News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

It's Official: Los Angeles Coal Free by 2025

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa | Photo: David Starkopf / Office of the Mayor /Flickr/Creative Commons License

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced today that the city of Los Angeles -- through its municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) -- is phasing out use of coal-fired electrical power in the next 12 years. The announcement formalizes a commitment Villaraigosa made at a public event at UCLA last month.

"The era of coal is over. Today we affirm our commitment to make Los Angeles a cleaner, greener, more sustainable city," Villaraigosa said in a press release. "By divesting from coal and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, we reduce our carbon footprint and set a precedent for the national power market."

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The announcement comes as LADWP's Board of Commissioners approved a plan to change the utility's contract with the Intermountain Power Plant (IPP) in Delta, Utah, one of two coal-fired power plants from which LADWP still buys power. Two thirds of the coal-fired power used in L.A. comes from IPP. Under the new terms of the agreement -- still subject to approval by Los Angeles' City Council -- IPP would instead sell LADWP power from a natural gas-fired plant.

DWP will be selling its stake in the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, which provides the other third of Los Angeles' coal-fired power, by 2015. The Arizona utility Salt River Project operates that power plant, long criticized for dirtying the air in some of America's most-visited National Parks. That station won't be shutting down anytime soon: the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation uses a quarter of the plant's 2,250-megawatt output to pump water from the Colorado River into the Central Arizona Project's aqueducts, which supply Phoenix and Tucson.

According to the Mayor's office, ending the purchase of power from IPP and Navajo will reduce Los Angeles' greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent of what they were in 1990.

"Mayor Villaraigosa's decision to end Los Angeles' reliance on dirty coal and guide the city to a more sustainable future is a bold step on the path towards solving the climate crisis," said former Vice President and climate activist Al Gore, who will be celebrating the decision in a public event in Los Angeles on Friday. "This courageous action should serve as an example to leaders all across our country; we have the tools at hand, it's time to act."

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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Although the Mayor made mention of renewable energy several times, used the terms energy efficiency, cleaner, greener, more sustainable, reducing our carbon footprint and setting a precendent, this is surprising for one key reason, but hopefully intentional.
The Mayor made no mention of the Pine Canyon Wind Project, one which is known by many to be the future 12,000 acre expansion (refer to Kern County Planning - Environmental Documents - North Sky River - http://www.co.kern.ca.us/planning/pdfs/eirs/northsky_jawbone/nsr_bossr_091311.pdf - Page 349 of 532 - Section 4.3-22 - 3rd Paragraph) of the poorly planned past development known as the LADWP Pine Tree Wind Project currently residing on 8,000 acres in the Kern County Mountains. This Project was sited well north of the majority of other wind Projects located in Mojave and Tehachapi, well into the rural mountain range west of Jawbone Canyon adjacent to the Piute Mountains, near Southern Kelso Valley and Cottonwood Creek. The Pine Tree Project unfortunately is one that has acheived high rankings across the US for an astronomical number of avian mortalities, including our precious Eagles. Very unfortunate.
Some of the public may be aware of this area now because of an adjacent Wind Project on almost 13,000 acres built by NextEra in 2012 which was pushed through the approval process by Kern County, primarily one lady in particular (more man-ish beast). This Project, the North Sky River is making headlines recently with many articles circulating requesting public input from the USF&WS relating to additional Eagle deaths after just one month of operation. Again, very unfortunate but was a foreseen issue.
This area also received a zone change from Recreation Forestry (RF) and Estate 20 (E-20) to Agriculture (A) back in December of 2009 covering 52,000 acres by two applicants, one being the County of Kern. At the time they noted they had to perform this due to inconsistencies found in their General Plan, but later it seemed more apparent that the request came after the acquisition of this land and the need to install MET towers by the other applicant which exceeded the 80 foot height restrictions at the time. It seemed a height variance and a zone change request to (A) was reqested at the time to the "man-ish beast" so the incorporation of the Wind Energy (WE) zone could be added to the (A) zone in the future for a wind Project. The inconsistencies of the General Plan never seemed to materialize but the County claimed this and changed the zoning and every other property owner adjacent to the Future Project whether they wanted it or not. This was even more unfortunate since it smelled like Inverse Condemnation.
After all this devastation in this area, perhaps the Mayor has now realized what it takes to truly protect the environment, if so, many of us would support him in his efforts. We must plan carefully and not cause harm to other aspects of the environment with claims to benefit others, we must become more efficient, must not expand our development footprint into rural areas with the belief that we are improving the environment, must be responsible and protect all species for future generations, must utilize existing developments to construct rooftop and parking lot solar systems, which reduce the requirement from the grid at the load centers and eliminate the need for additional transmission lines. Perhaps the Mayor has learned from these lessons over the past years, and can lead Los Angeles and others on a path to a truly sustainable path. Time will tell, but many of us have divoted countless hours and await his actions, and will support his actions if responsible on all fronts.

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I very much appreciate your expanding on the piece in your mainly excellent comment, ethics.

I say mainly because I'd strongly prefer commenters avoid appearance-based slurs. The physical appearance of players in the renewable energy world in California is irrelevant to those players' actions. Let's drop the slurs and focus on the actions. Thanks.