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Our Opinion: We are still angry

June 09, 2002

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with our congressman, Duncan Hunter, to introduce legislation aimed at protecting Imperial County from power plants being built in Mexicali that would not be equipped with U.S.-compliant air-quality control equipment.

We appreciate the support, but we have to wonder if this latest move by Feinstein is meant to placate a county that has spoken loudly and angrily against Feinstein after her recent letter threatening to take our water if we do not fallow land to meet the needs of key water transfers.

The legislation from Feinstein and Hunter would make it illegal for U.S. companies to export natural gas to new Mexican power plants within 50 miles of the border that are not equipped with U.S. compliant air-quality control equipment.

The legislation could hinder the plans of Boston-based InterGen, which is building a $748 million, 1,000 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant on the outskirts of Mexicali. Two of the turbines at the plant will not be equipped with U.S.-compliant emission controls, while the other two will. Gas lines from the North Baja Pipeline project have been placed in east Imperial County that will connect with power plants in Mexicali.

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We have grave concerns about the non-compliant InterGen turbines in relation to our air quality. Our air here is already dirty and those turbines will make it much worse. Local officials have fought unsuccessfully against the North Baja Pipeline, primarily because of the connection to InterGen.

We have our doubts as to how successful such legislation will be. After all, we are just the little unimportant Imperial Valley, what Forbes Magazine recently called a "rump county." Why should issues such as air quality get in the way of growth on either side of the border? And, as we are now discovering, it may not be so tough to push us around. What political clout do we actually have? How important are we really to the future of the state?

Look at the water transfer issue and you will see where we stand in the eyes of state and federal officials. Our governor has told us to fallow. Now Feinstein has issued threats against us, telling us to fallow or pay the price.

But we digress.

The focus of this editorial is on Feinstein's efforts with Hunter on the air issue. We appreciate Feinstein's help. However, if she cares so much about the Valley, we'd like her to come here and explain her stance on the water issue.

If we are forced to fallow now to make water available for the state, what happens later when the state needs even more water? Will we be expected to fallow more and more and more?

If so, why worry about the air quality? There won't be anyone left in the Valley to breathe the air.

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