For nearly 20 years, Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand has quietly traveled back and forth from Los Angeles to Sacramento every chance he got to testify in support of closing the AES Redondo Beach power plant.
Recently, he made the journey once again, this time with Hermosa Beach Mayor Stacey Armato. Together, the pair spoke before the California State Water Resources Control Board as it faces a critical decision on whether to continue with plans to shutter the Redondo Beach power plant by the end of 2020.
The AES Redondo Beach plant, along with generating stations in Huntington Beach, Oxnard and Long Beach, are slated to be decommissioned next year as part of a plan to phase out the use of ocean water for cooling — a process known as once-through cooling.
But the California Public Utilities Commission recommended earlier this month that the water board consider extending the lives of these four facilities for two-to-three years beyond their retirement dates in order to ensure grid reliability.
Brand, of course, disagrees.
“This is the last place that any state agency should be considering extending the once-through-cooling retirement date,” Brand said. “It’s cited in the most densely populated areas in the California coast.”
The water board staff at the Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting in Sacramento recommended the Long Beach plant retirement date be extended. The board could still choose to extend the life of one or two of the others, so it’s unclear whether the AES Redondo plant will still shut down by the end of next year.
“They are going to do a full analysis,” Brand said. “The recommendation from the PUC is not necessarily the final decision on when this plant would be shut down.”
News of the PUC’s recommendation was disappointing to Hermosa Beach Mayor Stacey Armato, who got up early with Brand on Tuesday and made the drive to Sacramento.
“It felt like a huge setback,” Armato said. “Mayor Brand let me know of this opportunity, that we could get in front of our state water board and make an impression. I certainly feel like we did have an impact.”
While the effort to close the AES power plant has been led by Redondo Beach, Armato said Hermosa Beach residents also have a large stake in the power plant’s future because of its proximity to the city and the homes of many Hermosa Beach residents.
“We do have a strong interest aligned with theirs in retiring the units, taking down the power lines and working toward a much better community use — certainly not one that’s polluting our residents,” Armato said. “I think it amplified our voice.”
Brand said the power plant’s tendency to belch black smoke after sitting dormant for months, as it did one day in July, is clear evidence the plant, running on roughly 60-year-old technology, has outgrown its useful lifespan.
“It’s like going out in your garage where your ’69 Chrysler V8 is parked and hasn’t started up in six months,” Brand said. “Don’t be surprised if it coughs and backfires.”