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AQMD would use proceeds from the energy companies, Nazemi said, to convert trucks and other dirty equipment — which often runs on diesel — to clean fuels.
The immediate beneficiaries of the plan would be Edison Mission Energy, which plans to build power plants in City of Industry and Riverside County, and Sound Energy Solutions, with its planned LNG-import terminal in Long Beach. The city of Vernon, which consists of private industries, except for a handful of residents, would be able to get credits too for a major power plant it is planning.
However, Bernadette del Chiaro, clean-energy advocate for Environment California, noted that the fossil-fuel plants are competing with solar energy and other types of renewable power. The credit scheme, she said, “undermines everything we’re trying to do.”
For instance, she said that under the state’s recently adopted $3.2 billion solar-incentive program it would be quicker to install enough solar panels to produce the electricity Edison would make with its new plants without any pollution.
AQMD conceivably could require power-plant builders to consider using renewable energy as the best available pollution-control technology, said Matt Haber, deputy director of air quality for the federal Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco. “It’s a qualified yes,” he said, noting AQMD could, for instance, use wind power instead of fossil fuel.
Oil companies seeking to import more gasoline and crude oil at the Port of Los Angeles would also enjoy discounted credits under the AQMD scheme. Pacific Energy Partners — which is planning to build a major new import terminal in Los Angeles Harbor — claims it will not need the AQMD pollution rights, said Jennifer Shigei, manager of investor relations for the company. However, Shigei said the company would not rule out dipping into the credit pot in the future.
AQMD may be able to clean up some mobile sources with the money from the energy companies, but those living around the new facilities would see increases in pollution, said Joe Lyou, executive director of the California Environmental Rights Alliance.
People who already live in the highly polluted port area will face more pollution, said Lyou, as will those downwind from the power plants, which are being planned next to working-class neighborhoods that are largely Latino.
Typical of the effects of such large energy facilities is Edison’s proposed Walnut Creek Energy Park in City of Industry, which would emit 53 tons a year of fine-particulate pollution, as well as tons of other pollutants. Vernon’s proposed power plant would emit 113 tons a year of particulate matter. The LNG terminal in Long Beach would be the largest single new source of air pollution built for years.
All of the projects would emit tons of toxic pollutants too, such as formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, pollutants which have helped make the region’s air carcinogenic.
Lyou noted that a coalition of energy companies has pushed the credit plan through an advisory council at AQMD.
Minutes of meetings from AQMD’s Home Rule Advisory Group — which consists largely of business interests — show that energy companies and their representatives have been pushing the district to make more credits available for industry. For instance, Mike Carroll, a Latham & Watkins attorney who represents energy companies, advocated at the January 18 meeting of the group that its principal focus in 2006 should be “expanded to include evaluating alternative sources of offsets, such as the priority reserve.” Carroll did not return the L.A. Weekly’s phone calls for this story.