In 1987, the City of Glendale implemented a defined waste shed area that limited the surrounding cities that could utilize the Scholl Canyon Landfill. The purpose was to provide access to those agencies which did not have a landfill within their own jurisdiction. As the City of Los Angeles had multiple options for utilizing landfills in their own City, they were not included as part of the waste shed area. From the opening of the landfill in 1961, and up to the waste shed area restriction in 1987, the City of Los Angeles was an active user of the Scholl Canyon landfill and accounted for a significant amount of refuse that was deposited at the facility. Once the restriction was put into place, there was a 50% reduction in waste being deposited in the landfill.
In July 1994, GWP completed a 5-mile pipeline that transports methane gas produced at Scholl Canyon Landfill to the steam boilers at the Grayson Power Plant. Since 1994, Grayson Units 3, 4, and 5 have generated power using this methane, blended with natural gas, to produce a minimum loading of approximately 8 MW. During 2012, the Grayson Power Plant generated approximately 80,000 MWh from Scholl Canyon landfill gas. The energy produced from Scholl Canyon landfill gas is Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS certified by the California Energy Commission.
Existing Scholl Canyon Landfill Gas to Energy Project
In 1994, the City of Glendale developed a gas-to-energy project at Scholl Canyon landfill. The project captured the naturally-occurring raw landfill gas (LFG) that results primarily from the decomposition of organic waste deposited in the landfill. The LFG, by state and local regulatory mandate, must be controlled in such a manner as to eliminate the venting to the environment of this volatile heat trapping gas that has high methane content. This gas is often referred to as a greenhouse gas or GHG. The accepted control method is the combustion of the raw LFG in a flare, in an engine, or in a turbine, all of which dramatically reduce the overall toxicity and global warming impacts of methane.
Prior to 1994, the LFG at Scholl Canyon was combusted exclusively in the permitted flares operating at the landfill, which are managed by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County under a Joint Powers Authority agreement with the City of Glendale. When the gas-to-energy project was developed, the LFG was transmitted via a 5.5 mile pipeline to the Grayson Power Plant where it was blended with natural gas and used as fuel in three older, converted boilers (Units 3, 4 & 5) to generate electricity. The flares have remained in place and are permitted and operable and act as a secondary point of delivery/control for the gas. Over the years, the flares have been used, albeit less frequently than before, during maintenance periods, emergency shutdowns, and equipment failures at Grayson. During the past three years, these types of occurrences have been more frequent as Unit 3 was taken out of service due to age and there have been several major repair projects on Units 4 & 5.
In the course of compiling the Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Grayson Repowering Project, one particular study area that was included was an evaluation of air quality. The City assessed the emissions from the proposed Grayson facility as well as from the existing facility for a comparison. The results indicated that the emissions from the existing, older and mechanically-degraded Grayson generating units presented a higher than acceptable health risk. The results are included in the EIR on page 9.96 (Table 9-7) and were presented in City Council meetings on February 6 and April 10, 2018. The City promptly notified the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) of the findings and based on the findings, the City proactively implemented a risk reduction measure and transferred the combustion of the LFG to the secondary location at the landfill flare station. The City continues to work with SCAQMD on the future handling and control of the LFG.
An ordinance passed by the City of Glendale limits disposal at the landfill to solid wastes generated within the Los Angeles County incorporated cities of Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, and Sierra Madre; the Los Angeles County unincorporated communities of Altadena, La Crescenta, and Montrose; the unincorporated area bordered by the cities of San Gabriel, Rosemead, Temple City, Arcadia, and Pasadena; the unincorporated area immediately to the north of Arcadia and Pasadena; and the unincorporated area immediately to the north of the City of San Marino bordered by the City of Pasadena on the west, north, and east sides.
The City of Glendale has adopted a Zero Waste Policy, has ongoing diversion efforts, is workings toward an exclusive franchise process for private haulers, and actively pursues alternatives for disposal. The City of Glendale even captures the methane gas created from the Scholl Canyon Landfill and uses it in the steam boilers at the City’s Grayson Power Plant - one of the many proactive ways Glendale is reducing waste.
While the municipality of Los Angeles has been restricted from dumping at the landfill, private trash hauling services for businesses in Los Angeles with dual hauling services in the waste shed area, do use the Scholl Canyon Landfill. There is still capacity in the Scholl Canyon Landfill and, as we continue to divert more waste, that capacity will extend even longer.
The City of Los Angeles actually derives benefit from Scholl Canyon Landfill, and always has. Up until the City of Los Angeles was removed from the waste-shed, they were a major depositor of trash at the facility. Roughly half of the trash buried there is from the City of Los Angeles. Yet, Los Angeles has been absolved from paying any portion of the tens of millions of dollars and/or environmental responsibility that goes along with landfill post-closure protocols. Further, Los Angeles trash is today making its way into Scholl Canyon – indeed any trash truck traffic that exists on Colorado Boulevard today is from commercial haulers servicing accounts in both Glendale and Eagle Rock. This inconsistency can be abated by moving to an exclusive franchise system in Glendale, but would affect Eagle Rock customers in the pocket book because their trash would have to be trucked to Chiquita or Sunshine Canyon, which are City of Los Angeles-owned facilities.
Where is Glendale Headed
The City of Glendale’s vision for Scholl Canyon is to have a clean, high-tech waste conversion facility with a landfill component, not a landfill with a conversion technology component. This evolution will take time, particularly because technologies like gasification, pyrolysis, plasma arc, etc., are not yet reliable, cost-effective or permitted. The City of Glendale has an obligation to make rational environmental and economic policy decisions, understanding that not everyone will agree, but that will best serve our community — and our region — well into the future.
The expansion of Scholl Canyon Landfill is an environmental benefit to the region, especially as the City of Glendale brings forward a conversion technology project next year, and as it meets the renewable energy goals set out by the State.
The EIR being considered is a foundational document that grants the time flexibility for the landfill to transition to a conversion facility. Of all of the conversion technologies that folks want to move toward, only anaerobic digestion is proven and permitted in California – and Glendale is moving there now. The City of Glendale may get to plasma or gasification in the next twenty years, but real-world and practical solutions that bridge today to the future are needed.
Glendale stands at the threshold of an opportunity to enhance the integrated waste management system; but that means having the courage and rationality to engage in an honest dialogue, address real impacts, and recognize the hard facts. There is no perfect public policy; but if Glendale faithfully executes an open decision-making process it will arrive at the best public policy decision.
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