Grayson Repowering EIR Narrowly Approved
Council to revisit Glendale’s fossil fuel commitment on March 1
By a 3-2 vote, Glendale City Council certified the Grayson Repowering Final Environmental Impact Report at its meeting February 15, 2022. With another 3-2 vote, they approved the report’s Alternative 7, which includes five new fossil fuel burning engines at an estimated cost of $260 million, along with a battery energy storage system. Sustained community opposition has had an impact: Council has agreed to consider amending the project approval, including putting restrictions on the gas equipment and looking at additional clean energy procurement. That amendment will be considered in just two weeks, at the next City Council meeting, on March 1. Stay tuned.
Before the final votes, Councilmember Dan Brotman put forth an alternative motion placing stringent conditions on Alternative 7, aimed at eliminating or reducing the number of gas-burning engines Glendale Water and Power purchases. Councilmember Ara Najarian expressed interest in Brotman’s motion, indicating he would be inclined to second it.
Yet procedural maneuvering by the mayor and the city attorney brought the Final Environmental Impact Report and Alternative 7 for council votes instead. Councilmember Najarian voted yes but proposed that consideration of Councilmember Brotman’s suggestions be taken up at the next council meeting. Councilmember Brotman seconded that proposal.
What was in Councilmember Brotman’s motion? Approving the EIR, and approving a modified Alternative 7, with demolition, environmental remediation, and site preparation so gas-burning engines could be added if they were needed. In addition, it included moving forward to install the battery storage system and the switching station, and get the permits and emission reduction credits needed for a full suite of 5 engines just in case. However, Councilmember Brotman moved that no engines be approved at this point, and that up to 5 engines could be approved subject to future Council consideration. He noted that the project may have to be done in two phases because of how bond financing works.
In the meantime, Councilmember Brotman said, direction to city staff would be to (1) work with LADWP to either purchase additional reserves or redefine or reserve obligations, (2) look at procuring up to 50 MW of additional distributed energy resources through city-sited and commercial and industrial solar and storage, and (3) look at the feasibility of updating two existing units to meet emission rules and look at other emerging technologies like long-duration storage and 100% hydrogen engines.
“I would like to see staff return to Council before the end of 2022, and then we can decide, do we need all five, or do we need two, or do we need none. And at that point, if we need some, and I somewhat suspect we will need some, I will support that if we do these other things.”
During the meeting, several unresolved issues emerged. Councilmember Kassakhian noted that when it comes to converting the engines in Alternative 7 to burn hydrogen, “the technologies we are looking at, they are all being evaluated right now.” He asked about the costs and feasibility, and noted “it’s not very clear, it’s not guaranteed.”
Councilmember Najarian noted that technology is evolving rapidly. “I’m in favor of pausing up to the last minute before there is any action taken on the purchase of the engines.”
Mayor Paula Devine expressed displeasure with Brotman’s motion, claiming that staff has already committed to all his suggestions and would meet with the Glendale Environmental Coalition. She said, “I don’t know that we need to go through all that.”
Councilmember Brotman continued to say that he would like to see his suggestions pursued before Glendale purchases the gas-burning engines. At that point, Councilmember Najarian said he was ready to second Brotman’s motion but wanted to ask GWP manager David Tateosian whether Councilmember Brotman’s suggestions could be pursued given time constraints.
Tateosian stated that negotiations with the engine manufacturer would have to come to a halt because of uncertainty about the number of units to be purchased. Left unasked is why we couldn’t negotiate for a range of installation parameters from 1 to 5 units.
Negotiating getting capacity reserves for the time between when existing gas units go offline and new transmission becomes available was an issue that Councilmember Brotman was aware of, and Tateosian noted, “you are pushing the need for those reserves over a longer period, which further complicates getting those reserves.” Tateosian also mentioned concerns with site preparation, which is currently proposed to take place before the battery installation.
Councilmember Brotman noted that a delay of two weeks on this decision would allow the city to give the Historic Preservation Commission a chance to fully review the FEIR. The city attorney explained that his department’s position is the city isn’t required to do that. Councilmember Najarian agreed with that assessment.
After considerable discussion, Councilmember Vrej Agajanian made a motion to approve the EIR. Councilmember Agajanian, Mayor Devine, and Councilmember Najarian voted to approve it; Councilmember Brotman and Councilmember Kassakhian voted against it. Councilmember Najarian expressed regret that the vote wasn’t unanimous. On the next vote, Councilmember Agajanian made a motion to approve Alternative 7, which was seconded by Mayor Devine. Again, Councilmember Agajanian, Mayor Devine, and Councilmember Najarian voted to approve it, but this time Councilmember Najarian noted explicitly that he wanted to bring back Councilmember Brotman’s motion separately.