East County News Service
March 20, 2016 (Alpine) Alpine residents and the watchdog group Citizens Oversight have sent a letter to the President of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking assistance in identifying any potential hazards associated with electromagnetic fields ((EMF) related to Sunrise Powerlink. The residents ask for an investigation to assure that the public is protected.
The residents’ letter claims that San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) could increase power flowing through the underground Sunrise Powerlink along Alpine Blvd.
East County Magazine has asked SDG&E to respond to the residents’ letter and to clarify whether or not it seeks to increase the power flowing through the line, but we have not received a response. SDG&E has previously stated that the line is at or near capacity.
Lou Russo, a member of the Alpine Community Planning Group, sent this statement on a source of the community’s concerns about a possible increase in voltage through the line:
“FYI, it appears that there is a new 230kv project on the books that will connect the west end of the Sunrise Powerlink into the Torrey Hills area (AKA sorrento valley industrial park area). That means the Sunrise Powerlink likely has not been running at full tilt yet. From what I can tell, this project is still in the approval stages. Thus, taking readings when the line is barely used will help in the present situation but means this project will not be quickly over. We need public oversight of this line in Alpine for some time to come.”
Russo provided this image of the route for the line proposed at the CPUC. This is proceeding number A.14-04-011.
Below is the full text of the Alpine residents’ letter:
1524 Montecito Vista
Alpine, CA 91901
March 15, 2016
Michael Picker, President
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3296
Dear President Picker:
As residents of Alpine, CA, we are concerned about the Sunrise PowerLink and the possible Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) issues with this line. The 500KV Sunrise PowerLink runs under the main street in Alpine within feet of the public, an elementary school, and many businesses. Outside the Alpine area, there are many residents who live near the power lines which may cross their properties.
At the recent public meeting in Alpine on this issue hosted by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, SDG&E provided no technical information, no results of their own testing, no drawings showing the shielding of the lines or any other information. The only representative from SDG&E was Don Parent, who knew little about the topic but did say that SDG&E has no standards for setbacks from public areas. Unfortunately, all the money allocated for public outreach in our utility bills was not used on this meeting even though it was a packed to overflowing and the community had done their homework. SDG&E came with nothing and frankly, it was embarrassing for SDG&E.
The school district and some residents have conducted their own measurements or asked SDG&E to come out and measure the EMF near schools, homes, and businesses. We are concerned because we are aware that the strength of magnetic fields is directly related to the amount of power transmitted on the line, and that it is unlikely that the line is being used at full capacity. Thus, any measurements of the magnetic field may be essentially worthless unless we know the power level at the time.
This is in light of the proposed extension to the line being processed in application A.14.04.011 “Application Of San Diego Gas & Electric Company (U 902 E) For a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Sycamore-Penasquitos 230 Kilovolt Transmission Line Project” which will further increase the power flowing on the line by some 20%.
The PowerLink runs through the ENTIRE town of Alpine, where ALL the businesses (with the exception of one on S. Tavern and 3 across the freeway on N. Tavern) are a few feet from the PowerLink. Additionally, many of the business-owners and/or the employees in Alpine, not only work on the boulevard, but also live on the boulevard, and therefore there is NO respite from EMF's unless they physically leave Alpine.
We are a Citizen Oversight group who are attempting to represent the interests of the community in Alpine. Those who live and work in close proximity to PowerLink are concerned about the possible health hazards. We are fully aware that there is debate upon what one would consider “safe” or “unsafe” levels of EMF, but at the same time, we wish for the CPUC, SDG&E and our elected officials to err on the side of safety. In our cursory review of scientific information on the topic, we find that there is still a lot of work to be done to understand any health impacts to living around these power lines. In this regard, the CPUC has dropped the ball. These safety issues should have been fully understood prior to installing a line down a main street and footsteps from the doors of an elementary school, a charter school, numerous day cares and the new library.
Our review of the question of safety of EMF emissions from transmission lines resulted in a finding that there is still a lot to be done to fully understand these health implications. A list of additional research needed for static magnetic fields is provided in Appendix A. We understand that the magnetic fields in this case are not static.
