A decision on the Sunrise Powerlink that was set for the end of summer may now not come until late November as the California Public Utilities Commission has opted to wait. California Public Utilities Commissioner Dian Grueneich and Administrative Law Judge Steven Weissman issued a revised schedule, delaying a final decision on SDG&E's proposed powerlink and ordering re-circulation of portions of the environmental impact report.
During the delay, the commission is also requesting that the California Independent System Operator recalculate the economic benefits of the Powerlink and its alternatives as well as calculate the greenhouse gas emissions impacts for each alternative.
Critics of the proposed $1.5 billion, 150-mile transmission line from Imperial Valley are viewing the delay as a small victory.
"This is an important victory in our battle to secure a clean, renewable energy future for our region," said Micah Mitrosky, a Sierra Club conservation organizer. "With each passing day it's really obvious this is an ill-conceived project."
Also encouraged by the delay was Laura Copic, a member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board who has been fighting the Powerlink for years.
"The more information the PUC gathers regarding all of these alternatives and their benefits, the better," said Copic. " If the Sunrise Powerlink is the best solution, SDG&E should have nothing to fear from this closer examination."
The line from Imperial Valley would cross through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the Los Penasquitos Canyon and right through Carmel Valley's neighborhood 10. SDG&E has said the powerlink's goal is to provide access to clean, renewable energy, secure the power supply and provide lower costs to consumers, saving them up to $100 million each year in energy costs. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has also endorsed the powerlink.
However, January's draft EIR's finding was that this proposed line doesn't even rank in the top five of project alternatives. It comes in at number six over plans that have fewer impacts on the environment. According to the report, the Sunrise plan has 50 significant, unmitigatable impacts.
Despite those impacts, SDG&E feels that the line is necessary to give San Diego a more reliable energy source and meet the state mandate that requires utilities to obtain 20 percent of their power through renewable energy sources by 2010.
Mitrosky said despite what SDG&E claims, the powerlink is not about saving consumers money or connecting to renewables. She said it's about completing parent company Sempra Energy and SDG&E's fossil fuel corridor, connecting power plants on the Mexican border to markets in Los Angeles.
Mitrosky said Sempra currently owns a liquefied natural gas import terminal on the coast of Mexico. Attempts to build these kinds of terminals on the coasts of Western American states have all been denied as they are seen to have environmental impacts and to be highly explosive.
Mitrosky believes that Sempra will use liquefied natural gas imported overseas from Russia and Indonesia to create electricity at the Mexican terminal, which will then be brought over the border into San Diego and eventually up to Los Angeles.