By Andrew Shortall
2:32 PM PST, November 7, 2012
The Huntington Beach City Council unanimously approved a property owner's plan to remove three oil tanks from the city's southeastern area at Monday's meeting, concluding a lengthy process that was drawn out by two appeals last year.
Plains All American Pipeline, a Texas-based oil company, can now demolish three empty oil tanks and more than 2,342 feet of above-ground piping on its property at 21845 Magnolia St. after the proposal was approved with a 7-0 vote by the council.
The matter passed without much discussion after Plains All American reached an agreement with the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy earlier Monday.
Conservancy Chairman Gordon Smith said the agreement was based around Plains All American's decision to remove pipes that extend from its property into the adjacent wetlands if they hold no commercial value once the property is sold.
"We just wanted to make sure there wasn't any chance of them digging the tanks out, selling the property and keeping the pipes there," Smith said Tuesday. "I think the deal we struck with them is reasonable."
The project was originally approved by the zoning administrator, but it was appealed by Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby in January 2011 because of concerns about potential negative environmental impacts.
The Planning Commission passed the proposal with a 5-2 vote in March 2011 before it was appealed shortly after by Councilwoman Connie Boardman on behalf of the Wetlands Conservancy.
"At the time, I had some concerns about the pipes," Boardman said. "They extend toward the Huntington Beach wetlands area, so that's one reason I appealed it and requested the removal of the piping as well."
Plains All American representatives confirmed the agreement with the conservancy but declined to comment on the matter.
San Onofre power plant
Fourteen residents spoke during public comments on what action, if any, the council should take on the possible reopening of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.
The plant, operated by Southern California Edison, dominated Monday's meeting after it was placed on the agenda by Boardman. The council decided to bring the matter back to the city's Southeast Area Committee for further discussion at the suggestion of Mayor Pro Tem Devin Dwyer.
"It provides a forum for further input from the public, as well as Edison," Boardman said of the decision.
Boardman initially recommended the council draft a resolution similar to ones in Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, San Clemente and Irvine to promote information, transparency and public participation.
San Onofre's Unit 2 reactor was shut down Jan. 9 for a planned outage, according to an Oct. 4 news release from Edison. Unit 3 was taken offline Jan. 31 after a leak was detected in a steam generator.
Edison has submitted a plan to restart Unit 2 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is in charge of evaluating and approving or denying the request, according to the release.
The Laguna Beach City Council drafted a resolution in August that called for a review of San Onofre's financial status and viability and demanded Edison not restart the plant's generators without a transparent public process.
"I would like to see this brought out into the open a little bit more," said Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Shaw, who also supported adopting a similar resolution. "I do think we need more public scrutiny on this."
The idea didn't gain any more traction among the council, however, so Boardman didn't move for a vote.
The majority — 10 of 14 — of the public speakers on the matter asked the council to take action.
"You, as the voice of this city, should join with other cities like Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo and Irvine and demand an adjudicatory hearing with independent experts and full transparency so we can plan for a safe-energy future," Huntington Beach resident Beverly Findlay-Kaneko told the council.
Southern California Edison Vice President of Local Public Affairs Veronica Gutierrez spoke to the council and answered questions from the public.
"Our recommendation is to not politicize the process and allow them to do their job when it comes to the safety consideration," Gutierrez said. "Changing the process this far along would politicize it in a way that wouldn't be helpful for the nuclear regulatory scheme in this country."