PUC judge rejects line

A Ramona woman is fine-tuning what she will say at the California Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) Sunrise Powerlink hearing in San Francisco tomorrow.

Last Friday, the PUC issued two proposals for the complete commission’s consideration: A Proposed Decision and an Alternate Proposed Decision.  Both dealt a blow to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) plans for a 150-mile transmission line from Imperial County through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, parts of the backcountry and Ramona to the coast in San Diego County. The project has stirred controversy for nearly three years.

In the proposed decision, a PUC administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected SDG&E plans to string the high-voltage Sunrise Powerlink. ALJ Jean Vieth said the line is not needed to meet California’s renewable energy requirements and, if built, would be costly to ratepayers and cause extensive environmental damage.

In the alternate proposed decision, PUC Commissioner Dian Grueneich approved, with conditions, a southern route for Sunrise not a northern route proposed through the state park, backcountry and Ramona.  

Sunrise is not needed to meet California’s 20 percent by 2010 renewable power requirement, Grueneich concludes, but it will be needed to meet the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals with 33 percent renewables from energy sources such as solar and wind.

Grueneich’s alternate proposal requires SDG&E to prepare a Sunrise Compliance Plan for PUC approval that will ensure that substantial amounts of Imperial Valley renewables will be delivered on the line.

“It is critical that we focus on our GHG goals,” she stated. “If Sunrise can deliver the Imperial Valley renewables promised by SDG&E, we can go a long way toward meeting those goals and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in ratepayer benefits.”

“We are gratified with the ALJ’s decision to reject SDG&E’s application for Sunrise Powerlink,” said Ramona resident Diane Conklin, spokesperson for the Mussey Grade Alliance who plans to be at the PUC hearing in San Francisco on Nov. 7. “The record says the line is not needed and the judge has followed the evidence to its logical conclusion.”

“Both recommendations confirm what experts have warned from the start,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Despite SDG&E’s claims, the line is not needed to meet the state’s renewable mandate. I commended the ALJ for shining a light on this scam.”

The suggested southern route “still results in a costly, hulking, wildfire-waiting to happen that will be outmoded before it’s even built,” continued Jacob.

The proposed southern route would be 123 miles long, stretching from Imperial Valley to Sycamore Canyon Substation. From east to west, the line would follow Interstate 8 and the Southwest Powerlink route for nearly 36 miles, loop north of I-8 for 17 miles, and then south again, where it would roughly parallel the Southwest Powerlink route for another 13 miles with a separation of 3 to 5 miles between the two lines.

The proposed line would go north near existing Barrett Substation and travel underground in Alpine Boulevard, returning to overhead adjacent to I-8, ending at Sycamore Canyon Substation. It would be 500 kV for 92.5 miles and 230 kV for 30.3 miles.

“Southeastern San Diego County is already home to a 500-kilovolt line that had to be shut down during the Harris Fire last  year,” said Jacob. “In terms of safety, reliability and costs, in-basin generation is cheaper, safer and more reliable than a giant extension cord across fire-prone land.”

Jacob’s advice to SDG&E: “Start promoting rooftop solar here at home instead of scarring up our backcountry.”

The alternate decision troubles Conklin.

“As far as the alliance is concerned, fire issues along the southern route remain a problem that cannot be adequately mitigated as the final EIR itself points out,” she said. “Therefore, we hope the commission will realize that ... the better choice is local, clean, renewable energy in San Diego for San Diego.”

Sunrise Powerlink “remains a critical project for our customers and our plans to increase the use of clean renewable power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Debra Reed, SDG&E president and CEO said. “I understand that there are differing opinions on this project, but we hope the PUC will continue moving forward expeditiously with its review, so that we can meet our customers’ growing energy needs and California’s ambitious environmental mandates in the future.”

The PUC will hear oral arguments at 505 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 7. Parties in the proceeding may also file comments on both or one of the proposed decisions by Nov. 20. The PUC may vote on project on Dec. 4.

   
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