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Power plant further divides cities of Palmdale, Lancaster

New jobs but at what cost?

Merdies Hayes | 1/10/2014, midnight

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Palmdale Power Plant

Controversy has erupted again regarding complaints by the City of Lancaster that the proposed Palmdale power plant will result in undue air pollution that will waft its way downwind. The power plant, expected to come online at a cost of more than one billion dollars, has become a sore spot between the two cities.

Lancaster believes the location is too close to its residents and may result in unsafe health conditions; it’s downwind from Lancaster and city officials want it stopped.

“The problem is the location, and where they actually put the power plant,” Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said recently.

Now County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has been implicated in the latest example of a so-called “war of words” between rival mayors R. Rex Parris of Lancaster and Jim Ledford of Palmdale. After a preliminary vote in mid-December by the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (AVAQMD) apparently cleared the way for construction, Crist told the media that the supervisor unseated a veteran member of the board who opposed the plant and replaced him—a day before the meeting—with a new board member who cast the deciding vote.

“He pulled out an individual with 15 years experience,” Crist said. “He pulled out an individual who is the founding member of the AVAQMD. He pulled out an individual that has more experience than anyone else on that board so he could control the vote.” Crist claimed the public was not allowed to speak. “This is not what you do as a public official; you don’t just put pawns where they can rubber stamp what you want.”

Why select a new member? “After a long and intensive review of all aspects of this project, the best course of action was to choose an appointee that would ensure that the process was sound and with no appearance of conflict,” said Tony Bell, media liaison for Antonovich. He added that the supervisor is “extremely knowledgeable” on Antelope Valley issues and the significance of projects that impact the region. “After a long and intensive review of all aspects of this project,” Bell continued, “the best course of action was to choose an appointee that would ensure that the process was sound and with no appearance of conflict.”

On December 18 at Antelope Valley College, the board voted 4-3 at the end of a six-hour meeting attended by almost 500 people. They discussed the transfer of what are called “emissions credits” (or “carbon credits”) which are part of a national economic strategy for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Here, a government or other law-making body puts a price on carbon emissions and requires industries to pay for their emissions, thus creating an economic incentive to cut down on pollution. If a company can reduce emissions to below a specified cap, the firm can receive emission credits for each ton of carbon not produced. Palmdale has sold the plant to Summit Power Group in Seattle for about $28 million, with Summit expected to pay for the acquired credits and allow Palmdale to further enhance its financial coffers.