Monday, December 9, 2013

Billion Dollar Power Plant at Sierra and M Creates a Division Between Lancaster and Palmdale

Palmdale-This is an article from CBSLA LANCASTER ( — A proposed billion dollar power plant in the Antelope Valley has generated a heated battle between residents and elected officials in Lancaster and Palmdale. Lancaster Vice-Mayor Marvin Crist held a forum in the city on Wednesday, when residents gathered to debate the project, which would be constructed on the border between the two cities at East Avenue M and Sierra Highway. “The problem is the location, and where they actually put the power plant,” Crist told KCAL9′s Dave Bryan. “The problem is the pollution… Palmdale gets all of the benefits. Lancaster gets all of the pollution.” But Palmdale officials argue the power plant is a no-brainer that would boost the local economy, create jobs and is environmentally clean and safe – fueled by natural gas. “We have the CEC [California Energy Commission] and EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] approval,” Palmdale Mayor James Ledford said. “This will in fact clean the air in the Antelope Valley, and it brings all kinds of financial benefits. Eight hundred great paying jobs would be part of the construction of the power plant – and in an environment where we have double-digit unemployment,” he said. Crist has so far conducted 30 community forums explaining why the city opposes the project, which he says would blow pollution into Lancaster, where asthma rates among are already very high. “This is essentially breaking a peanut in front of child that to the peanut. It’s not good,” he said, adding, “It’s still dirty. It’s not a renewable energy.” Lancaster resident Ben Hobbs attended the community forum because he is concerned about what he’s heard. “We are very concerned the pollution that’s been described – 540-plus tons of toxic material that every year will go into our air. So we are concerned about that. I have children, a son with asthma. This will not be a positive thing for us,” Hobbs said. Ledford meanwhile pointed to environmental impact studies that indicate two new centers now being planned across from a local high school in Lancaster will create more air pollution than the power plant that would be miles away from and has been approved by the state environmental agencies. “Five years of review, 13 public hearings. Actually, the City of Lancaster approved this when we made an initial pitch,” Ledford said. The local Air Quality Management District is scheduled to take a vote on the project on December 17. Lancaster officials say they expect 500 to 1,000 people to show up at the hearing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

California Judge Cuts Off State Funding for High-Speed Train Venture

This is an article from the FoxNews-A California judge has slammed the brakes on funding a pricey high-speed train project, in a move that could put the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line in jeopardy. The ruling Monday, by California Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, was greeted as good news by critics of the ambitious but costly rail proposal. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority whip, called the high-speed train an “unworkable boondoggle” and said Tuesday he’ll work with his colleagues in Congress to deny federal funding for it as well. “The ruling marks yet another self-inflicted setback for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and a small victory for California taxpayers,” McCarthy told “The CHSRA has failed at every turn to detail a realistic plan that will fund this program. With no private funds, unreliable ridership numbers and the reliance on taxpayers to eventually bail the project out – it should not move forward.” The ruling is the latest setback for champions of high-speed rail in California. It follows a recent decision by the federal government to suspend their review of a massive loan for a separate California-to-Vegas train. Kenny, in his ruling Monday, rejected a request from the CHSRA to sell $9 billion of the $10 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008. Over the summer, Kenny ruled that the state had failed to comply with requirements of the voter-approved money that would pay for the project’s initial phase. However, the measure also included provisions that basically said the state couldn’t start building if it had not secured all of the capital needed to create a fully operational and self-supporting first section of the line. California is about $25 billion short of what it needs to complete the first phase. While Kenny’s decision doesn’t immediately halt the project, it does make going forward difficult. Kenny ruled state officials failed to comply with legal requirements but chose to proceed with plans anyway. Dan Richard, head of the rail authority, said in a written statement he saw the ruling as a positive sign and the board is reviewing the decision “to chart our next steps” -- he said “it is important to stress that the court again declined the opposition’s request to stop the high-speed rail project from moving forward.” Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of a Bay Area group fighting the project, told the Los Angeles Times the rail authority has been “acting as if it is above the law.” The CHSRA, which was already a year behind schedule, had hoped to break ground on the first 28 miles of a 130-mile stretch in the Central Valley by mid-2014. State officials say they are weighing their options and looking for ways to keep the project going but admit Kenny’s ruling could complicate construction plans. While the ruling limits California’s access to $9 billion, the state still could technically begin building by tapping into federal money; however, experts warn it would be a big financial risk for a state that has a history of making questionable money decisions. Less than five years ago, the state’s coffers were so depleted that many of the public services that helped boost California into the ninth largest economy in the world were in jeopardy of shutting down. Rod Diridon, a former rail agency board member and supporter of the high-speed train, discounted Monday’s ruling, telling the L.A. Times, “Our state is no longer used to mega projects. There are going to be a lot of impediments. So suck it up.” Earlier this year, another proposed high-speed train connecting California to Las Vegas was disrupted after the Transportation Department halted the review of what would have been its largest taxpayer loan in history. The project, which was a favorite of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, came under intense Republican scrutiny, with lawmakers citing concern about “subsidizing” a costly and possibly risky project.