LANCASTER (CBSLA.com) — A proposed billion dollar power plant in the Antelope Valley has generated a heated battle between residents and elected officials in Lancaster and Palmdale.
Lancaster Vice-Mayor Marvin Crist held a forum in the city on Wednesday, when residents gathered to debate the project, which would be constructed on the border between the two cities at East Avenue M and Sierra Highway.
“The problem is the location, and where they actually put the power plant,” Crist told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan.
“The problem is the pollution… Palmdale gets all of the benefits. Lancaster gets all of the pollution.”
But Palmdale officials argue the power plant is a no-brainer that would boost the local economy, create jobs and is environmentally clean and safe – fueled by natural gas.
“We have the CEC [California Energy Commission] and EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] approval,” Palmdale Mayor James Ledford said.
“This will in fact clean the air in the Antelope Valley, and it brings all kinds of financial benefits. Eight hundred great paying jobs would be part of the construction of the power plant – and in an environment where we have double-digit unemployment,” he said.
Crist has so far conducted 30 community forums explaining why the city opposes the project, which he says would blow pollution into Lancaster, where asthma rates among children are already very high.
“This is essentially breaking a peanut in front of child that has allergies to the peanut. It’s not good,” he said, adding, “It’s still dirty. It’s not a renewable energy.”
Lancaster resident Ben Hobbs attended the community forum because he is concerned about what he’s heard.
“We are very concerned the pollution that’s been described – 540-plus tons of toxic material that every year will go into our air. So we are concerned about that. I have children, a son with asthma. This will not be a positive thing for us,” Hobbs said.
Ledford meanwhile pointed to environmental impact studies that indicate two new shopping centers now being planned across from a local high school in Lancaster will create more air pollution than the power plant that would be miles away from and has been approved by the state environmental agencies.
“Five years of review, 13 public hearings. Actually, the City of Lancaster approved this when we made an initial pitch,” Ledford said.
The local Air Quality Management District is scheduled to take a vote on the project on December 17.
Lancaster officials say they expect 500 to 1,000 people to show up at the hearing.