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School Board to Consider Resolution Opposing Power Plant

More than a dozen people attend a Redondo Beach Board of Education meeting to convince the school board to oppose construction of a new AES Redondo Beach.

School Board to Consider Resolution Opposing Power Plant

The Redondo Beach Board of Education will consider a resolution to oppose the rebuilding of the AES Redondo Beach power plant on Harbor Drive at an upcoming meeting, the board decided Tuesday night.

Because the current power plant uses once-through cooling—a process where ocean water is used to cool the superheated steam that spins the turbines to produce electricity—it must be retired, rebuilt or exempted from a new ban on the process by 2020. AES has filed plans with the California Energy Commission to build a new, smaller plant.

The power company's plans have been met with resistance.

Anti-power plant activists young and old filled Tuesday's meeting to convince the school board to take a position; however, because AES Redondo Beach was a discussion item, the board made no official decision.

The activists pointed to studies showing the impact of fine particulate matter on health, including the development of autism, asthma and heart disease.

"I'm deeply concerned about the future of our children in the South Bay," said Dr. Roger Light, a clinical neuropsychologist on staff at UCLA Medical Center. "Brain development is adversely affected by exactly the type of pollution that will come out from the proposed AES power plant."

Several students in Redondo Beach Unified School District also spoke.

Dana Esser, whose mother, Dawn Esser, is one of the leaders of the NoPowerPlant.com political action committee, said, "I usually see the smoke and the pollution (from the power plant) going over the schools, and I'm just worried about my health and my classmates' health—so no power plant!"

AES' application to repower indicates that although a new plant will run more efficiently, it would run much more often and thus produce more pollution annually than the current plant.

Nevertheless, AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft told the board that building a new plant would provide more funding for the school district from the new property tax assessments; a new power plant would indirectly create jobs because it produces electricity; and that the new plant would run more efficiently than the current one.

"The new plant will be cleaner, and it will enable more wind and solar resources," he said. "I'm not  concerned about the power plant. Mobile sources are responsible for a huge part of the particulate matter (pollution)."

School board members were divided as to whether they should take a position on the efforts to rebuild the power plant. Drew Gamet and Todd Loewenstein both indicated that they would be in favor of such a resolution.

"We are very active with the Blue Zones Vitality City initiative," Loewenstein said. "Very active. I cannot recall any city that's in a Blue Zone that would say, 'Let's build a new power plant.'"

School board Vice President Laura Emdee noted that the board should trust the experts at the CEC when it comes to deciding whether a power plant is needed.

"I have to let people do their job, and it seems to me if that agency doesn't believe that this power plant is viable or necessary, then that's the agency's (decision)," she said. "If I was to choose whether or not there was a power plant in our city, the answer would be, 'No, I don't want a power plant in our city.' … I'm willing to go look at a resolution, but I'm more willing to just put a bit of faith in the energy commission."

Nevertheless, the board did appear to agree that the resolution, when written, should only address plans to rebuild the power plant and not Measure A, which aims to rezone the AES property on Harbor Drive for a mixture of up to 40 percent commercial and institutional uses and at least 60 percent parkland.

Emdee and Gamet were assigned to come up with the resolution. According to Superintendent Dr. Steven Keller, the earliest the board would be able to consider the resolution would be during a February meeting.

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