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For Immediate Release, January 22, 2009

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943; email:

Challenge to Controversial Sunrise Powerlink Energy Project
Brought to California Supreme Court

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Late yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the recently approved Sunrise Transmission Project, one of the largest and most controversial transmission projects in California’s history, which was approved last month by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The petition challenges the Commission’s violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires state agencies to adopt all feasible measures to reduce a project’s environmental impacts. The Commission’s legal violations include failing to require that the line be used for renewable energy and rejecting less damaging alternative locations for the line, such as along the I-8 Corridor. In a separate proceeding, the Center will also ask the Commission to reconsider its decision this week.

“As approved by the Commission, the Sunrise Transmission Project would sacrifice sensitive public lands and vital habitat without any guarantee the line will be used to deliver clean energy,” said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “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,” Anderson added.

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 contributes to global warming. Clean, reliable alternatives to the harmful Sunrise Powerlink were ranked environmentally superior by the Commission in its environmental impact report.

In approving the southern route, the Commission set aside Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth’s recommendation that San Diego Gas & Electric’s application for the Sunrise Transmission Project be rejected, 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 Commission also ignored a recommendation put forth by Commissioner Dian Grueneich to condition approval of the line on a binding commitment to require the line to deliver renewable energy.

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,” Anderson said. “New transmission lines must be required to actually carry renewable energy, and we will continue to push this issue to the forefront in the debate over transmission lines in California.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to e nsuring that atmospheric CO2 levels are reduced to below 350 parts per million, which leading climate scientists warn is necessary to prevent devastating runaway climate change. A rapid shift to a clean energy future is required to meet this target, and further development of greenhouse gas-intensive energy sources is fundamentally incompatible with achieving this goal. If greenhouse gas emissions trends are not quickly reversed, the current atmospheric CO2 level of 385 parts per million will rise to approximately 500 parts per million by mid-century, triggering mass wildlife extinctions, catastrophic global weather and ecosystem changes, and tragic human suffering.

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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