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For Immediate Release, December 18, 2008

Contact: Steven Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 241-6409; email: ssiegel@biologicaldiversity.org

California Public Utilities Commission Approves Sunrise Transmission Project,
Undermines State Global Warming Goals
Commissioners Spare Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, But Reject
Clean Energy Guarantee for Utility’s Costly Transmission Line

SAN DIEGO— In a 4-1 vote today, the California Public Utilities Commission set aside Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth’s recommended rejection of San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Transmission Project and approved a southern route for the controversial power line. Vieth rejected the line because it is not necessary to meet state renewable-energy requirements, has potentially negative implications for greenhouse gas policy objectives, and would cause severe environmental damage. The judge acknowledged her decision was reinforced by strong public opposition to any transmission alternative. The Commission also ignored a recommendation put forth by Commissioner Dian Grueneich to condition approval of the line on a binding commitment to require use the line to deliver clean, renewable energy.

“The Center for Biological Diversity and its allies fought hard to stop SDG&E from spoiling Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and we succeeded,” said Steven Siegel, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We strongly disagree, however, with the Commission’s approval of a southern route. With today’s decision, the state is sacrificing public lands and vital habitat without any guarantee the line will be used to deliver clean energy. The State has missed an opportunity to require a strong, enforceable clean energy guarantee.”

“As approved today, there is no guarantee that this multi-billion dollar transmission line will reduce greenhouse gas pollution or lead to the development of significant Imperial Valley renewable energy,” Siegel said. “New transmission lines should be required to carry primarily renewable energy, and we will continue to push this issue to the forefront in the debate over transmission lines in California.”

In response to the Center's advocacy to condition approval of the line on renewable energy, the Commission acknowledged the expectation that San Diego Gas & Electric will replace failed renewable-energy contracts in the Imperial Valley with new contracts in that area. It also acknowledged that the utility company will not enter into any coal-generated power purchases for transmission on the Sunrise line, and that the Commission expects the company to keep its commitment to support the governor's 33 percent renewable-energy standard by 2020. The company made these commitments to the Commission when faced with the renewable-energy conditions the Center and Sierra Club sought in the Sunrise hearing.

The approved southern route carves through the Cleveland National Forest and other natural open space. The route was ranked as having among the highest number of significant, unmitigable environmental impacts of any transmission line ever approved in California.

“Not only is the southern route of this line terribly destructive to the Cleveland National Forest and local communities, it may make Southern Californians more dependent on dirty, global warming fossil fuels,” Siegel said. “Unfortunately, with this decision, corporate profit won out over the best interests of the community.”

The Sunrise Transmission project approved by the Commission is a 123-mile, high-voltage transmission line that would slice across the face of the national forest, protected preserves and local communities. Originally, San Diego Gas & Electric proposed a route that would cut through the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Expert analysis reveals Sunrise Powerlink is likely to transport dirty, fossil-fuel-generated energy that increases polluting greenhouse gases. Clean, reliable alternatives to the harmful Sunrise Powerlink were ranked environmentally superior by the Commission in its environmental impact report.

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.

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