For Immediate Release, September 28, 2007
Contact: David Hogan, (619) 473-8217
San Diego Gas & Electric Misleads California Public
Utilities Commission on “Sunrise Powerlink,”
Progress Report on Renewable Energy Acquisition
SAN DIEGO, Calif.– Two environmental groups have filed a motion with California energy regulators alerting them to important conflicting information in filings by San Diego Gas & Electric for two separate permitting proceedings: the “Sunrise Powerlink” transmission line and the company’s efforts to contract and deliver new sources of renewable energy. The Sunrise Powerlink is a controversial, 150-mile-long electrical transmission line proposed for construction from the Imperial Valley desert to the city of San Diego that would traverse Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and many other protected parks and preserves, bringing significant potential for damage to wildlife and heritage wilderness areas.
In the motion, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club alert the California Public Utilities Commission that the company has downplayed the connection between specific renewable energy projects and the Sunrise Powerlink project in Powerlink filings where the company seeks to limit environmental review and swiftly expedite Powerlink permitting. In contrast, and in a separate proceeding, the company has sought to inseparably link numerous specific renewables projects to construction of the Powerlink to bolster its arguments that the Powerlink is essential for SDG&E to achieve state renewable-energy requirements.
“SDG&E is talking out of both sides of its mouth,” said David Hogan, conservation manager with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The company spins one argument to reduce disclosure of the environmental impacts and speed up approval of the Sunrise Powerlink. Then it spins another to bully the state into approving the Powerlink.”
On July 24, 2007, the Sunrise Powerlink was dealt a major setback when the California Public Utilities Commission delayed release of a draft environmental impact report for up to six months, citing in part SDG&E’s failure to disclose the company’s desire to expand the line in the future and intent to construct a new major substation in rural southeastern San Diego County to access wind energy.
On August 16, 2007, SDG&E appealed the utilities commission decision. The company argued in part that the new substation would not be “connected” to the Sunrise Powerlink, that “only” two renewable energy projects are dependent on the Sunrise Powerlink, and that additional renewable energy projects are not reasonably foreseeable.
However, SDG&E’s mid-August appeal contradicts a document filed just two weeks earlier in a separate proceeding on the company’s work toward delivering 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010. On August 1, 2007, the company submitted its 2008 Draft Renewable Procurement Plan, in which it argues that the delivery of renewable power will “require not only a new substation, but the addition of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line as well…” and that “…roughly half of SDG&E’s renewable opportunities would require the Sunrise Powerlink in order to deliver its energy to the California grid.”
SDG&E has long sought to minimize the extent of review of the potential effects of the Powerlink on people and nature. In December 2005, it left out a required “Proponents Environmental Assessment” in its first application for California permits to build the Sunrise Powerlink. In July 2007, following 19 requests for information by the utilities commission, the commission ruled that an environmental impact report would be delayed for up to six months because the company had not been forthcoming about the extent of the project impacts. SDG&E is now seeking to minimize review of environmental impacts that might result from a new major substation, future expansion of the Powerlink, and closely related renewable energy projects.
“Why is SDG&E so afraid of a thorough review of the impacts of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line on people and nature?” asked Hogan. “Is it because they don’t want the public and leaders to know how much harm this project will cause?”
SDG&E documents reveal that the Powerlink is just phase one of a larger plan by the company’s owner, Sempra Energy, to extend the line north to expand the California market for imported cheap, polluting, fossil-fuel power from its Mexico power plant and others.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.