Vote delayed on Mexicali power plant

September 12, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors delayed its formal support of a power plant being built in Mexicali until it receives responses to comments on the draft environmental impact study on the natural gas pipeline being built to supply the plant.

Several supervisors, while complementing Sempra Energy on its efforts to build the 500 megawatt plant to California emissions standards, were critical of the fact that the plant, and four others, are being built or planned for the border area.

The board fears air emissions, even if meeting state standards, will contribute to the county's air quality problems.

Division 5 Supervisor Wally Leimgruber led efforts to delay the board's support.

Supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado said he does not support the building of any power plants in the border area but wondered what can be done.

"I hope the people of Mexicali will rise up and state their opposition to them," Tirado said. "We want the cleanest air possible for our health."


District 4 Supervisor Gary Wyatt said the only way to protect the region's air quality is to oppose the building of any power plants in the air basin.

"Clean air is a very valuable thing," he said, adding poor air quality will lead to lower quality of life, which in turn will preclude new development and families from moving to the county.

District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca urged the county to take a "combative stance" against all the power plants.

"They're still going to put crap in the air," he said.

Sempra local government affairs manager Bob Nicksin urged the board to separate its displeasure toward the power plant from the proposed gas pipeline.

He also said the energy company — parent of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison — has met with local air pollution control district officials and agreed to address a number of local concerns.

As a result, Sempra has agreed to install the latest controls for nitrogen oxides, with a limit of 2.5 parts per million air emissions; install the latest controls for carbon monoxide, with a limit of 4 ppm; and continuous emissions monitoring, with the data provided to the county.

Nicksin said in return for the concessions, Sempra would seek county support.

"We would still very much like to have your support on this issue," he said.

Meanwhile, several American Indians in the Palo Verde area are opposed to the pipeline.

Blythe resident and Chemehuevi tribe descendant Alfredo Figueroa said the pipeline will cross through sacred Indian sites including a cremation area.

"We're here to defend Mother Earth," Figueroa said. "We don't need these power plants."

The $230 million, 215-mile, 36-inch natural gas pipeline is owned by PG&E Corp., Sempra Energy International and Próxima Gas S.A. de C.V.

In other actions, the board approved the Planning Department and Air Pollution Control Office responses to the pipeline's draft environmental impact statement to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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