Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez is formally calling for the shutdown of the natural gas-powered Valley Generating Station in Sun Valley, the site of recently disclosed methane gas leaks.
Martinez introduced a motion toward the end of a long City Council meeting Wednesday, demanding that a timeline be established for when the power plant can be shuttered.
“When it comes to environmental justice and climate change, communities like Sun Valley have dealt with the harmful impacts of decades of bad policy, but are often overlooked when solutions are proposed in favor of more affluent coastline communities,” Martinez said.
“(This) action puts Sun Valley first in that discussion. The Sun Valley Generating Station needs to close before any others are even considered, and we need a timeline on when that should happen. The residents of Sun Valley and Northeast Los Angeles deserve environmental justice.”
Operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the plant has been critical to maintaining overall reliability of the city’s electricity grid.
In late August, DWP officials told the agency’s Board of Commissioners about methane gas leaks at the plant that began in July 2019, information that was not previously shared with the local community or area representatives. Martinez said the disclosure “outraged” her and organizations like Pacoima Beautiful and Northeast San Fernando Valley residents.
Since then, DWP has substantially repaired the leak, but the facility still poses a threat to the health of residents in an area that is already one of the most environmentally affected in the state, Martinez said.
Data by CalEnviroScreen shows that low-income communities bear the brunt of environmental affects in Los Angeles and throughout the state, and Martinez said she and her colleagues also support Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Green New Deal for the city.
That deal includes cutting in half the number of communities in the East San Fernando Valley that are ranked in the top third of affected communities by CalEnviroScreen.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ranks Sun Valley as being in the 95th percentile of the state’s affected communities on the CalEnviroscreen tool.
“We commend Council President Martinez’ motion calling for DWP to identify an end date for gas operations at Valley Generation Station,” said Veronica Padilla, the executive director of Pacoima Beautiful. “Our community has carried the health burden of burning gas for long enough. It is time for our city to embrace a clean energy future by prioritizing frontline communities like Sun Valley.”
Sun Valley is bordered by freeways and also contains numerous garbage dumps and other industrial facilities. The concentration of harmful land uses in the neighborhood has a cumulative affect on the health of nearby residents, Martinez said.
In September, the DWP stated that the Valley Generating Station leak had been mostly repaired and that the emissions were considered low.
But, DWP stated, “…We are very sensitive to the concerns of local residents in the Northeast Valley and want to assure the community that (DWP) is working on immediate interim steps to address the situation,” which includes minimizing the use of the plant as much as possible.
Martinez’s motion will be heard in the council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee, which she chairs.
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