondo Beach power plant

September 30, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • The AES power plant has been the subject of controversy for decades in Redondo Beach, where many residents consider it an eyesore.
The AES power plant has been the subject of controversy for decades in Redondo… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

A South Bay congressman called on the California Energy Commission to reject a controversial proposal to replace an aging power plant near the Redondo Beach waterfront with a new, smaller plant.

The fate of the plant, which came online in 1948 and is near homes and the city’s popular King Harbor area, has been a point of contention for decades. Many residents consider the facility an eyesore.

“We should take this opportunity to permanently retire the power plant in Redondo Beach if it is feasible to do so,” Waxman wrote in a letter to the commission, which launched a review of the project last month and will hold its first public hearing Tuesday.

In his letter, Waxman suggested that shutting down the gas-powered plant would help relieve regional air pollution and would have little effect on the area's power supply. Redondo Beach officials have said they believe the region's power needs can be met through existing plants in Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, and El Segundo.

The project is an effort by AES, the plant's owner, to fall in line with new state regulations that require the facility to eliminate once-through cooling, which uses seawater to cool turbines and then pumps hot water back into the ocean. The Redondo Beach plant must comply by 2020 or risk being shut down.

An AES executive said in a recent interview that the existing plant provides needed power to the region and that the new plant would continue to do so.

“We really should allow the CEC to review the application and all the evidence and let it run its process to make a determination,” said Jennifer Didlo, president of AES Southland.

Didlo said the AES plant will provide stable power resources that can come online quickly, something the company believes will become increasingly important as the state relies more on renewable energy sources.

If approved by the commission, the new plant would be less than one-fourth the facility’s current footprint and would use air-cooling technology rather than ocean water.

City leaders and residents have long fought to erase the plant, situated on prime oceanfront real estate. Various efforts to redevelop the site have called for the addition of housing, parks or open space on the 52-acre lot.

Tensions have been increasing for months as the company’s operating permit nears expiration. A ballot measure that would have zoned the plant out of existence once its permits expire lost in March by 257 votes.

In July, the City Council passed a resolution opposing the new plant and has since authorized city staff to spend up to $260,000 opposing AES’s proposal in the comission's review process.

City leaders are also considering a moratorium that would ban any new power plant construction, hoping to trigger a closer review from the CEC to determine whether the power generated by the new plant is needed in the region, said City Atty. Michael Webb.

The commission, which could take as long as a year to review the project, will hold its first public hearing Tuesday at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.


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