City Councilwoman Perry seeks to make DWP explain its coastal power plant policies

View of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in north San Diego County on March 15, 2011. The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on a 84-acre site between San Diego and Orange County and provides power to much of Southern California.
View of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in north San Diego County on March 15, 2011. The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on a 84-acre site between San Diego and Orange County and provides power to much of Southern California. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council's Energy and Environment Committee, chaired by City Councilwoman Jan Perry, is calling on the Department of Water and Power to explain its plans for eliminating the use of seawater to cool coastal power plants.

The utility uses seawater in a process called "once-through cooling." Water's sucked into a hardworking plant to cool turbines, then it's released back to the bay. State regulators, finding that the result changes ocean ecosystems, have set deadlines to eliminate the process at all coastal plants within nine years.

DWP has been lobbying to loosen its deadlines. Utility officials say it’ll be hard to meet the state's deadlines, and system reliability requires some of its units to keep using seawater for a couple of dozen years.

L.A. power officials made these arguments to an advisory board state water regulators convened to study once-through cooling. Top officials on that panel, including representatives from the Independent System Operator, the Coastal Commission, the Air Resources Board and the Energy Commission concluded last week that the DWP so far hasn't offered enough detail to tell whether the plan will meet state mandates.

At the L.A. City Council's Energy and Environment Committee, the utility is – as usual – in the hot seat.

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