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Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 | Ninth District PTA, which advocates on behalf of children and families in San Diego and Imperial Counties, agrees with Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth who was assigned to oversee San Diego Gas & Electric’s $1.2 billion Sunrise Powerlink proposal: this project is not the best choice for San Diego’s energy needs.

Although its final route would be changed to avoid Anza Borrego, Sunrise Powerlink would still create 41 significant, unmitigable environmental impacts including the increased risk of fire. The environmental impact report describes San Diego as one of the most fire prone eco-systems in the world and explains how Sunrise Powerlink would create new transmission corridors in high fire risk areas. As we learned during last fall’s firestorms, when even our coastal suburbs were evacuated, we are all vulnerable to Santa Ana-whipped infernos that originate in the backcountry.

If, despite the environmental damage and public safety risks, the California Public Utilities Commission decides this project is necessary for the state to meet its renewable energy goals, then the citizens of San Diego are entitled to guarantees that the project will really be used to meet that objective. Commissioner Dian Grueneich, who is overseeing the Sunrise Powerlink proceedings, has recommended the project be approved with the condition that it carry substantial amounts of renewable clean energy, but SDG&E says they won’t build it if held to that standard.

When SDG&E built the Southwest Powerlink 25 years ago, they made the same renewable energy claims as they are making today for the Sunrise Powerlink. Those claims did not come to fruition. A renewable clean energy guarantee will allay concerns that SDG&E will use Sunrise Powerlink to import more fossil fueled energy into California. Sunrise Powerlink would originate where cross-border power lines, currently at half capacity, tie into fossil-fueled power plants in Mexicali, Mexico. Because these plants are in Mexico, they aren’t required to “offset” their emissions. Their pollutants contribute to poor air quality in the Imperial Valley which has the highest childhood asthma hospitalization rate in California. Natural gas pipelines connect these plants to Sempra’s new Baja LNG terminal which imports gas that emits up to 50 percent more pollution than domestic natural gas.

We therefore find it unconscionable that Utilities Commissioner Michael Peevey has proposed approving Sunrise Powerlink with no renewable clean energy guarantee. Ninth District PTA urges San Diegans to contact Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and CPUC commissioners, prior to their anticipated decision on Dec. 18, to convey their opposition to Peevey’s proposal.

Carol Green, Rebecca Hernandez, and Lorene Joosten are executive board members of the Ninth District PTA, San Diego and Imperial Counties.

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