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Perhaps The End Of “Dinosaur” Fuel For Powering Glendale

Time to shut down that natural gas power source in Glendale.

(Photo by Rick Canter)

After a rally in support of moving Glendale away from using fossil fuels to produce power and a marathon meeting in which supporters of reopening the Grayson gas-fired power plant and those seeking cleaner energy squared off, the Glendale City Council decided to hold off on voting on the current Environmental Impact Report. Instead, the council will ask for RFIs (request for information) for alternatives to the uses of gas.

On the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was a vote on the EIR to move the renovation project forward. The interest level in the meeting drew so many that two overflow rooms were needed to seat attendees. During the meeting, representatives from Glendale Water and Power spoke on the need to preserve the status quo. A few business leaders, including a representative from the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the need to get the plant reopened to provide energy for local businesses, while many union workers talked about the need for the plant to provide their unions with jobs.

But the majority of speakers talked about their reasons for opposing the acceptance of the current EIR for both financial and environmental reasons.

Many residents speaking during public comments cited the $500-million price tag for a plant that may become obsolete by the time the costs are paid off and would be a cost burden to taxpayers.

Another reason given by many residents is that continuing to use fossil fuels will cause more pollution and will harm the health of those living in the vicinity. Given that methane and other chemicals don’t restrict themselves to zip code boundaries, many of those at the rally came from nearby communities, such as Burbank, Atwater Village, Silverlake, and Pasadena, which stand to be negatively affected.

One speaker, Helen Attai of Granada Hills, discussed how the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility affected the health of her family as well as others in the northern San Fernando Valley, illustrating the point that methane and other toxic chemicals will harm residents in a large geographically area. The site was responsible for the largest release of gas in U.S. history, and even after the damaged well responsible for the 2015 disaster, that caused thousands of residents to temporarily relocate for several months, was sealed four months later, residents in the area are still suffering from serious and often life-threatening illnesses, including cancer, due to the initial blowout and the continuing leaking of methane and toxic chemicals into the environment. Attai was among those representing Save Porter Ranch, a community group fighting to close down Aliso Canyon.

Still other speakers mentioned that the EIR failed to include other significant sources of methane such as the Scholl Canyon landfill.

One parent in favor of seeking clean energy alternatives told the city council members “We aren’t just numbers, we are families.”

Among the speakers were Evan Gillespie, director of the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign, and Angela Johnson Meszaros of Earthjustice’s Right to Zero movement. They both spoke about moving the City of Glendale to look to the future in which clean energy will replace fossil fuels as a source of power.

The consensus from the residents was a request not to vote on the EIR that “it would be a betrayal of the people” according to one speaker. And that if the go-ahead to rebuild the plant was given, Glendale “would have the dubious distinction of approving the last gas plant.” Regarding the use of solar and other clean types of energy one speakers summed it up as “A healthy environment and a good economy can go hand in hand).

After many hours of additional testimony from GWP officials, the vote was finally taken at 3am. Mayor Zareh Sinanyan and Council members Paula Devine, Vrej Agajanian and Vartan Gharpetian voted to seek RIFs for alternatives to using gas.

When a report with the new information has been written, it will be presented to the Glendale City Council in 90 days. At that time, the council may reconsider the EIR or vote to implement an alternative to the use of gas.

The head of the the Glendale Environmental Coalition Daniel Brotman summarized the result as “This is pretty much what we wanted — a slightly different approach from the one we had in mind but still workable. A clear victory, and somewhat unexpected for a lot of us working the inside strategy. We should feel good about what we’ve done. It’s not easy to turn a tanker especially when $500 million is involved. But it’s a tentative victory that could easily slip away if we aren’t vigilant. The job going forward will be to make sure the RFI process is thorough, even handed, and transparent. We can’t let GWP get away with just going through the motions and landing us back to where we were before Tuesday.”