Glendale's plan for dealing with methane emissions at Scholl Canyon would pollute Eagle Rock. / Photo by the L.A. Times

Eagle Rock in Harm’s Way from Scholl Canyon Biogas Project, New Report Shows

2020 August

By Bill Hendrickson

At long last, Glendale Water and Power (GWP) has issued the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) on its project to build a biogas power plant at the Scholl Canyon landfill in the hills above Eagle Rock.

The report analyzes how the 12-megawattt plant would convert methane from decaying trash into electricity for Glendale to use or sell. The report also describes four ways to deal with methane at Scholl Canyon that would not require building a biogas plant, including procedures to purify the methane for conversion into natural gas or liquid natural gas.

Eagle Rockers beware. In each of the proposals in the DEIR, GWP would process the methane onsite at Scholl Canyon, essentially in Eagle Rock’s backyard. That means that Eagle Rock would get the truck traffic and pollution from the methane processing, while Glendale would get the resulting electricity or other power.

The DEIR makes no mention of one way that GWP might be able to use the methane at Scholl Canyon without harming Eagle Rock. Namely, there is a pipeline from Scholl Canyon to the Grayson power plant in Glendale. Why can’t methane from Scholl Canyon be transported via the pipeline to Grayson and processed there?

The Boulevard Sentinel asked just that of Steven Zurn, general manager of GWP. The answer, through a spokesperson, was that GWP would respond to comments and questions after the public comment period for the DEIR closed on September 30.

Unfortunately, the path forward to assert Eagle Rock’s interest in what happens at Scholl Canyon is fraught. Residents and environmentalists in Eagle Rock have generally worked through their City Council District 14 office to pressure and influence Glendale on Scholl Canyon issues. But with Eagle Rock’s city councilperson, José Huizar, under arrest on federal corruption charges, Council District 14 is not in a position to mount a firm response to the DEIR. 

Making matters worse, an attempt to work through the L.A. City Attorney to bring pressure on Glendale appears to be going nowhere. Last September, the L.A. City Council directed the City Attorney to report on ways to ensure “maximum benefits to, and protections for, the community of Eagle Rock” in the face of Glendale’s plans for Scholl Canyon. Eleven months later, there is still no such report. Neither the spokesperson for the City Attorney nor the attorney assigned to the report responded to questions from the Sentinel about it. A spokesperson for Huizar’s office responded by email saying, “This report is not yet complete,” adding that work on it was continuing.  The spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question asking about a timeline for completion.

Meanwhile, environmentalists and homeowners in Glendale have begun raising questions and concerns about the DEIR.

David Choi, a member of Coalition for Scholl Landfill Alternatives, an environmental group, notes that the DEIR indicates worsening air quality at Scholl Canyon if GWP builds a biogas plant. GWP can use legal means to exceed allowable pollution levels, but those maneuvers don’t actually improve the air, says Choi, adding, “If you want to breathe clean air, this is not a good proposal.”

Instead of building a biogas plant at Scholl Canyon, the Coalition favors controlling the methane by creating less garbage and exploring technologies that would be cleaner than a biogas plant. 

But Choi and other activists remain mistrustful of GWP to fully evaluate alternatives to a biogas plant. “There are hardly any numbers” in the section of the DEIR that outlines alternatives to the biogas plant, says Choi, which makes it impossible to compare the costs and emissions of various methods. Choi believes that GWP wants to build a biogas power plant and so has steered the DEIR toward that outcome.

The battle lines are drawn. The question for Eagle Rock is who will lead the fight?

The deadline for submitting a public comment on the Scholl Canyon DEIR is 5 p.m. on September 30. To submit a comment, email: ekrause@glendaleca.gov. Or mail your comment to Erik Krause, Deputy Director of Community Development, City of Glendale, Community Development Department, 633 East Broadway, Room 103, Glendale, California 91026-4386. Or by fax to 818-240-0392.  


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