Calexico passes resolution against Mexicali power plans

February 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — In a show of solidarity with other Imperial Valley city councils, the Calexico City Council passed a resolution opposing a pipeline that would fuel natural gas power plants in Mexicali and the transmission lines that would export electricity from the plants to San Diego's power grid.

The council passed the resolution after hearing a presentation from county Air Pollution Control Officer Steve Birdsall.

Birdsall said construction of the 80-mile North Baja Pipeline from Blythe to the Mexican border would allow Mexicali power plants under construction by San Diego's Sempra Energy and Boston's InterGen to pollute the airshed of the Imperial/Mexicali valley.

Portland, Ore.-based North Baja Pipeline has proposed building a pipeline to connect a Texas-Los Angeles pipeline with a Mexicali-Tijuana pipeline under construction by Sempra and Mexican partners.

North Baja's plans have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California State Lands Commission.

One of the last approval hurdles for North Baja Pipeline is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Birdsall said the county will ask the BLM to not allow the pipeline to be built on its east Imperial County lands.


If the BLM ignores the county's request, as expected, Imperial County could sue the State Lands Commission for not taking into consideration the potential air pollution from the power plants.

Asked about the possibility of a lawsuit, Birdsall said, "We're going to exhaust all of our administrative remedies first."

Birdsall said the InterGen plant could produce 10 times more pollution than the Sempra plant.

He said two of four turbines on its "La Rosita" plant near Mount Signal will not be equipped with California-compliant emission controls.

Capping his presentation, Birdsall said, "I'm presenting this information to ask for your support objecting to these plants being built, primarily the InterGen plant."

A Sempra representative, Bob Nixon, said Birdsall's presentation was "pretty accurate illustrating the differences between the two plants."

Nixon said the Sempra plant would meet all U.S. requirements even though it is being built in Mexico. Nixon and Kathy Russeth, representing North Baja Pipeline, asked if they could make their own presentation at the next council meeting.

Roberto Moreno, superintendent of the Calexico Unified School District, said he is concerned with any project that could negatively affect the health of his 8,000 students.

He wanted to make sure the county Public Health Services has a chance to study the potential effects of the pollution before the plants fire up.

An InterGen rep, Orlando Martinez, told the council that InterGen put in a competitive international bid to supply two turbines worth of power to northern Baja California. Installing $7 million in emission controls would violate that bid.

Martinez said InterGen is contractually obligated to provide power at a certain rate. Any changes to the contract would have to be hammered out in a new contract.

He said the other two turbines at La Rosita would be equipped with best available emission control technology and InterGen would fund an ozone reduction program that would look at ways to counteract the tons of ozone-inducing emissions produced by La Rosita.

"I urge the council to not oppose construction of the North Baja Pipeline and work to establish harmonious and consistent standards," Martinez said.

County Supervisor Tony Tirado said, "If we don't set the standards now, President Fox has said there could be 20 more plants built on the border. We're just adding more problems to it later."

He pointed out that pollution from the Mexicali plants could discourage companies considering setting up operations in the Imperial Valley.

Tirado stressed, "We are not opposed to the transmission of natural gas. We just want to make sure the pipeline is delayed until InterGen complies — no more, no less than Sempra.

"If we don't, a precedent will be set and our health will be affected."

Calexico businessman David Ouzan told the council, "They want to risk our lives! They're not willing to build the plants in their back yards. It's too late I think to come before the council now when the plants are almost finished.

"None of you live here. None of you face the consequences!" he said to the representatives of the power companies.

Ouzan urged the council to oppose the projects associated with the plants and the plants themselves.

"Don't be fooled by these multi-millionaires. Our kids have asthma," Ouzan said.

Councilman Javier Alatorre moved to adopt resolutions similar to those adopted by El Centro, Brawley and Holtville city councils.

Mayor Victor Carrillo said the cities of the Imperial Valley have taken the lead when the county Board of Supervisors took no initial action opposing the pipeline.

"We (local mayors) talked about this resolution in December of 2001 and decided to bring it before all of the cities. It's too bad Calexico was last on the list but I feel it is important to send a message of solidarity," Carrillo said.

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