By Bill Hendrickson
Glendale Water and Power (GWP) appears to be doubling down on a controversial proposal to build a biogas plant at the Scholl Canyon landfill in the hills above Eagle Rock.
Consider: A new plan presented by GWP to City officials to increase its use of renewable energy counts on electricity generated by the biogas plant to help meet its goals – as if the biogas plant is already a done deal. That’s presumptuous, given that an environmental review of the proposed biogas plant has not been completed yet.
Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles is starting to look into the possibility of a legal challenge to a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon. City Councilmember José Huizar recently filed a motion that directs the City Attorney to report on ways that L.A. can force Glendale to adequately address the environmental impact of a biogas plant on Eagle Rock. By involving the City Attorney, the motion implies that L.A. will be prepared to take legal action against the building of the biogas plant, if necessary. (At press time, the motion had not yet come before the full City Council for a vote.)
A biogas plant at Scholl Canyon would be used to process methane from decaying garbage. Eagle Rockers have opposed the idea in part because it was hatched without consulting leaders in Northeast Los Angeles about its impact on the area in terms of pollution, traffic and other hazards.
Another reason for opposing a biogas plant – voiced in both Eagle Rock and Glendale – is mistrust of GWP to explore and fully evaluate alternatives to a biogas plant.
On August 6, the Glenoaks Homeowners Association in Glendale sent a letter to GWP and Glendale’s top elected officials blasting GWP’s “lack of transparency” around its handling of methane gas at Scholl Canyon. In recent decades, the methane was piped to the Grayson power plant in Glendale where it was used to create electricity. But in April, 2018 – without any public notice – GWP began flaring, or burning off, the methane, a wasteful and environmentally harmful practice. The public only learned of the flaring in December, 2018, from an article in the Boulevard Sentinel.
Homeowners and environmentalists in Glendale have alleged that the flaring is a roundabout attempt by GWP to bias the results of the biogas plant environmental review in favor of building of the biogas plant. Their suspicion has been intensified by contradictory explanations they say GWP has given to justify the flaring.
The Coalition for Scholl Landfill Alternatives, an environmental group in Glendale, has been pressing Glendale to adopt ways of handling methane that do not involve flaring or building a biogas plant. The most important step, according to the Coalition, is to reduce methane production by creating less garbage. Their other recommendations include:
- Use fuel cells in a biogas-to-energy process, which would create fewer emissions than the planned biogas plant. This option is being developed at the Coyote Canyon Landfill in Newport Beach.
- Convert the methane into liquefied natural gas and use it for vehicle fuel. This method is currently in operation in Perris, Calif. and at the Altamont Sanitary Landfill in Livermore, Calif.
- Get rid of the impurities in the landfill methane, so that it can be injected directly into a utility company’s “Common Carrier” pipeline. Southern California Gas Company has a pipeline near the landfill that could accept the methane if it is purified.
- Segregate carbon dioxide from the methane and sell it for use in industrial processes.
The environmental review of the biogas plant at Scholl Canyon is due by the end of this year, but the battle lines in the debate over methane at Scholl Canyon are being drawn now.
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Bill Hendrickson, MBA, publisher of the Boulevard Sentinel, has extensive small business management, marketing and sales experience in corporate finance and real estate development and plays a not terrible game of golf.