By T.A. Hendrickson
The future of Glendale’s Scholl Canyon landfill, located in the hills above Eagle Rock, remains in question following a meeting last week in which Glendale officials split on the path forward.
At the same meeting, the Glendale Sustainability Commission rejected the proposal to build a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon.
The commissions’ votes are advisory only, meant to inform upcoming decisions on the project, first by Glendale’s Planning Commission and then by the Glendale City Council, which will have the ultimate say over the project. The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for October 6. It will probably be at least year-end before a final decision is made.
In Northeast Los Angeles, residents, activists and elected officials have opposed the idea of a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon ever since it was first proposed by GWP in 2016. In a nutshell, they have pointed out that Eagle Rock would get the pollution, traffic and other environmental harm and risk from the plant – while Glendale would get the power and the revenue from that power. That lopsided outcome is all the more galling to Eagle Rock given that the landfill site is accessed solely via Figueroa Street in Eagle Rock.
Wildfire risk from the construction and operation of the proposed biogas plant is a big concern. Hans Johnson, the president of the East Area Progressive Democrats said in a statement to the Boulevard Sentinel that EADP opposes “the unsafe, unnecessary, and unpopular scheme to put a gas plant in the known burn zone atop Glendale’s polluting dump at Scholl Canyon,” adding that any Glendale official who ignores the risk “is whistling past the wildfire danger and on the wrong side of the community.”
Another major concern voiced by opponents is that the final environmental impact report on the proposal for a biogas plant failed to adequately investigate alternatives for dealing with the methane at Scholl Canyon. In a statement to the Sentinel, Hilda Solis, the L.A. county supervisor for Northeast L.A., said she stood with Eagle Rock in opposition to a biogas plant because the proposal suffered from “lapses in transparency,” “undeniable risks” and “under-analyzed” alternatives.
An alternative of interest to the Sustainability Commission and environmental activists calls for purifying the landfill methane so that it can be injected into a nearby SoCal Gas pipeline. One member of the GWP Commission, Joel Peterson, also said that this option should be studied more before a final decision is made to build a biogas plant but his recommendation was shot down by other members of the GWP Commission.
Kevin de León, the City Councilmember for Eagle Rock, has also weighed in on the latest developments on Scholl Canyon. De León’s input is key, because the power of L.A. city officials to influence and negotiate with Glendale city government is Eagle Rock’s best hope for a satisfactory outcome.
In his statement to the Sentinel, De León said that he agreed that methane from Scholl Canyon should be processed into “the cleanest energy source possible,” but that it was unclear from the final environmental impact report whether building a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon would achieve that goal. He said he would ask the City of Glendale to ensure that processing methane in a biogas plant would be cleaner than the current process of flaring the landfill’s methane.
Some of the environmentalists who spoke up at the meeting last week echoed De León’s concern. They noted that flaring could be a better environmental option than building a biogas plant because new flaring techniques are cleaner than previous ones.
Methane is the unavoidable byproduct of decades of garbage dumping at Scholl Canyon. There is no ideal way to remove it or use it. GWP wants a solution that meets its energy and economic goals. Activists want a solution that does the least harm to the environment, particularly in Eagle Rock, which is in harm’s way through no fault of its own.
The task now at hand is for political leaders in both Glendale and L.A. is to find the best way forward in a bad situation.
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