Burning of Methane at Scholl Canyon Raises Questions Anew

2018 December Editions Featured Front Page

The methane gas from decaying trash at the Scholl Canyon landfill in the hills above Eagle Rock is being “flared,” or burned off, the Boulevard Sentinel has learned. Contrary to common belief, the methane is no longer being used to make electricity at the Grayson Power Plant in Glendale.
From an environmental point of view, flaring is the worst way to deal with methane gas. Flaring causes pollution and releases emissions that contribute to global warming. Flaring is also wasteful because it literally burns up landfill gas that could be used to generate energy.
The Boulevard Sentinel learned of the flaring from Steven Zurn, the General Manager at Glendale Water and Power (GWP), in response to recent questions about the future of the Scholl Canyon landfill, which is owned by the City of Glendale. Mr. Zurn said flaring began in April. Before that, the gas was transported by pipeline to Grayson and used as a fuel source to generate electricity. Mr. Zurn said the methane is being flared because the Grayson plant is getting too old to efficiently process the gas. He pointed out that flaring has been used at Scholl Canyon in the past during maintenance and as emergency back-up and was common until about the mid-1990s.
Councilmember José Huizar and his staff found out about the flaring in October from the Sanitation District of Los Angeles County, which handles the flaring, said Sean Starkey, the field deputy in Eagle Rock for Mr. Huizar. But Mr. Huizar’s office has not discussed the Scholl Canyon flaring publicly because it is still gathering information about this development.
David Choi, a Glendale resident and a member of the Coalition for Scholl Landfill Alternatives, a local group of environmental activists, was not aware of the flaring until the Boulevard Sentinel told him about in November. He said that the Coalition’s position is that GWP should continue to pipe the methane from the landfill to Grayson and use it to create electricity.
The flaring of methane at Scholl Canyon is likely to feed the long running feud between Glendale and Northeast Los Angeles over the landfill. The problem, in brief, is that Glendale owns the dump, uses it and makes money from it, while Eagle Rock and Highland Park are stuck with the landfill’s truck traffic and pollution. The flaring at Scholl Canyon is also likely to anger many residents in Glendale, like Mr. Choi, who want their city to increase its use of clean, renewable energy sources and to reduce Glendale’s reliance on the Scholl Canyon landfill.
One proposal by GWP to manage the methane from Scholl Canyon is to build a biogas plant at the landfill that would convert the methane to energy on site. The proposal has been met with opposition in Eagle Rock in part, because the biogas plan was hatched without consulting leaders in NELA about its impacts on the area in terms of traffic, pollution and other hazards. In Glendale, the Coalition for Scholl Landfill Alternatives and other groups also oppose the biogas plan.
Mr. Choi said for GWP to make money running a biogas plant, it would have to expand the dump to accept more garbage – which is the last thing his group wants to see.
At this point, there are more questions than answers about the future of Scholl Canyon. But one thing is sure: The methane is not going away. Even if the landfill shut down today, the garbage already there would produce methane for decades to come. So, the methane from Scholl Canyon has to be managed.
But if flaring is not the answer, and if Grayson isn’t processing the methane and if the biogas plant elicits a thumbs down, what is the answer? Asked another way: Who or what is going to get the interested parties to hammer out an acceptable path forward?

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3 thoughts on “Burning of Methane at Scholl Canyon Raises Questions Anew

  1. Years ago, in the 1980s I think, the city of Glendale told Los Angeles they could no longer use the dump. L. A. responded, telling Glendale they could then not use the access road at the end of Figueroa. For a few weeks, Glendale city trash trucks drove through a Glendale neighborhood on the way to the dump. That Glendale neighborhood was not happy, and the end result was Glendale started allowing L. A. trash trucks back in, so they could use our road. Someone somewhere along the way must have forgotten this, and made a poor deal with Glendale. Maybe this needs to be revisited.

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