In a nail biter, the State Water Resources Control Board got the three votes it needed Tuesday to turn down a broad amendment that would have gutted California’s new Once-Through Cooling policy for power plants. Board members Tam Doduc, Fran Spivy-Weber and Art Bagget supported the motion to uphold the policy and oppose the amendment.
The board also agreed to expedite analysis of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s implementation plan next summer. Over the past year, the DWP has argued numerous times that it can’t meet the OTC policy compliance deadlines for re-powering three of its power plants by the end of 2021.
Earlier, the DWP promised to phase out all OTC, but it wanted until 2031 for Scattergood and up to 2040 for co-generation power plants. But, then DWP lobbied the State Water Board for a policy amendment to extend the compliance timeframe in exchange to phasing out OTC at all three power plants. Instead of introducing a narrow amendment for DWP, the State Board proposed an expanded amendment, opening up a Pandora’s box in the OTC policy for co-generation and fossil fuel plants up and down the entire state coastline.
As a result, a number of enviro and fishing communities joined to oppose the expanded amendment for gutting the policy. Linda Sheehan, the executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance, took lead in the comment-writing and organization effort. Santa Monica Baykeeper, NRDC, Sierra Club and Surfrider also strongly opposed the amendment at the hearing.
To demonstrate the over-the-top nature of the proposed amendment, nearly every coastal power company in the state attended the State Board hearing to support the amendment (and of course, asked for further weakening of the OTC policy). In addition, DWP pulled out all the stops by having its top lobbyist, former Assemblymember Cindy Montanez, testify on its behalf. DWP also got legislators Bradford and Deleon, the Central City Assn. (do its leaders support any environmental issues?), the Police Protective League and others to back the misguided effort. Even See’s Candies wrote a letter of support for DWP. Sweet!
In the end, common sense prevailed. The State Water Board wants to see everyone’s implementation plans before considering schedule changes. That’s how the policy is supposed to work.
Now the ball is in DWP’s court. Its leaders have a big incentive to put together an implementation plan ASAP, and they should continue working with the environmental community to pull it off. However, they may need to recalibrate their expectations on compliance deadline extensions to just focus on grid reliability issues.