Environmentalists object to Mexicali power plants

September 02, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — The new power plants being built here — and the plants planned for the area — have raised the ire of environmentalists on both sides of the border.

A binational coalition of environmentalists and concerned citizens recently sent a letter to elected and industrial leaders asking for a "new accord that will ensure environmentally sustainable power plant development in the border region."

This week that same coalition will attempt to rally more support for an accord at the U.S./Mexico Binational Commission summit Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

On Aug. 22, the Border Power Plant Working Group of San Diego and the Grupo de Trabajo de Termoelectricas Fronterizas sent their missive.


The letter states: "These plants will be adding emissions to regions that are already suffering from levels of air pollution considered hazardous to human health.

"The largest concentration of plants will be located in the desert city of Mexicali, in a region that, in addition to high levels of air contamination, will face critical water shortages in the near future."

The letter advocates the use of air-cooled power plants at non-coastal sites because traditional wet-cooling consumes tremendous amounts of water and is incompatible with the reality of the extremely arid border region.

The letter calls for state-of-the-art air pollution control systems and emissions limits and no net increase in air pollution by power plants.

Bill Powers of San Diego-based Powers Engineering said the response the groups have received from the letter has been tremendously positive.

He said a woman working in the office of Christine Todd Whitman, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called to get briefed on the groups aims so she could brief Whitman.

Powers said U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has been briefed on the power plant issue.

In addition to the cabinet members, Powers said the Imperial Valley's congressman. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, supports the groups' efforts.

"Because Duncan stepped up to the plate, it wasn't a Republican or a Democrat thing," Powers said.

At the summit there will be four main work group meetings that will be attended by a variety of high-level government officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

In the Aug. 22 letter the signators, including Powers, urge their recommendations to be considered at the environmental and natural resources work group meeting.

The letter states: "Policymakers in the U.S. and Mexico need to actively support the major components of the proposed policy, both in domestic energy discussion at meetings between our two countries, if it (is) to be converted into an agreement in the near-term future.

"Such an agreement may serve as a model that can and should be applied anywhere within our borders to address the transnational nature of power generation and transmission in North America."

The issue of power generation here is especially pressing now, said Powers, because a new natural gas pipeline will be pumping in more fuel for the border plants as early as next year.

Powers also mentioned the possibility of a coal-powered power plant being considered for the Mexicali Valley.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be 337-3419 or

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles