A sharp dispute is brewing in the Capitol over a plan
pushed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
to ease new state rules over the way power plants use
ocean water to cool their engines. Three plants affected
by the new rules – Harbor, Haynes and Scattergood – provide nearly 40 percent of Los Angeles’ available power generation and are critical to the
stability of the grid, according to the DWP.
Environmentalists say a hastily amended proposal – it was written Friday – would unravel regulations that took the state water
board five years to develop and would violate established
state and federal policy. The debate is one of several
related to environmental protections that are emerging
in the Capitol as the final days of the legislative
session get under way.
The issue is called “once-through cooling,” or OTC, which is the practice of power plants to suck
in sea water to cool their machinery and expel it back
into the ocean. Rules approved in May by the State
Water Quality Control Board require restrictions on
the practice to be in place within the next few years
– by 2015 at Harbor, 2019 at Haynes and 2020 at Scattergood. The DWP proposal would push back the
compliance date until 2031, according to DWP. A detailed description of the DWP’s position is available here.
Allowing DWP to extend the compliance until 2031 is “necessary and fair,” the utility said, citing the need to balance costs
and the provide reliable power to ratepayers. “LADWP is in the process of building a cleaner, greener
Los Angeles for the next 100 years. There are multiple environmental issues that
LADWP faces.” The utility said some $2.2 billion in additional costs could be at stake if the
new regulations go forward.
"We are not trying to get an exemption," said Lorraine
a DWP senior assistant general manager. "We are trying
to make surgical fixes and then move on and comply
with the spirit of the policy," she said.
Paskett noted that in crafting the regulations, last-minute changes had been made by the water board allowing
PG&E and Edison -- both investor-owned utilities -- to submit compliance studies to the panel, while DWP was unable to do so.
"There was a lot of discussion about these regulations,"
she added. "We have a plan. The rub is how do we get
there, and when do we get there...Our focus is on tyring to get the issues resolved. It needs to be resolved,
and it needs to be resolved immediately."
But environmentalists are angry, in part because the
DWP bill was hijacked – known in the Capitol as a “gut and amend” – by removing the contents of an existing bill, AB 1552 by Assemblyman Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, the chair of the Utilities and Commerce Committee,
and inserting completely new language.
The original bill dealt with the ability of non-profit charities to obtain electrical service. The
new bill, which is viewed in the Capitol as a committee
bill, is awaiting action in the Senate Appropriations
“They said they wanted to make minor changes (to the water board regulations), but sadly what they are doing is eviscerating the
policy for LADWP’s interest, and they did it in a way that totally blindsided
us,” said Jim Metropulos of Sierra Club California.
They also note that the confirmation of Charles Hoppin,
the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board
who played a significant role in the new regulations,
is awaiting action on the Senate floor.
At least four other government offices – the State Lands Commission, the California Energy
Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and the
Independent System Operator, which supervises California’s electricity grid – worked with the water board as the regulations were
being put together.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also was consulted
– indeed, the new rules were written at least in part
to satisfy the EPA.