In a defeat for the health of our local oceans, the State Water Resources Control Board voted 2-1 Tuesday to grant LADWP an additional nine years to phase out harmful once-through cooling at its three coastal power plants. The Water Board voted for the extension despite the fact that California’s energy agencies determined that DWP’s compliance plan and extension proposal did not provide enough information to justify an extension from the previously approved 2020 deadline. The nine-year extension was practically pulled out of thin air by board chair Charlie Hoppin, and Fran Spivy Weber supported the move. The extension will result in the ichthyocide of approximately an additional 30 billion larval and adult fish, with local energy plants allowed to continue the practice of sucking water – and animal life — out of the sea to cool themselves. It was definitely horrible news for local fish populations. Board member Tam Doduc was the lone voice for holding DWP accountable until it could provide adequate information to substantiate a compliance deadline extension.
In addition to extending the temporal impacts of sucking the life out of the ocean, the water board set a horrible precedent for the other California coastal power generators.
By approving a long-compliance extension despite the lack of a compliance plan approved by state energy agencies (California Energy Commission, Public Utility Commission and Cal-ISO), the board decided to award the extension for the following reasons:
• it was less than the 15-year extension that DWP was seeking
• it was two years after the end of DWP’s final coal-fired power plant contract
• “The original compliance deadline in the policy was arbitrary, and 2029 is arbitrary too,” according to Hoppin
Of course the original deadline was anything but arbitrary. The Water Board staff worked closely with California’s energy agencies to determine compliance deadlines for each and every coastal power plant unit in the state. The schedule was scrutinized and discussed for over a year before the Water Board approved the once-through-cooling policy and the schedule.
With the board providing compliance deadline extensions based on an inadequate request, that doesn’t bode well for the fish when other power generators seek their shot at a more lenient policy. Also, the board essentially rewarded DWP’s behavior to try legislative end-runs around the water board’s approval process. It also pays to get a wide array of businesses to plead poverty as the reason for continued non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. (See’s Candies seems to be a DWP favorite.) Even universities got into the act. (USC I expected, but my beloved alma mater, UCLA, left me heart-broken.)
Note to LA businesses: Environmental laws did not cause the global economic crisis or the permanent fiscal gridlock in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. Please stop scapegoating environmental regulations that improve our quality of life, protect public health and preserve ecosystems as the reasons for our economic travails.
Like last week’s Regional Board hearing on Malibu, the trend continues in California where bad environmental behavior is rewarded. Threaten a lawsuit, organize an angry mob, claim poverty, and you have a good chance to weaken environmental laws, regulations and policies. We see it happening regionally, statewide and nationally. For the sake of protecting our rights to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, this fad has to go the way of Chia Pets and Pet Rocks. And it has to go away soon.
Filed under: Water Quality