Forest Service approves Sunrise Powerlink project
The U.S. Forest Service has approved construction of a 19-mile segment of the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink electric transmission line that will cut through the Cleveland National Forest, it was announced Tuesday.
The remaining segments of the 120-mile-long transmission line, which San Diego Gas & Electric says is necessary to bring renewable energy generated in the Imperial Valley to San Diego, were previously approved by the California Public Utilities Commission and Bureau of Land Management.
In a statement, SDG&E said the Forest Service decision clears the way for work to begin on the Sunrise Powerlink this fall.
“This key decision accelerates the momentum for the Sunrise Powerlink, a project that will create much needed jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and bolster reliability for the region’s power grid,” said Jessie Knight, chief executive officer of SDG&E.
“This project will access vast, untapped sources of renewable power for the people of San Diego County and help create a cleaner, more environmentally responsible future for the region.”
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents many of the unincorporated areas that will be impacted by the transmission line, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
“The approval ignores the lasting consequences that will result from the line, particularly the severe fire danger,” Jacob said.
She said the project will likely end up in court.
“Although we had hoped for a favorable decision, it has always been my belief that this matter would ultimately be settled by the courts,” she said.
“I’m confident in the case that will be presented by the opponents. The facts and evidence in the record are on our side.”
Environmentalists have claimed that the new transmission line is being built to import “dirty” electricity generated by polluting coal-fired plants in Mexico, an assertion SDG&E officials said was inaccurate.
Jennifer Ramp, a spokeswoman for SDG&E, said the utility has only signed contracts for renewably generated energy and has made a commitment to the CPUC that the line won’t be used to transmit electricity generated by coal.
Opponents also argue the Sunrise Powerlink will impact the character of San Diego County’s unincorporated areas.
When completed in 2012, the Sunrise Powerlink will be able to deliver up to 1,000 megawatts of energy to the region, enough to power 650,000 homes, according to SDG&E.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the project will create jobs and improve the state’s power grid.
“I applaud the U.S. Forest Service for approving this important project that will play a critical role in bringing clean, renewable electricity to the cities where people live and work and improving our power grid’s reliability,” he said. “These are exactly the types of projects California needs to transition to a brighter clean-energy future.”
- BLM OKs Sunrise Powerlink project
- BLM OKs Powerlink project, group challenges decision
- State utilities panel hints at Powerlink denial
- Utilities commission president asks for Powerlink OK
- Powerlink decision delayed until November
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