June 4, 2009 -- The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce reports victory in helping to defeat several bills it describes as “business UN-friendly bills." But a coalition opposed to Sunrise Powerlink has taken the Chamber to task for its opposition to one measure which supporters say would, in fact, create jobs in renewable energy production locally. The organization also seeks to persuade the Chamber to reconsider its endorsement of Sunrise Powerlink.
A newsletter to Chamber members read, “A number of job killer bills, strongly opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and by this Chamber, missed the deadline for winning approval from legislative fiscal committees and thus are unlikely to see further action this year.” The bills include measures considered onerous by business interests particularly in a weak economy, but supported by labor groups, including proposals to boost workers compensation, expand paid sick leave, and create a state-run healthcare system. For the California Chamber of Commerce's descriptions of these measures, see www.calchamber.com/jobkillers.
But East County's Chamber has drawn strong local criticism for its opposition to AB 212 by Assemblymember Saldana (D-San Diego). According to the California Chamber of Commerce, that bill would “substantially increase the cost of new housing by mandating on-site or near-site energy generation for all new residential buildings.” Supporters of AB 212 contend that the bill would, in fact, create new jobs, such as installing solar panels or wind turbines for local power generation.
The East County Community Action Coalition, an organization opposed to Sunrise Powerlink, claims to represent 78,000 members. ECCAC has called for incentives for locally produced, small scale power generation near homes and businesses as an alternative to Sunrise Powerlink, the high-voltage power line proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E).
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, an outspoken opponent of Powerlink, supports local power generation and has also criticized the Chamber for its support of the project. Opponents of the line note that the state’s environmental impact report found Powerlink would pose a severe and unmitigatable fire risk, that the line would mar scenic views, and that two administrative law judges both ruled that Powerlink is not necessary to meet San Diego County’s future power needs.
“Don Parent, Director of Public Affairs for SDG&E, is on the board of the East County Chamber,” Cyphert observed. “In addition, SDG&E is a `chairman level’ donor to the Chamber. In my opinion, the Chamber has a record of supporting initiatives that benefit SDG&E over the interests of East County. For example, the Chamber boasts of its support for the Sunrise Powerlink, yet the Sunrise Powerlink will ship jobs to Imperial County and put many businesses in the East County out of business, while also subjecting San Diego to renewable firestorms,” she added. “In my opinion, the Chamber has become an arm of SDG&E’s public relations department. It is very unfortunate for East County residents and businesses.”
Mike Cully, president of the Chamber, said the decisions on which bills to support or oppose are made by a committee and based largely on recommendations from the California Chamber of Commerce. As for the Chamber’s stance on Powerlink, in a letter to ECCAC Cully said the position was determined by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee after studying the issue and that financial compensation did not play any role. According to Cully’s letter, the Chamber opted to support Powerlink because:
- It provides previously untapped access to renewable energy sources in our region, which the Chamber views as prudent and responsible stewardship both now and in the future.
- It makes provisions for a secure power supply for our region and assures consistent and stable sources of energy which is a necessity for both residents and businesses in our area.
- Ultimately these provisions will result in lower energy costs
“Without the Sunrise Powerlink, SDG&E cannot meet the state’s clean energy mandate by 2010,” Cully’s letter concluded. “There’s simply not enough local renewable power available. Areas like East San Diego County are prime spots for solar, wind and geothermal electricity but new power lines connecting San Diego to those resources are needed.”
ECCAC counters that our region does have the potential to produce ample local renewable power and has sent a letter to Cully requesting an audience with the Chamber’s Board to discuss its support of Powerlink. “During this past month we have been inundated with concerns by business owners in East County that will likely go out of business due to this project,” she concluded, “and would like to understand how the Chamber could support this project while claiming to represent East County.”
As of press deadline, Cyphert said she had not yet received a reply from the Chamber.