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Environment & Science

What Farmers Field's environmental goals really are, and what they really mean

 American businessman Steve Bing, President and CEO of AEG Timothy J. Leiweke, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Casey Wasserman pose for a photograph during the seventh Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.
American businessman Steve Bing, President and CEO of AEG Timothy J. Leiweke, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Casey Wasserman pose for a photograph during the seventh Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images for AEG

As of 4 o’clock, all the comments have been submitted concerning the draft environmental impact report for Farmers Field. It’ll be interesting to see how the city planning office responds to some of the criticisms leveled publicly, at meetings in recent weeks, and via letter.

Among them are complaints that AEG hasn’t explained how it will achieve the goals created by SB 292 for fewer car trips and carbon neutrality at the proposed downtown football stadium.

For what they’re worth, AEG made another set of promises too. While it was drumming up public and political support for Farmers Field plans, AEG announced it entered into a set of commitments with the Clinton Global Initiative. What does that mean? According to the Initiative itself:

Commitments help CGI members translate practical goals into meaningful and measurable results. CGI works with each member to develop an achievable plan, and members report back on the progress they make over time.

Since CGI was founded in 2005, our members have made more than 2,100 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

Basically, the core of the mission for the Clinton Global Initiative is to make sure its members follow through on its commitments.

Here’s one example of AEG's goals: According to the draft environmental impact report, while AEG builds Farmers Field, the company “would target 50 percent and 75 percent of the non-hazardous construction and demolition debris by weight to be recycled and/or salvaged for reuse.” Once the stadium is built, AEG would recycle 50 percent of its waste, the report’s authors wrote. So, basically, half of its waste would go to the landfill.

That seems problematic on its own. Fifty percent diversion at a huge stadium is actually a rate worse than the city’s present claimed diversion rate. Remember, too, that the city of LA is aiming for zero waste by the year 2030. (In fact, three years ago, I went to a planning conference that the city’s sanitation department held about this issue…in the West Hall of the Convention Center, which would be torn down to make room for the stadium.)

But AEG promised something different to the Clinton Global Initiative about waste management at Farmers Field--something more. On the CGI website, AEG says it plans to divert 90% of its waste from landfill during construction, and 75% of its waste from landfill during operations: “Farmers Field will divert waste from landfill through a robust recycling, the donation of durable goods, and implementing a front of house composting program that includes sourcing biodegradable concessions packaging.”

AEG’s plans on water conservation differ among the places they record them too. In the environmental impact report, it says that building Farmers Field “with incorporation of the City’s water efficiency requirements” will create “annual potable water demand of approximately 84.3 million gallons or 258 acre-feet (AF) per year.” Adding in AEG’s own “specified commitments with respect to water conservation” would create water savings of “3.1 million gallons or 10 AF per year.” Then AEG takes credit for “water consumption associated with the existing Project Site uses to be removed” to come up an annual demand of 63.5 million gallons or 194 AF per year.

I know that’s a lot of numbers. Let’s boil them down. Cutting 10 AF of water a year on a total demand of 258 is less than 4% in water savings. If Farmers Field wants to claim credit for removing existing uses too, that’s a total water demand of 194 AF down from 258. A 25% savings.

According to AEG’s commitment on the CGI site, AEG says Farmers Field “will conserve water by installing the best available technology for water fixtures and equipment and educating our employees on water efficiency through our Environmental Management System. Special projects under analysis include: technology to reclaim water from sinks and showers for use in toilets and cooling towers and xeriscaping.” Doing that, it says, will cut water use 35%.

When AEG announced its environmental commitments last fall, former President Bill Clinton came down heavy and publicly, squarely in favor of the stadium. “AEG has proven to be the world’s most environmentally conscious venue operators (sic),” he said in a statement, “and Farmers Field will be another true example of their mission to marry design, innovation, social responsibility and community engagement, resulting in a measurable impact for future generations. I commend AEG as a model socially responsible company that is the hallmark of CGI.” The move earned AEG kudos on environmental blogs as “the most sustainable stadium in the United States" around the same time as Sacramento lawmakers were considering fast-track state Environmental Quality Act bills. 

I emailed both CGI and AEG to ask if it means anything that AEG is making one set of commitments in an environmental impact report now after making slightly harder-to-pull-off commitments to the CGI last fall. Will AEG go back to CGI and amend its goals? As for the consequences of "fast-tracking" big projects like this, they'll likely take years to unravel.