The fight isn’t over!
The Glendale City Council voted unanimously on March 1, 2022, to revise its prior 3-2 vote from February 15, when it approved a $260 million purchase of gas generation equipment. The new vote defers the decision on purchasing the gas equipment until the end of 2022 so that clean energy and other alternatives can be explored.
This outcome is thanks to GEC’s advocacy against new gas equipment in Glendale, as well as broader community opposition to the gas plant project. As a result, we have a new opening to urge our City Council and our public utility, Glendale Water and Power, to develop an energy portfolio that embraces more renewable and distributed energy, and that rejects new investment in fossil fuel equipment.
On February 28, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report describing climate change as a grave threat to human wellbeing, a healthy planet, and a livable future. The call to action couldn’t be more clear: we must transition to clean energy, and must avoid putting in new gas equipment that will lock in greenhouse gas emissions for years to come.
Glendale Water and Power needs to explore clean energy options that would reduce or eliminate the need for that equipment. The end of 2022 is a tight deadline for this work, and we need to keep City Council and city staff accountable. Together, we can get to a clean energy future for Glendale!
This meeting followed the February 15 meeting when City Council certified the Grayson Repowering Final EIR and approved Alternative 7, which includes 5 Wartsila internal combustion engine (ICE) gas-burning units. At that meeting, Council discussed but did not vote on a motion by Councilmember Dan Brotman that would have delayed a decision on final approval of the gas units. That night, even though Council approved Alternative 7, Councilmember Ara Najarian proposed that Councilmember Brotman’s motion to modify the project be brought back for consideration at the next meeting.
When the agenda item came up on March 1, Councilmember Brotman reintroduced the motion that would modify Alternative 7, deferring the decision on new gas equipment. He made it clear that his goal in delaying the purchase was to give Glendale an opportunity to identify cleaner alternatives to Alternative 7.
During Council deliberations, Councilmember Najarian said that Council owes it to Glendale residents and the global community to look at every possible alternative. His openness to investigating alternatives made this opportunity possible.
Both Mayor Devine and Councilmember Vrej Agajanian strongly resisted Councilmember Brotman’s motion and wanted to move forward with the gas project. But the need for caution is clear: this is the largest single infrastructure project ever proposed in the city and a huge investment in fossil fuels. The Mayor also asserted that GWP had already investigated several clean energy ideas suggested by GEC and found they wouldn’t work for our city. The truth is GWP has been slow to pursue some projects that were on GEC’s list and that are up and running around the country.
Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian, who had voted against Alternative 7 at the last meeting, refocused the discussion on the motion. He also spoke eloquently at this meeting about environmental concerns, drawing a comparison with a 1980s environmental justice fight against a chemical plant in Yerevan, Armenia.
Mayor Devine and the City Manager gave GWP multiple opportunities during which they argued against delaying their preferred plan. In the end, though, the hundreds of emails against the plan and the more than 70 residents who called in to support the motion showed City Council that the community is calling for clean energy instead of new gas. When the finalized motion was put forward by Councilmember Brotman, and seconded by Councilmember Najarian, the vote ended up unanimous.
The motion allows GWP to move forward with other parts of the project, including separation of Unit 9 and demolition of the old Units 1-8. It also allows installation of the Tesla battery energy storage system, which is an important element of Glendale’s clean energy future. The most important part of the motion puts on hold the prior approval for the 5 gas units. GWP can still move forward with preliminary steps toward their purchase, but the motion allows City Council to decide later whether or not to approve them. Council will consider that decision by December 2022.
Achieving a pause on this project was a struggle. Our combined efforts made it happen. City Council members Dan Brotman, Ardy Kassakhian, and Ara Najarian brought us to this point, and we applaud their support for exploring clean energy alternatives. The motion is not a full-on rejection of gas, unfortunately. But it does give us an opportunity that didn’t exist in February.
As it was originally proposed, the motion also directed GWP to pursue 50 MW of new local distributed energy resources. That direction was eliminated during City Council discussions, after Mayor Paula Devine asserted it wasn’t needed. But more distributed and local renewable energy resources are an essential element of a clean energy portfolio for Glendale, which needs local capacity because of limited transmission rights, and which must move beyond an outdated combustion-centered model for dispatchable energy. If we don’t get more clean energy in Glendale, at the end of the year we’ll be back in the same place we were last month, with GWP saying Glendale must purchase new gas equipment.
By pulling together, we’ve accomplished something huge: we pulled Glendale back from the brink of making a decision that’s bad for the climate, our local air quality, our health, and our finances. But the fight is far from over!
GEC will keep Glendale focused on the end goal of a sustainable future. We will call on our city leaders to make sure GWP aggressively pursues more solar on commercial, residential, and city-owned sites; substantially more local storage; demand reduction and shifting; and more.
We will also keep asking for the city to engage a consultant with clean energy expertise to develop a plan for innovative energy solutions. GWP can’t be expected to handle all this work without additional resources, and an expert consultant can quickly evaluate proposals and offer concrete solutions for a strong energy portfolio.
All of this is crucial so we don’t find ourselves back in the same position at the end of 2022—just 10 months from now. We’ll need to keep the pressure on City Council and staff to make sure that Glendale embraces clean energy instead of new gas.