For Immediate Release, November 18, 2008
Utility Commission Chief's New Power Line Proposal Would
Thwart Governor's Greenhouse Gas Goals
SAN FRANCISCO— Bending to pressure from San Diego Gas and Electric, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey on Tuesday introduced a third proposed decision in the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line proceeding that would allow construction of the power line without any restrictions.
Peevey’s proposal would allow the line to be used for transmission of electricity generated by fossil fuel-fired power plants, thus contradicting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reason for supporting the Sunrise line – the governor has said he would support the line because it would promote renewable energy transmission.
“San Diego Gas and Electric has shown their true colors ,” said Justin Augustine, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is now obvious that renewable energy transmission is not, and never has been, SDG&E’s objective.”
Peevey’s proposal comes on the heels of two other proposed alternative decisions submitted October 31st. The first would deny construction of a 123-mile power line through some of California's last remaining wildlands, including national forest and other public lands. The Center for Biological Diversity supports this decision, as does the recent Final Environmental Impact Report issued for the project. The Report ranked eight alternatives and found the alternatives that did not require a power line were the best.
Moreover, Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth, who is in charge of the Sunrise proceedings, concluded in a lengthy opinion that a power line is unnecessary and that “the significant environmental impacts of [all Sunrise powerline alternatives] strongly militate against authorizing the construction of any of them.”
The second proposed decision would allow construction of a power line, but with one important caveat: San Diego Gas and Electric must first agree to a renewable energy Compliance Plan. The Center had argued during the proceedings that the power line would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions and that there were no guarantees the utility company would deliver on its promises for renewable energy. Commissioner Dian Grueneich agreed and included a Compliance Plan in her proposed decision, should the line be built. The Plan is the first of its kind in California and is an important step towards reining-in greenhouse gases should the line be approved.
Peevey’s proposed decision comes after recent meetings between officials with his office and the utility company in which company officials informed Peevey that they do not want the Compliance Plan. But company officials’ opposition to the Plan is directly contrary to their own statements throughout the Sunrise proceeding that the power line should be for renewable energy.
“The decision proposed by Commissioner Peevey at the apparent behest of SDG&E would allow the line to be used for power generated by fossil fuels, which would contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This is contrary to state law and state policy, and also directly contradicts the findings of Commission staff and the administrative law judge,” continued Augustine.
The utility company is trying to “greenwash” its opposition to the Compliance Plan by claiming it will not use the line for coal-generated electricity and will replace failed renewable-energy contracts with other renewable contracts. What company officials fail to mention, however, is that their commitments would provide nothing more than the status quo and will likely fail to achieve 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard levels by 2020.
The Commission is scheduled to consider the three Sunrise proposals in December.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.