For Immediate Release, November 7, 2008
Contact: Steve Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 241-6409 or (415) 436-9682 x302
California Public Utility Commission Ready to Vote on
Controversial Sunrise Powerlink Project
SAN DIEGO— The Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club cleared a major hurdle in the campaign to defeat the Sunrise Powerlink transmission project last week when Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth issued a proposed decision to deny San Diego Gas and Electric’s request to build the 150-mile power line through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, wilderness areas and some of the last stretches of untouched habitat in southern California. Today, the Commission will hear final oral argument in the case and will be set to decide the project’s fate as early as December.
Judge Vieth’s Oct. 31st decision, if adopted by the California Public Utility Commission, would protect southern California’s wild places from an unnecessary power line. The decision incorporates arguments asserted by the Center and its coalition allies that a power line through the Park or national forest land would have significant and irreversible impacts.
“If the Commission accepts Judge Vieth’s proposed decision, this will be a victory for Anza-Borrego and some of southern California’s last untouched habitat,” said Steve Siegel, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
An alternative draft decision simultaneously issued by Public Utility Commissioner Dian Grueneich concludes that construction of the proposed power line is contrary to state wilderness laws and would be highly destructive to Anza-Borrego. The Commissioner instead proposes to conditionally grant the application for a power line that in part runs through the Cleveland National Forest.
The Center and Sierra Club both argued the power line was certain to increase greenhouse gas emissions and that there were no guarantees that San Diego Gas and Electric would deliver on its promises for renewable energy. The Commissioner agreed with the groups’ contention that a binding commitment to use the line for renewable energy was essential if the line was going to fulfill its intended purpose. The alternate decision requires a renewable-energy compliance plan, which would be the first of its kind in California.
Although the alternate decision includes precedent-setting gains for renewable energy, it would reward the company with a power line in a high fire-risk area. Investigators from the Public Utilities Commission and CALFIRE – the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection – have concluded the company caused three wildfires in October 2007, and that it violated state laws and Commission regulations and failed to cooperate with investigators.
The Center and Sierra Club will argue today that the Commission should adopt Vieth’s proposal and ensure that southern California is not encumbered with an unnecessary and highly destructive power line.
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.