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Our Opinion: Take a united stance

January 19, 2002

The El Centro City Council has taken a united stance against the building of two power plants in Mexicali and the natural gas pipeline that will run through the Imperial Valley and serve as the fuel source for those plants.

The Brawley City Council and county Board of Supervisors have taken a similar stance against one of the power plants.

We agree with the councils and we urge other government agencies — councils, chambers of commerce and more — that have not addressed the issue to come out strongly against the projects.

We are convinced the plants will be harmful to the Imperial Valley. We also think that Mexicali was chosen for those facilities because the plant owners thought people here and in Mexicali would put up less of a fight than people along the coast.

If there are any local government agencies that have not analyzed the matter, they should. We are not asking public officials to blindly adopt resolutions against the projects. We are asking that they review the matter and reach their own conclusions. We understand that county air quality officials are giving presentations to governing agencies throughout the Valley. Once those presentations are given we hope to see action.

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We would hope our local governing agencies would adopt resolutions stating that the projects present a threat to our air quality and our health. Still, resolutions are not enough. We need to lobby for state and federal support on this matter.

The companies building the plants are Boston-based InterGen Aztec Energy and San Diego-based Sempra Energy. InterGen, on two of its four power turbines, is not attempting to meet California air emission standards, despite the fact that it will be almost directly polluting a California airshed. And neither company has shown enough interest in finding offsets on this side of the border for the net increase in pollution the plants may cause.

It should not be a situation where the companies are waiting for local officials to ask for such a step. They should have included emission offsets on this side of the border as part of their plans. Since they have not, we can only surmise they are not concerned about the effects the plants will have on our air quality, which already is poor in some categories.

Some who read this might say we are taking a stance against economic development and the creation of jobs. They might also contend we are trying to prevent growth in Mexicali. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want jobs and we want growth, but not if it jeopardizes public health. There has been talk of the pipeline bringing property taxes to the county, and while that would be a nice but not huge boost in taxes, it does little to offset the potential threat to the area.

We can ill afford more air pollution. We should not be expected to just accept the building of power plants in our back yard without an assurance that the pollution issue will be addressed not just in Mexicali but on this side of the border.

Until that happens we call upon our local leaders to make their voices united and make themselves heard. We must show we do have some political clout. Now is the time to do that.

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