It's clean air for the E.C. council

December 20, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The El Centro City Council is lining up in favor of clean air and in opposition to three projects thought to be bad for air quality.

Council members directed city staff Wednesday to develop a resolution in opposition to two under-construction power plants in the Mexicali area, the natural gas pipeline that will supply them and two power transmission lines that will bring the power into this country.

Two council members were out of town on city business, however. They were Ray Castillo and Jack Terrazas.

The direction was given after county Air Pollution Control Officer Stephen Birdsall gave a presentation on the expected air emissions from the two plants.

A 600-megawatt plant is being built by San Diego-based Sempra Energy, while a 750- megawatt, three turbine plant is being built by Boston-based InterGen Aztec Energy. A second 329-megawatt, single-turbine plant also is planned by InterGen.


Birdsall said the Sempra turbines and two of the four InterGen turbines will be built using clean technology.

"The problem is the other two (InterGen) plants are uncontrolled," he said.

Birdsall compared the environmental standards in California to those in Mexico. In California the limit for nitrogen oxides is 2.5 parts per million. In Mexico it is 139 ppm. In California the limit for carbon monoxide is 4 ppm, in Mexico there is none. In California particulate matter is minimized through the use of low-sulfur fuel such as natural gas. In Mexico there are no limits for particulates. In California new sources of emissions are required to obtain emission offsets resulting in no net gain in emissions. In Mexico offsets are not required.

Birdsall compared the emissions from the Sempra plant and the InterGen plant. He said the Sempra plant will emit 189 tons of nitrogen oxides per year while the InterGen facility will emit 1,907. The Sempra plant will emit 188 tons yearly of carbon monoxide while the InterGen plant will emit 2,100.

Birdsall said the county's concerns are:

· the increase in nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide will likely have an adverse impact on the local air quality.

· years of improvements in stationary source NOx reductions will be lost.

· modeling and risk- assessment analysis is needed to determine cumulative impacts from all local power plants.

· increased NOx and CO emissions could limit local industrial growth.

District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca spoke against the plants, the gas pipeline and the transmission lines.

"I am against those issues because I want to protect our children from the air they breathe," he said. "I think we're fighting for our lives here. We have to diversify our economy but we can't diversity our economy if you can't breathe the air."

The resolution in opposition is expected to be provided at the next council meeting. The Jan. 2 meeting was canceled.

In other business, the council awarded a $1.2 million sewer line construction contract and approved the purchase of 38 vehicles.

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

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