RB AES 4

Redondo Beach plans to buy part of the AES power plant site and restore it to parkland once it is decommissioned. (File photo)

Redondo Beach will receive $4.8 million to help the city buy a portion of the AES power plant site for wetlands restoration and to create parkland once the generating station is decommissioned in the near future.

The city wants to buy half of the 50-acre natural gas power plant site, which would cost roughly $50 million. The grant won’t t cover the entire cost to the city, but it’s a start, said Redondo Mayor Bill Brand.

The California Natural Resources Agency announced the grant last week as part of $37 million in allocations under Proposition 68, a $4 billion bond measure passed by voters in June 2018 to fund a wide range of environmental projects.

This round of grants, including the one Redondo will receive, is aimed specifically at helping “protect and enhance natural, cultural, park and community resources,” according to a press release issued Oct. 2.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-South Bay) and state Sen. Ben Allen (D-West Los Angeles/South Bay) helped ensure language made it into Prop. 68 that allows money to go toward buying land on which decommissioned power plants sit, the assemblyman said.

“We worked with Mayor Brand to make sure the language was in there specifically for this purpose,” Muratsuchi said.

Redondo Beach received the largest grant award out of 21 recipients for this portion of the bond funds. The Natural Resources Agency received roughly 200 applications worth $400 million, according to Heather Williams, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The AltaSea Visitor Center, in San Pedro, also received $2.1 million, the Lawndale Wellness and Activity Center received $675,000 and White Point Nature Preserve received $131,000.

“We have a long way to go,” said Brand, who has worked for years to turn the AES site into parkland. “But we are very appreciative that the Natural Resources Agency is taking a strong interest in Redondo Beach.”

In February, Leo Pustilnikov and his company Next Century Power — the proposed buyer of the AES Redondo Beach power plant — offered to sell the city 25 acres of the property at $2 million per acre.

How the city plans to fund the remaining amount has yet to be determined. The deal cannot happen, however, until Pustilnikov takes over the site, which is still in escrow, and the power plant is decommissioned.

Later this month, the California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to allow AES and possibly three other natural gas plants — in Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Oxnard — to operate for up to three years past their retirement date next year due to expected future electricity demands.

rule established by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2010 set the stage for phasing out the practice of using seawater for cooling; the method, known as once-through cooling, has been shown to kill fish and other marine life. Three natural gas powered plants owned by AES, including the one in Redondo, are scheduled to retire by Dec. 31, 2020, in accordance with deadlines established by the water board.

But, according to a Public Utilities Commission staff report, the state might need up to four power plants in Southern California to operate beyond the deadline in order to meet future energy demands.

Brand said he was disappointed to learn the plant could continue operating past the date that was previously agreed to.

“We argued for a 2018 retirement 10 years ago and had to settle for 2020,” Brand said.

“AES Redondo is the one plant that is not needed,” the mayor added. “There is plenty of capacity with the other plants still available and online.”

Muratsuchi said he thought the electrical reliability issues would have been settled by now.

“I’ve always supported shutting down that power plant,” Muratsuchi said. “I would like to see that happen sooner.”

AES made clear in a filing with the commission earlier this month that the Redondo plant and two others it owns could continue running for as long as required. But AES Vice President Eric Pendergraft also said operation of the plant for one year or more would not delay progress toward re-purposing the property.

“Demolition and remediation activities could be initiated while the units are still in operation,” Pendergraft said, noting that one of AES’ two buildings is not operational and could begin to be refurbished.

Continued operation would also have no impact on the current sales process, as AES would lease back the property for as long as the current units need to remain in operation, Pendergraft said.

“The property is being sold to be re-purposed for non-industrial uses,” Pendergraft said. “This is a certainty. After having a power plant on its waterfront for more than a century, Redondo Beach will be starting a new chapter.

“Even if the shutdown of the existing plant is delayed by a few years, the future is now certain,” he added. “This should give people comfort that industrial use of the waterfront is coming to an end.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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