“Green” Hydrogen Motion Introduced at LA City Council Despite Environmental and Justice Concerns

Amid fierce opposition from climate justice advocates, final motion stripped of safeguards against dirty energy.

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – L.A. City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Mitch O’Farrell, and Joe Buscaino introduced a motion to authorize the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the L.A. Ports to apply for federal funding to make Los Angeles a regional “green” hydrogen hub. An initial draft of the motion shared with Food & Water Watch included guardrails to ensure hydrogen production would not perpetuate or support dirty energy systems like natural gas or factory farm gas, but these were stripped from the motion ahead of its introduction. 

Without these provisions, utilities could easily use hydrogen development to perpetuate and prop up fossil fuel power plants in Los Angeles that would otherwise retire with the transition to clean energy. This is a key flaw of any hydrogen development project. Burning hydrogen (whether in a power plant or people’s homes) can produce six times more nitrous oxides than burning methane. This harmful pollutant can cause respiratory illness and is a key pollutant in the formation of smog. LADWP has expressed interest in retrofitting the Haynes, Scattergood, Harbor and Valley natural gas plants to burn hydrogen gas despite fervent community concern that this will increase environmental pollution in overburdened communities.  

“Without important guardrails, even green hydrogen will be a smokescreen for fossil fuel development in the guise of clean energy,” Food & Water Watch Los Angeles Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas said in response to today’s motion. “Hydrogen is being used by fossil fuel interests to maintain their dangerous pipeline and energy infrastructure, propping up a system of dirty fossil fuels like fracked gas. Climate justice advocates have made it crystal clear that hydrogen does not belong at L.A.’s power plants and hydrogen with no safeguards against fossil fuel development or biofuels is unacceptable. This motion is a betrayal of Los Angeles communities who deserve equitable, accessible energy solutions and not costly, energy-intensive, water-intensive scams like this “green” hydrogen proposal.”

The motion also fails to address hydrogen’s intensive water usage in a drought identified as the worst in 1,200 years. “Green” hydrogen utilizes electrolysis to break water molecules apart, requiring 9 kg of water per every 1 kg of hydrogen produced. California is already a home for water-heavy industries, including factory farms, industrial agriculture and fossil fuel extraction, and the state’s water supply is dwindling. 

Investor-owned utility giant SoCalGas recently announced its intention to begin the “Angeles Link Project,” an initiative building out “green” hydrogen to power the Los Angeles Basin. SoCalGas has also promised to mix hydrogen with natural gas in its forthcoming H2 Hydrogen Home in Downey, drawing fierce criticism from environmental advocates who point to the move as another opportunity for the utility to expand gas infrastructure at Aliso Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Ventura. 

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]