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San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink, a 100-mile power line proposed between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, won approval today from the California Independent System Operator, the agency that manages the state’s power grid.

It’s an intermediate step for the project, estimated to cost between $1 billion and $1.4 billion. The final decision on the line’s future rests with the California Public Utilities Commission.

In a news release, the agency said the power line would lower costs for San Diego consumers and boost reliability by bolstering a weak link in the region’s transmission network.

“The transmission grid can continue to perform as well as it did during last week’s incredible heat wave only with the addition of projects like this,” said Mason Willrich, the ISO’s board chairman.

The power line would be capable of delivering enough energy to power 650,000 homes. But its route through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has raised concerns among environmentalists, who say the line and its construction would harm habitat throughout the park.

SDG&ampE called the decision a significant step; environmentalists called it advisory.

SDG&ampE President/COO Debra Reed:

We hope the CPUC will give appropriate weight to the Cal-ISO’s decision that this project is needed. The Commission has asked us to include the Cal-ISO’s need determination as part of our amended project application. We expect the regulatory review process will begin soon, and look forward to a Commission decision by the middle of next year to keep us on track to get this project in service as soon as possible.

Sierra Club activist and Sunrise opponent Kelly Fuller:

CAISO’s decision is deplorable and shows contempt for the public. CAISO created a sham public participation process with only five days to review its 70 page final report recommending that the line be built. When the public sent hundreds of emails begging for more time to review the report, CAISO said no, and then had the audacity to claim that it had adequately considered the public’s concerns.

ROB DAVIS

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