Right now, I’m reading testimony from Michael Shames at the Utility Consumers Action Network (UCAN) on SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink.

Pretty interesting stuff.

Shames alleges that when SDG&E was studying ways to ensure passage of its highly controversial Sunrise Powerlink, it paid lots of money to a consulting firm to conduct a “focus group” to determine how best to gain approval for the giant line.

Pricey focus groups of local “opinion leaders” are certainly not new or unusual. However, some of the discussion that took place during the two-hour session reveals a lot about how these “opinion leaders” view political decision making.  

Check out Page 46.

Focus group participants were said to have suggested that the utility should promote the benefits of the line so that, “elected officials have cover to support a controversial endeavor.”


Now “cover” is one of those loaded words that, to me, just sound suspicious. Should a company (or its consultant) be thinking in terms of “cover” if their project is sure to draw conspiracy allegations?

Are San Diego’s elected officials so skittish about unpopular decisions that others need to create a climate of “cover”?

What about science? What about technical data? What about analysis? What about costs?

What about the paid staffers of elected officials who are supposed to be ferreting out good public policy based on a proposal’s merit?

What about — how do I say this delicately — testicular fortitude?

Instead, at least one group of influential stakeholders thinks the region’s elected officials need “cover” to get stuff done.  

Even if you don’t believe there are less costly, less destructive alternatives to SDG&E’s massive line, you just have to hope that SDG&E is as interested in the facts as it is in “cover.”


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