A city council committee voted Tuesday to move forward with a plan that calls for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to report back on a timeline for the shutdown of the natural gas-powered Valley Generating Station in Sun Valley.
Council President Nury Martinez formally called for the shutdown of the plant in October following recent reports of methane gas leaks at the plant that took place for a year.
“For years, we’ve heard calls to shut down our coastal power plants, but nothing about power plants that are directly in the most polluted communities,” Martinez said.
“In fact, I’ve heard that efforts to shut down coastal power plants actually create an increase of operations and emissions at the Valley Generating Station. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it’s right, especially when there are kids in these areas that suffer from the highest asthma rates in L.A. County,” she added.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said people who care about having cleaner air in their neighborhood will support the council’s actions to decommission the plant. But he also said the council will have to make some difficult decisions to achieve the shutdown of Valley Generating Station and other gas-fired power plants while keeping the city’s energy levels adequate.
“I hope that people will continue to monitor this and realize that when we have to make those hard choices, this is the reason,” Krekorian said. “The reason that we make those hard choices is exactly so that we can decommission old, gas-fired power plants that people do not want in their neighborhoods … So I just call upon everybody who cares about this issue, stay engaged.”
The committee also voted to move forward a proposal that would authorize the DWP to issue a competitive bid for plans for the Valley Generating Station Units 1 through 4 demolition project. The units are large smokestacks that stretch across the area’s skyline.
DWP officials told the council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee that this is the first step to take down the old units that were built in the 1950s and have them demolished. They added that they plan to have a report by the first quarter of next year that will show “a pathway” to 2045, when the city aims to use 100% renewable energy.
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, northeast San Fernando Valley residents and organizations like Pacoima Beautiful.
Since then, the 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 show that low-income communities bear the brunt of pollution 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.
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 said the Valley Generating Station leak had been mostly repaired and that the emissions were considered low.
But the utility also 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.