Shutting down Scattergood is the right decision for Playa del Rey and leads the world toward a healthier future
By Tudor Popescu
The author is a Playa del Rey resident and member of ProtectPlayaNow.org and Indivisible CA-43 (twitter.com/IndivisibleCA43).
For years I’ve ridden my bike along the beach from Playa going south, listening to the symphony of waves, beachgoers and seagulls, my eyes on the pavement, sand and sea. Rarely did I look at the Scattergood Power Station on my left. I never thought anything about it would ever change.
But now I do. On Feb. 12, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged Scattergood’s impact on global warming. He decided to stop investing billions of dollars on updating its methane gas turbines. “This is what the Green
New Deal looks like at the local level” were his exact words, and I couldn’t agree more.
His decision makes perfect sense to me. There is an “undeniable link,” as Senior ABC News Meteorologist Rob Marciano put it, between climate change and the record-breaking California wildfires. I used to think of these fires as something that happens at a distance in national parks. Now fires burn as close to home as Malibu and alongside the 405.
What’s interesting is how the mayor now arrived at a decision that should have been obvious for a long time.
We’ve known from years of EPA reports that Scattergood produces more than 790,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas CO2 per year. We also know that the fossil fuel which powers the station, methane gas, is 86 times more potent than CO2. When this fossil fuel journeys from ground to incineration, we know it escapes at several points along the way. It escapes during extraction (think fracking).
We also know that it escapes as it moves through pipelines and when stored at underground methane storage facilities, such as the Playa del Rey gas storage field between Culver Boulevard and the bluffs. According to an analysis of an EPA Inventory Report, conducted by the environmental group Food & Water Watch, total escaping methane from the oil and gas industry that fuels these units — including fracking, pipelines and storage facilities like the one in Playa del Rey — is the leading human-caused source of methane pollution in the United States. Yet it took both local and national advocacy to convince the mayor of something that the environmental community always knew.
Why now? At a local level, it helped that a California law passed in the 1990s mandated a change to the seawater cooling system at the LADWP coastal power plants. At first, LADWP complied by shutting down and replacing turbines one by one until June 2017, when the board of commissioners decided to stop rebuilding until a study for alternatives could be completed. LADWP agreed to the study only after repeated demands by Food & Water Watch and its partners. This study played a key role because it revealed how using renewable energy is a viable alternative to methane gas.
But facts alone were not sufficient. Concerned community members and environmental groups had to show up consistently at neighborhood council meetings, DWP commission meetings, and at their city council offices. This advocacy led to articles in the media which spread the message that alternatives to fossil fuels exist.
At the same time that the environmental community voiced its concerns in L.A., 29-year-old newly elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to the youth-led Sunrise movement by introducing a Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. This resolution brought national attention to addressing our climate crisis. Groups of concerned youth organized throughout the country, formed collectives (known as hubs), and started lobbying elected officials to endorse the Green New Deal resolution.
In other words, it became clear that the local desire for climate solutions is resonating throughout the nation. The mayor rightly decided to side with a solution that doesn’t use fossil fuels, putting Playa del Rey’s Scattergood Power Station on track to be one of the first installations that will get changed in the context of a Green New Deal.
I am very hopeful about this shift in policy because I grew up in this neighborhood hearing stories about oily mist covering my neighbors’ homes from the underground methane storage facility at the bottom of the bluffs. Now I am proud to know that my neighborhood will be one of the first places where we can reject the unnecessary and dangerous use of fossil fuels. It helps me sleep better to know that we are taking concrete steps toward reversing climate change, and that when my five-month-old son grows up there will be fewer droughts and raging wildfires. In Garcetti’s words, “This is the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles.”
Be proud, Playa del Rey, and encourage the mayor to continue on this path until L.A. is using 100% clean renewable energy and can be a model for the country and the world.