We noted there has been work to reduce EMF in school environments. The document “Electric and Magnetic Field Exposure Assessment of Powerline and Non-Powerline Sources for California Public School Environments” prepared in 2000 for the Public Health Institute, California Department of Health Services. They said one of the reasons for the study was “the available evidence showing a possible increased cancer risk for residential power line frequency magnetic field (MF) exposure is stronger for children.” Thus, we believe our concerns are not unfounded.
As we move into a new phase of our energy system, we understand that to support renewable energy production in remote areas, there will be a push for many more transmission line projects. This is in stark contrast to the lack of information on safety of the fields generated, no standards for setback, and no standards for monitoring by the transmission line operators.
We are aware of the request for an investigation submitted to you by our San Diego County Supervisor, Dianne Jacob. We support her request for an investigation. In addition, we ask that you and the members of the CPUC use your power to accomplish the following:
1. We request that Sunrise PowerLink be shut down until the safety issue can be resolved. As this is not a peak usage time, it is likely that the Southwest PowerLink can provide adequate capacity for the region.
2. We request that you provide to the public the history of line use, including amount of power SDG&E has/is routing through this line.
3. We request that any testing results include how much the line is activated, e.g. so that a correlation between EMF levels and line through flow may be made.
4. A requirement that SDG&E fully activate the line to at least 1/2 capacity during any future EMF measuring projects, such as near the schools and residences in the downtown area of Alpine.
5. The Southwest PowerLink also supplies San Diego. SDG&E should use that line unless it reaches capacity or is not on-line, and only use the SRPL when absolutely necessary.
6. SDG&E should prepare a plan to reroute the line into the freeway right-of-way for that portion which now goes under Alpine, so it is far from any members of the public.
7. SDG&E should conduct a community meeting on this topic and provide the following:
A. Measured EMF levels along the portion of the PowerLink that runs under Alpine, as well as any other areas near residences, and the power level of the line at that time so as to provide a clear picture of what emissions exist.
B. A description of how the EMF will change with varying power levels on the line. We assume that with more power flowing on the line, the EMF will be stronger, but how much?
C. Historical power levels and planned future power levels. Although the line was installed, it was not really used for a while, most likely. We have looked for this information but cannot find it, but it seems it should be something accounted for.
D. The state of any investigations by SDG&E into the health effects of EMF from such transmission lines.
E. Confirmation that there are no setback requirements by SDG&E nor by the CPUC for safety, as asserted by SDG&E PR spokesperson, Don Parent.
8. Given that the number of transmission lines will no doubt be increasing as we move into the renewable-energy future, the CPUC should address the lack of good information in terms of health effects of EMF emissions by requiring that the utilities fund independent research at reputable universities into any adverse health effects of the EMF from transmission lines both above and below ground, and probably both AC and HVDC lines.
The fact that we see so many issues unresolved, as reflected by Appendix A, gives us little reassurance that the industry really knows what is safe and what is not.
We ask that you and the CPUC stand firm in the interest of the health and well-being of the residents of Alpine.
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter. Please contact me if you or your staff has any questions.
Louis F. Russo
Ray Lutz, Citizens Oversight
CC: Governor Jerry Brown
Attorney General Kamal Harris
Commissioner Michael Peter Florio, CPUC
Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval, CPUC
Commissioner Carla J. Peterman, CPUC
Edward F. Randolph, CPUC Energy Division Director
Cynthia Walker, CPUC Program Manager
Molly Sterkel, CPUC Supervisor CEQA Unit
Gabriel Petlin, CPUC, Supervisor
Dianne Jacob, Supervisor, San Diego County
Dan Skopec, Vice President, San Diego Gas and Electric
Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union Tribune
Karen Pearlman, San Diego Union Tribune
APPENDIX A: Overview of research needs regarding magnetic fields.
This list  is an example of the health effects of magnetic fields which still requires more research. We are not sure how many of these apply for powerline EMF emissions.