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Los Angeles City Takes Step to End Dependence on Coal

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the replacement of a 1,800-megawatt coal-fire power plant in Utah with a smaller, natural gas facility, with officials calling the vote a deceptively simple but “historic” step in shedding Los Angeles’ reliance on coal power by 2025.

The 12-0 vote, which was greeted by applause from members of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and other groups, allows the Department of Water and Power to amend a purchasing agreement with the 23-member Intermountain Power Authority and five other California-based power purchasers to replace the coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant with a facility that adheres to California’s stricter emissions standards.

DWP and the other agencies involved with the agreement have until 2020 to decide on the size and design of the power plant, as well as determine the exact combination of natural gas and renewable energy that will be generated.

Next to coal plants, which are “uniquely within a city’s control,” only vehicles “put out more carbon pollution,” according to Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee that recommended approving the agreement.

“Kicking our coal habit is the single biggest thing our city can do to cut global warming pollution,” he said.

The decision, along with an upcoming vote to divest the city’s financial stake in the 477-megawatt Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, would allow DWP to go completely “coal free” ahead of state-mandated deadlines. The city buys 39 percent of its power from coal-fired sources.

The council also approved an amendment by Councilman Dennis Zine to have DWP officials report back in 90 days on the contract’s status, and to have the ratepayer advocate Fred Pickel review the report. He also instructed DWP officials and the ratepayer advocate to give annual reports on the energy generation options for the new power plant.

Pickel said natural gas and renewable energy prices will likely fluctuate in the 12 years before the plant is expected to begin construction.

“It’s good we monitor this and choose the right mix of alternatives,” he said. “This is perhaps the biggest single energy decision that we’ve faced since 1980.”

The City Council is also expected to vote on a finalized ordinance on the agreement at its May 1 meeting.