Los Angeles World Airports officials received public input on the proposed Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Central Utility Plant Replacement Project at a meeting at the Flight Path Learning Center Tuesday, August 18th.

The LAX Central Utility Plant Replacement Project (CUP-RP) provides for the replacement of the existing utility plant and cogeneration facilities at LAX, according to officials at LAWA, the city agency that operates the airport. The proposed project is expected to take approximately four years to complete.

The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) is available online at www.ourlax.org/.

Written comments on the DEIR should be submitted by 5 p.m. Monday, September 14th to: Lisa Dugas, Los Angeles World Airports, 7301 World Way West, Third Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90045-5803 or by e-mail to: LAXCentral-UtilitiesPlant@lawa.org/.

The existing CUP provides heating and cooling for the terminals within the CTA (central terminal area) and generates electricity (cogeneration) that is sold back to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).

Included as part of the CUP-RP are the following components: replacement of the existing CUP and maintenance shop building, including a new electrical cogeneration facility; replacement of existing cooling towers; construction of an underground thermal energy storage (TES) tank at the site of the existing CUP; electrical upgrades to include a new electrical substation and a retrofit of the existing DWP substation; installation of a new fire management system and a new fire life safety system, and replacement of the direct buried chilled water and hot water service lines in the CTA.

The project includes the potential installation of a recycled-reclaimed water pipeline and treatment system, and the potential use of biogas from the Hyperion Treatment Plant (HTP) in El Segundo to augment the natural gas system. Staging for construction equipment, as well as construction worker parking would be located in surface parking lots within the CTA.

The project includes the demolition of the existing Central Utility Plant, along with demolition of an associated existing electrical substation (DWP Substation #686) located at the footprint of the new CUP, airport officials said.

The CUP-RP is not a component of the LAX Master Plan, but LAWA will implement applicable commitments and mitigation measures identified in the LAX Master Plan Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program as part of the CUP-RP, airport officials said.

The following project description is from LAWA documentation.


The CUP was built in 1961 and includes a network of 18 miles of piping serving the CTA, including terminals and concourses, the East Administration Building and the Theme Building.

In addition to providing high temperature/high pressure hot water and chilled water to the closed-loop piping systems, a co-generation plant (brought into service in 1985) provides electrical co-generated power back to the city’s DWP grid.

The current CUP and cogeneration facilities are several decades old. Considering the technological advances over that period, both facilities are considered to be obsolete. Additionally, the existing facilities exhibit the following characteristics:

— the equipment in the CUP no longer meets energy and safety codes, has a high rate of failure, and is costly and difficult to maintain;

— the infrastructure that serves these systems is aged and cannot handle current demands;

— the systems have insufficient capacity to accommodate the current and anticipated demand of the CTA facilities;

— the existing cogeneration system is costly to operate and exceeds the emission limits set forth by South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) consequently requiring the purchase of pollution offset credits.

The proposed project provides for the replacement of the existing CUP and potentially associated cogeneration facilities.

According to the report, “less than significant impacts” associated with the project include traffic during construction and operation; air quality during operation, and global climate change.

Anticipated significant project impacts include the following.

Air Quality: construction emission impacts — VOC (volatile organic compounds) and NOx (nitrogen oxide); construction concentration impacts — PM10 (particles with a diameter of ten micrometers or less); cumulative construction emissions — CO (carbon monoxide), VOC, NOx, PM10 and PM 2.5 [2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller; cumulative construction concentration impacts — NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and PM10;

Human Health Risk Impacts: construction activities would increase cancer risk for adult workers immediately nearby;

Global Climate Change Impacts: construction-related greenhouse gas emissions (project level and cumulative); and cumulative operational impact — LAWA Sustainability Plan Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction goal not met.


Airport employee David Bischeff said he has worked at LAX since the 1990s, after transferring from the Hyperion Treatment Plant, working as an apprentice pipe-fitter for the first two-and-a-half years at the CUP and assisting in putting in the brand new chilled water unit.

He pointed out on the project boards at the meeting that the drawing for the utilidor — an accessible utility corridor built either above-ground or under-ground to carry utility lines such as electricity, water and sewers — doesn’t mention anything about going to Terminal 6.

“The one thing about construction projects is that maintenance seems to be forgotten after everybody leaves, such as the designers of a beautiful, state-of-the-art project, but the bulk of the costs over the long-term are maintenance costs,” Bischeff said.

“In the 1950s, when the tower, the Theme Building and the CUP were being built, they took a lot of dollars from the CUP project, deciding not to have utilidors for the pipes, but just to bury them in the ground and ‘we won’t have to worry about them ever again’ —Not,” he said.

“Over time, the steel pipes break and leak and there was a variety of problems, spending all night to repair another leak.

“I’m in favor of utilidors for a variety of reasons,” he said.

“First, maintenance costs are easier and over time, it can be estimated that this project will be worth another 50 years, and we can maintain and upgrade with all of the new technical widgets and exotic stuff that is being developed and the cost will comparatively be a lot less,” said Bischeff.

He said he believes that what is needed is not only the high temperature “supply and return” and the low temperature chilled water supply and return, but also a spare supply and return so that there are three piping systems in the utilidor from the CUP to the terminal. Bischeff added that however the configuration finally goes, it will enable the project to be used for the next five decades.

Nan Schneider, a member of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC), said that this project is appreciated and long overdue.

“We can’t have a modern airport without modern utilities. So we are grateful, but I’m highly disappointed that the construction staging areas are again on the border of Westchester,” she said.

Schneider said she doesn’t understand why the same staging areas that are used for the Tom Bradley International Terminal project can’t be used for the CUP project.

“This is a wonderful project and the only thing I could say is ‘why not include the rest of the utilidors for the terminals that aren’t added to this,’ because it’s just going to cost more later?” she said.

Nora MacLellan, a Playa del Rey resident, member of the Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council and past secretary of ARSAC, said that she looks forward to this project, which is long overdue.

She said she agrees with Bischeff that a backup system needs to be in place.

MacLellan said she had reviewed the project boards at the meeting, and saw additions since the Bradley Terminal project was shown for construction staging/ parking, and that Westchester Parkway was still shown for that use, even though there had been an agreement with airport officials that this area would be removed after agreeing to a new staging area on Pershing Drive in Playa del Rey, which was added to the project boards.

Another new staging area is also designated east of the fire station on Westchester Parkway behind Sepulveda Boulevard, she said.

“This is not going to work,” MacLellan said. “The area is a residential community, and it can’t handle the traffic, the additional pollution or the noise, and that’s not what we will stand for.”

Denny Schneider, president of ARSAC, told The Argonaut, “The Central Utilities plan is only one of the many repair/reconstruction projects that are desperately needed at LAX.

“This project is truly a modernization project, necessitated by 30 years of neglect. We hope that LAWA heard the suggestions at their hearing this past week and will incorporate redundancy and utilidors to each and every terminal.”