Calexico asked to reconsider resolution

February 20, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Representatives of Bethesda, Md.-based Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. asked the Calexico City Council on Tuesday to reconsider its recent resolution opposing construction of the North Baja Pipeline.

PG&E Corp. and San Diego-based Sempra Energy want to bury an 80-mile stretch of pipeline beneath eastern Imperial County land that would hook up a Texas-Los Angeles pipeline with Gasoducto Bajanorte, a natural gas pipeline from Mexicali to Tijuana.

At its last meeting, the City Council opposed construction of the U.S.-stretch of pipeline until all power plants in Mexicali are equipped with the best-possible emission controls.

Natural gas transported by the proposed North Baja Pipeline could fuel La Rosita, a 1,000-megawatt Mexicali power plant being built by Boston-based InterGen. The plant could spew tons of noxious fumes into the Mexicali/Imperial Valley airshed when fully operational because it will not be equipped with California-compliant emissions controls.


Director of governmental affairs for PG&E Corp., Eric Eisenman, warned the council that opposition to the pipeline could result in a lengthy delay in construction, possibly forcing InterGen to burn oil at its plant to fulfill its contract with Mexican energy utility regulators.

A few years ago, InterGen was awarded a bid to build a power plant and export energy to Mexico. Because that international bid process was competitive, InterGen did not factor in the cost of California-compliant emissions controls, according to company officials.

To fulfill the agreed upon contract with Mexico's energy utility, InterGen must start exporting electricity on time at a certain rate.

"InterGen's current permit from the Mexican government has an emergency provision that would allow it to burn another fuel if natural gas is not available," Eisenman said.

He told the council the North Baja Pipeline is "your insurance" that air quality in the Imperial/Mexicali Valley will actually improve.

Imperial County officials, independent San Diego power plant experts and the Environmental Protection Agency disagree.

All three have said the emissions from La Rosita — even if it burned natural gas — would worsen the air quality here.

Before Eisenman spoke, Octavio M.C. Simoes of Sempra told the council about the 600-megawatt power plant Sempra is building near the InterGen plant.

He said he wouldn't compare Sempra's plant to InterGen's plant because he is not associated with InterGen.

He did say that Sempra's plant would spew emissions comparable to 70 late-model vehicles.

While those emissions would be the same as if Sempra's plant was built to U.S.-compliant standards, Sempra will not provide emissions offsets in Mexico.

If the Sempra plant were built five miles to the north, Sempra would have to offset any emissions it produced.

For example, since Simoes said the emissions would equal 70 late-model cars, Sempra would have to buy and remove from the streets 70 late-model cars or employ some other offset measure.

Since the plants are being built in Mexico, offsets are not required.

If they were, though, Simoes went on to say Sempra would be in the clear because of all of the plants it has retrofitted for natural gas in the Rosarito/Tijuana area. The reduction in emissions there would allow Sempra to build 11 plants here, according to Simoes.

That logic holds if Baja California had the same laws as California.

Meanwhile, San Diegan Bill Powers of Powers Engineering has compared the emissions of Sempra's plant and InterGen's plant.

Powers said La Rosita will spew 10 times more noxious fumes than the Sempra plant. To extend Simoes' metaphor, that works out to 700 late-model cars.

After hearing the presentations from Simoes and Eisenman, Mayor Victor Carrillo said, "Communication is the key. There might have been a perception that since this is a rural community (the pipeline and the plants) could get pushed down our throats, so to speak."

He said the council would stand solid behind its resolution but entertain any request for reconsideration.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said Tuesday it was important to be "good friends," but he questioned the late timing of the power company's presentations.

The power plants are nearly half-completed.

Councilman Javier Alatorre said he would analyze any information presented by the companies, adding, "It is important for this council to be united."

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison told the power company reps, "That's where it's at. You'll just have to wait and see how everything shakes out."

Councilman Frank Montoya said the first concern with the community is the possibility of air pollution.

"They want to know what we are going to do about it," he said.

In other business, the council approved a design for a new city logo.

The logo will adorn business cards, lapel pins, posters and banners.

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

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