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Supervisors back bills on gas exports

June 12, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors sent letters Tuesday supporting two pieces of federal legislation blocking the export of natural gas used to fuel border area power plants that don't meet U.S. air quality control standards.

The legislation would penalize U.S. companies such as Boston-based Intergen for its 1,000-megawatt La Rosita plant. The La Rosita plant, on the outskirts of Mexicali, does not comply with U.S. air pollution control standards.

Air pollution from the La Rosita plant would harm the health of residents in the Mexicali and Imperial valleys, county Air Pollution Control District officials say.

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The U.S. gas line, also known as the North Baja Pipeline, is a joint venture of San Diego-based Sempra Energy and San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Energy Group.

Sempra is building a natural gas-fueled power generating plant in Mexicali but its plant meets California air-quality control standards.

The 80-mile U.S. stretch of pipeline is partially in Imperial County and may be the only leverage local representatives have to make Intergen come into air pollution compliance.

The two bills, Senate Bill 2588 authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and House Resolution 4867 by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, have similar language, county Intergovernmental Relations Director Bob Ham told the board at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Two of four turbines at the La Rosita plant comply with Mexican air-quality standards but not U.S. standards. The other two have additional air pollution control equipment to comply with U.S. standards.

The uncontrolled turbines will spew about 10 times more pollution into the air than the turbines with the additional equipment, county Air Pollution Control District officials say.

Intergen officials met with county officials and Hunter in November and said the company could not afford to put additional controls on the other two turbines.

Feinstein's bill, the Southern Border Air Quality Protection Act, sets limits on the export of natural gas to Mexico for the purpose of generating electricity.

The bill states specifically power plants in Mexico within 50 miles of the United States that use natural gas from the U.S. as fuel must meet air-quality control requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Intergen released a statement in response to the legislation saying the company "fully supports the harmonization of environmental regulations in the border area to resolve the different and conflicting standards that exist between the two countries."

The supervisors said they have not heard anything from Intergen indicating the company will change its ways.

Supervisor Tony Tirado is leading a letter-writing campaign to put pressure on politicians to pass the legislation.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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