By Melanie Cohen, Environmental Co-Chair
In 2010, after decades of complaints from environmentalists, California water regulators ordered 19 coastal power plants to phase out a cooling process that is blamed for killing billions of marine organisms every year. In “once-through cooling” (OTC) power plants pump huge amounts of water from a nearby ocean or river to cool their equipment.
By 2019, most of the plants using OTC were retired or replaced. Only four remained: one owned by the AES Corporation in Redondo Beach, a facility in Huntington Beach, San Onofre Nuclear Plant, and a plant in Ormond Beach. AES contended that California would not be able to meet peak electricity demand unless the four plants were allowed to continue using the harmful cooling method. The California State Water Board held hearings (2019-20) to determine whether power demand was sufficient to delay closure of the plants.
Because of the massive damage ocean cooling causes to coastal waters and sea life, Sierra Club Los Angeles and Sierra Club Palos Verdes-South Bay sent a letter supporting the shutdown.
Both representatives of the California Energy Commission, and California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) spoke in favor of allowing the plants to continue. AES Redondo, however, is NOT a supplier to the Southern California electricity grid, (as CAISO, manager of 80% of the California electrical grid, determined in 2013). The board found in favor of need to allow the plants to continue. AES/Redondo will continue for a year while the rest will continue for up to four years. AES/Redondo could also continue beyond 2021! The State of California has had adequate time and should realize that AES Redondo should close NOW!
Weeks before the hearing there were power blackouts, for the first time since 2001, when Enron manipulated the electricity market to drive profits. A former president of the PUC told the L.A. Times that she wonders whether something similar is happening now: (https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-10-06/california-rolling-blackouts-climate-change-poor-planning).
How long must the thousands who have worked long and hard to replace the plant with a park and wetland have to wait? The City of Redondo Beach is suing the state for not living up to their own regulations and using outdated studies to justify the plant to continue. As the amount of carbon in the atmosphere rises and destroys our air, water, and food supply, HOW LONG must we wait to shut down a plant that makes a profit by using endangered seawater, wasting millions of dollars (32 million a year per power plant)? Gov. Newsom calls for phasing out fossil fuels by 2035. This will take the cooperation of ALL the regulatory agencies. How much power is TRULY needed?