LANCASTER (CBSLA.com) — Controversy over a proposed Antelope Valley power plant has heated up after a preliminary vote Tuesday cleared the way for the facility’s construction.
The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District spent six and a half hours debating whether the plant should be built on an empty field, surrounded by a mile of open space, in Palmdale.
The plant’s construction was approved 4-3.
Opponents say the vote only passed because of 11th-hour political maneuverings.
Marvin Crist, vice mayor of nearby Lancaster, says Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich manipulated the vote. He said the supervisor unseated a veteran member of the air quality board who opposed the plant and replaced him, just 24 hours before the meeting, with a new board member who cast the deciding vote.
“He pulled out an individual with 15 years experience. 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 said. “The public wasn’t able to speak. The process wasn’t served. This is not what you do as a public official…you do not just put pawns where they can rubber stamp what you want.”
“We have 12.2 percent of the entire population in the Antelope Valley has asthma; those people, those children would suffer because of that power plant,” Crist said.
Plant supporters say Lancaster officials have been attacking the plant with bogus environmental claims.
“The city of Lancaster has really invested themselves in a disinformation campaign, informing people improperly of some of the negatives they’re manufacturing,” said power plant supporter Brandon Adam Zabala. “People in the Antelope Valley deserve an honest debate, and we’re not having that right now.
Supporters say the plant is going to create 800 jobs.
“This power plant is going to create good jobs, good-paying jobs, with pension, with benefits, with health care, you name it. They’re all union jobs…we have a lot of kids who are out in the street right now, roaming around with nothing to do,” supporter Angel Olvera said.
Lancaster City Council candidate Jonathan Ervin is a power plant supporter who thinks some Lancaster lawmakers are consumed with political in-fighting.
“This project’s been going on for over five years. We had plenty of time to get our input in on what we didn’t like about the project, the pollution,” Ervin said. “I think the citizens in the entire Antelope Valley…are tired of the city fighting…The cactus curtain must come down.”
The LA County Supervisor’s Office discussed why Antonovich appointed a new board 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, an aide to the supervisor.
Bell said the new board member Antonovich appointed is “extremely knowledgeable on Antelope Valley issues and the significance of projects that impact the region.”
The power plants supporters say the vote Tuesday secured the facility’s future and construction can now begin.
But opponents say there could still be opposition from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.