By Bill Hendrickson
The Glendale Planning Commission has voted unanimously to reject the proposal by Glendale Water and Power to build a biogas power plant at the Scholl Canyon landfill in the hills above Eagle Rock.
The rejection of the proposal is a victory for residents of Glendale and Eagle Rock who have organized into various coalitions to oppose the biogas plant since it was first proposed in 2017. Prominent among those coalitions are the East Area Progressive Democrats, the Glendale Environmental Coalition and the Glenoaks Canyon Homeowners Association.
The five-member planning commission reached its decision after a six-hour meeting on Wednesday night. At the meeting, consultants for GWP presented the final environmental report (FEIR) on the project, followed by some 30 public comment phone calls, mostly from Glendale and Eagle Rock — all of which were opposed to the biogas plant.
One-by-one, the commenters picked apart the assertions in the FEIR regarding air pollution, noise, wildfire risk and greenhouse gas emissions from building a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon. For example, the opponents pointed out the FEIR’s calculation of air pollution from a biogas plant included offsets, or credits, that, on paper, lowered the amount of projected pollution from the plant. In reality, pollution from the plant would be in the air that is breathed by residents of Glendale and Eagle Rock.
The opponents also challenged the flimsiness of the FEIR’s analysis of alternatives to a biogas plant, as well as the legality and economic assumptions of the project.
“This win against a polluting gas plant at the garbage dump at Scholl Canyon belongs to all local residents…who spoke up for the health and safety of their families and neighbors,” said Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats. Johnson added that the callers and letter writers from Glendale, Los Angeles and Pasadena who expressed their opposition “made local democracy work for the people, our quality of life and a more livable environment.”
A portion of the meeting was set aside to give the GWP consultants a chance to respond to a letter to the Planning Commission from Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León, who represents Eagle Rock. The letter, which called on the commission to reject the FEIR on the biogas plant, raised far reaching questions about the project, for which GWP had no good answers. For instance, GWP has basically said that building a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon is allowed by a law that lets it improve “existing” infrastructure at Scholl Canyon. When De León pointed out that the biogas plant does not currently exist, GWP simply repeated that the law allows it to improve existing infrastructure.
The commission saw through GWP’s arguments and assertions. “It’s 2021,” said Commissioner Talin Shahbazian. “This approach [a biogas plant] is outdated,” she said. Shahbazian’s call for “more environmentally conscious approaches” was echoed by the other commissioners.
GWP can appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Glendale City Council but the debate and momentum has shifted in favor of the opponents.
GWP wants a solution that meets its energy and revenue goals. Opponents of a biogas plant want a solution that does the least harm to residents and the environment. The Glendale Planning Commission has come down squarely on the side of the people and the planet.