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County opposes transmission lines

December 19, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The county has taken issue with a U.S. Department of Energy environmental review that allowed permits to be issued for cross-border transmission lines.

The transmission line will import electricity from Mexicali to San Diego through Imperial County.

Based on the environmental review, DOE's Office of Fossil Energy found the transmission lines would have no significant impact on the community.

"We know there are flaws in their assessment because we've had conversations with the people who helped prepare the information," county Air Pollution Control Officer Stephen Birdsall said.

Birdsall's office found more than 400 negative impacts from the transmission lines.

"The DOE needs to go back and review this," he said.

The county Air Pollution Control District Board, made up of the Board of Supervisors, passed a unanimous resolution at a special meeting Tuesday asking the state for help challenging the DOE review.

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The board's resolution states the environmental review does not do enough to address impacts from air pollution produced by power plants the transmission lines will serve.

The review also does not require enough to be done to protect the health of residents of the Imperial and Mexicali valleys, the resolution states.

The transmission lines will connect at least two Mexicali power plants to the California power grid. Each plant was issued its own presidential permit. Presidential permits are required for transmission lines that cross the U.S. border.

Sempra Energy Resources of San Diego is building a power plant that meets California air quality control standards.

Intergen Aztec Energy of Boston, is building a plant with air pollution controls that meet U.S. standards on two of its four turbines.

Intergen and Sempra chose to locate their plants in Mexicali rather than Tijuana because officials with those companies think Imperial County will not be able to fight them the way San Diego could, El Centro Mayor Larry Grogan said.

"They picked this area because we're poor, because we don't have a huge population," Grogan said.

The resolution asks the state Environmental Protection Agency for help and funding to legally evaluate the permits and environmental review.

The cost to have an attorney review their evaluation would be $200,000 to $400,000, Birdsall said.

"We have run out of options," he said.

The county is seeking financial help from local cities and the Imperial Irrigation District to pay for attorney fees.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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