BLM OKs Powerlink project, group challenges decision

San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s plan to build a transmission line through the backcountry has received approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM’s made its decision about the Sunrise Powerlink project Tuesday, Jan. 20, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The California Public Utilities Commission gave its approval of the project last month. The biggest decision still pending is whether the supervisor of the Cleveland National Forest will approve the $2 billion project, according to the newspaper.

The utility says the line is needed to bring renewable energy to San Diego from wind, geothermal and solar facilities in Imperial County and Mexico. The 120-mile line would follow a “southern route”’ that largely follows Interstate 8 and avoids the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Environmentalists have been vehemently against the project from the beginning. Opponents argue SDG&E could use the transmission line to import electricity generated by natural gas plants in Mexico, where environmental regulations are less stringent.

On Jan. 21, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the project, calling it a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires state agencies to adopt all feasible measures to reduce a project’s environmental impacts.

If everything goes according to schedule, the line could be completed as early as 2012, utility spokeswoman Jennifer Briscoe told the Union-Tribune.