Calexico shuns power plant motions, favors political muscle

January 18, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said, "Resolutions are worth the paper they're written on."

That was his answer to a question about the resolutions passed by the El Centro City Council on Wednesday opposing the two power plants under construction in Mexicali and a proposed natural gas pipeline that could be built on east county land.

"We could pass motions and resolutions, but what are they worth? You have to get the political muscle behind the resolutions," Renison said.

Mayor Victor Carrillo said the City Council will bring up concerns about the power plants during a meeting with Mexicali Mayor Jaime Diaz on Monday.


"We'll hear what his position is and we'll let him know ours. We're not interfering with their sovereignty. We're letting them know that we're not only concerned with our health, we're concerned about their health," Carrillo said.

According to San Diegan Bill Powers, there is reason for concern.

Powers is an engineer who formed the Border Power Plant Working Group. His group is looking at the environmental effects of power plants along the California/Mexico border.

According to his most recent calculations, one 750-megawatt natural gas power plant under construction in Mexicali will spew enough pollutants to affect the air quality of Imperial and San Diego counties. The plant is called "La Rosita" (The Little Rose.)

La Rosita is bankrolled by Boston's InterGen and Mexican partners.

Two of the turbines at the under-construction four-turbine plant will not be equipped with emission controls that would be required if the plant were built in California. The plant is under construction near Mount Signal and the west Mexicali wastewater facility.

Renison said if the Calexico City Council were to pass a resolution in the near future, it would specifically ask InterGen's Mexican partners to equip La Rosita with the best-possible emission controls.

Powers said it would cost Energia Azteca X about $7 million to do so.

Carrillo said, "Calexico has not been quiet on this issue."

He said the council has not taken action against the plants or associated U.S. projects such as the pipeline or transmission lines because the council has not heard all the scientific evidence yet. The council was supposed to hear a presentation from county officials in December.

"We asked (Stephen) Birdsall to make a presentation and it hasn't been done. I don't know whether Birdsall has been busy appearing before other councils," Carrillo said.

Birdsall is the county air pollution control officer and agricultural commissioner.

Depending on the evidence presented, Carrillo would consider voting for a resolution similar to those passed by El Centro's council. He's not worried about straining relations with Mexicali officials.

"We're both going to feel the first impacts of the pollution and the impact that these plants will have. When you're talking about health issues, there is no border fence," Carrillo said.

He stressed the importance of solidarity among local government bodies.

"The county supervisors had a chance to support Supervisor Joe Maruca months ago. Now they are changing gears," Carrillo said.

Calexico's county supervisor, Tony Tirado, said El Centro's recent resolutions "back up our position."

He said the county Board of Supervisors is "looking into the power lines on the west side of the Valley."

Tirado added, "I suggest strongly for the Calexico council and the Brawley council to come in with the same reaction."

Regarding La Rosita, he said, "We have a tremendous interest here that InterGen complies in the same manner that Sempra has."

Sempra has said it will install the best possible emission controls on its Mexicali plant.

Tirado said he has no problem with the proposed natural gas line that would connect a huge Texas-to-California pipeline running through Blythe with an under-construction north Baja California pipeline running from Tijuana to Mexicali.

"There is no question of the value of the natural gas," Tirado said.

Powers said the supply of natural gas from the pipeline will allow Mexicali and Tijuana to build cleaner-burning plants and phase out dirty diesel plants.

Tirado said, "We're just asking to hold that line until InterGen complies."

Even though the two are running against each other for the supervisors' District 1 seat this year, Carrillo and Tirado agree something needs to be done soon before a precedent is set and more power plants spring up south of the border.

Calexico City Councilman Javier Alatorre said, "Sooner the better."

Like Carrillo, Alatorre wants to hear from people familiar with the emission standards in Mexico and here.

Either way, he said, "I think Mexicali is going to do what's best for their community and we're going to do what's best for our community."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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