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The Centinela and Imperial Solar South projects nearly surround Interstate 98, just west of Calexico. / Photo courtesy of SDG&E

For years, environmentalists have dreamed of a day humanity would stop burning fossil fuels and switch to cleaner forms of energy, like wind and solar power.

The city of San Diego, led by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, wants that for electricity by 2035. I explore the two different ways that could happen. Either the city is going to create its own utility, or it’s going to trust San Diego Gas & Electric to usher in a new era.

One big hang up, though, is where all that power will come from. Right now, neither the city nor the company can say for sure.

Environmentalists and unions want to make sure much of the energy is created locally, with Southern California’s sun and winds. Generating electricity locally hasn’t been easy for other municipalities that took over the job of buying electricity for residents.

At the same time SDG&E has been telling the city it can switch to green power, the company has been asking state utility regulators for permission to build a new $640 million natural gas pipeline project. On Wednesday, the California Public Utilities Commission released a draft decision that rejected SDG&E’s plans. Why? Because the company was seeking to invest in gas even as the state and cities, like San Diego, are trying to get rid of gas-fired power.

The ruling could not be more blunt: SDG&E was seeking “to build a very costly pipeline to substantially increase gas pipeline capacity in an era of declining demand and at a time when the state of California is moving away from fossil fuels.” That, a CPUC judge said, made no sense.

North County Report: Intractable Encinitas

Encinitas is the only city in the county, and one of only a few statewide, that lacks a state-mandated plan to allow for more housing. This week, the Superior Court gave Encinitas a bit more breathing room to adopt a plan to allow more housing, but said the city is running out of second chances to put something on the books, our freelance reporter, Ruarri Serpa, reports in this week’s round-up of North County news.

In Other News

• This is a disturbing story, from inewsource: “San Diego government agencies discovered an active earthquake fault nearly 10 years ago under the Central Embarcadero on the downtown waterfront, yet they didn’t alert the public, the state, or the company currently undertaking a billion-dollar redevelopment of the land.” (inewsource)

• Picking up on our reporting about how District Attorney Summer Stephan says virtually any woman who engages in sex work for money is to be considered a victim who should not be prosecuted for a crime, a post by In Justice Today looks at how Stephan “seized on the human trafficking panic to become a law enforcement superstar.” (In Justice Today)

• The mayor’s budget cuts funding for the Urban Forestry Program, which could affect the city’s ability to fight climate change, because trees trap greenhouse gases.

City trees also help cool neighborhoods, but they’re less likely to be found in low-income neighborhoods. One of my favorite investigations of the past year is about how the failure to plant trees in some Phoenix neighborhoods is likely fatal. (Union-Tribune, Arizona Republic)

• This can only happen in Southern California: There are too many car washes in Escondido, so the city might put a moratorium on new ones. (ABC 10)

• A Los Angeles Times op-ed makes the case that some California cities have become spies for the federal government when they install mass surveillance systems that capture people as they drive around. We’ve been reporting on these elaborate systems, known as license plate readers. My colleague, Andrew Keatts, found the San Diego Police Department, ironically enough, may not be following a state law about how to use such a spy system and, further, didn’t understand how the system actually worked. (Los Angeles Times)

The San Diego Unified Port District delayed a hearing on hotel project that is planned for the same bit of land the mayor wants to expand the Convention Center on. We recently reported on negotiations that could get the hotel developers to go away so the expansion can happen.

• The Valley Center newspaper’s editor is worried about county plans to rush through a bunch of new housing developments, including the controversial Lilac Hills development that voters rejected just two years ago. The piece is titled, bluntly enough, “County readies to disrespect the voters—big time.” (Valley Roadrunner)

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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