Editorial - Seizing the Moment

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San Diego County’s
Green Energy Future

By Martha Sullivan

It’s
impossible to visit a news web site, flip on the television or pick up a newspaper
nowadays without seeing something about energy.  Nationally, it has dominated
the upcoming election, and here in California we are truly in an interesting
moment.  Plenty of good ideas are out there for innovative and practical
solutions to meeting the state’s future energy needs, but they are jockeying
with old ways of doing business, some of which will cost rate/taxpayers money
better spent elsewhere.

San Diego can be seen as a good example of a microcosm of the state situation,
as the same conversations happening at the state level are happening here.  How
do we meet the challenges of energy planning while reducing global-warming
greenhouse gases? Also, how can we do it in a way that creates highly-skilled
jobs and taps into the “new energy economy”?

Of course, there are those who would rather promote projects that perpetuate
the outdated, fossil-fueled policies of the past.  One much-talked about
energy proposal here in San Diego is Sempra Energy’s 150-mile Sunrise
Powerlink transmission line. This project would link our electricity grid to
the company’s risky liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and gas-fired
power plants in Mexico. 

Even though experts like the Utility Consumers’ Action Network and the
California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) own Division of Ratepayer
Advocates have determined the Sunrise Powerlink is not needed, it is still
being pursued by Sempra’s local utility company, San Diego Gas & Electric.  This,
despite the fact that experts have identified many better ways to meet growing
energy needs.  In the meantime, ratepayer dollars delicately hang in the
balance.  In the next month or so, the CPUC will decide if these dollars
will be funneled to enlarge corporate prerogatives or the public at large.

Contrasted with the “business as usual” crowd, there is a new
frontier of energy movers and shakers.  Stakeholders including utilities,
environmental groups, labor and technical experts are working together right
now to identify renewable energy resources and figure out how to transmit that
energy to big population areas.  Here in San Diego, a proposal called “San
Diego Smart Energy 2020
” has created buzz as a modern, innovative
21st century alternative to the old way of doing things.  This road map
to clean energy, modeled after the State’s Energy Action Plan, emphasizes
efficiency and renewable energy resources, and only relies on natural gas in
a limited capacity.  As many industries struggle in the sputtering economy,
this proposal is chock full of jobs that can employ people throughout the region
right away.

It is vital that we benefit from this long-term, collective strategizing and
problem-solving by a wide range of our state’s stakeholders to move forward
smartly, and NOT succumb to what may be well-intentioned but seriously flawed
proposals authored and advocated by a handful of individuals, such as Propositions
7 and 10 on our current California ballot, which can actually impede the development
of a robust renewable energy economy in California.  The organized opposition
to Proposition 7, Californians Against Another Costly Energy Scheme is
like a consensus-builder’s dream, including the state Democratic, Republican,
Green and Peace & Freedom Parties, the California Taxpayer’s Association
as well as the California Labor Federation, the League of California Cities
and the California Solar Energy Industries Association, joined by the California
League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club of California, Union of Concerned
Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council.  The California League
of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists and California
Labor Federation are also taking an official stand against Prop 10, joined
by the California League of Women Voters and the Consumer Federation of California.  (Source:  BallotPedia.org)

Despite
what the “sky is falling” folks have said, now is the time
for San Diego County, and more broadly, California to adopt nimble, 21st century
energy technology and shed the clumsy, fossil-fueled infrastructure of the
past.  Fresh ideas in efficiency and renewables are popping up daily.  Buying
new, expensive fossil-fueled technology nowadays is like paying a premium for
a gas-guzzler when you can have better mileage and all the extras for less
money.

Of course, there is always a caveat.  In order for our state to actually
implement these practical, 21st century solutions, our Governor, state policymakers,
local officials and energy agencies must lead.  Will they charge forward
and seize the moment or buckle to the influential big-dollar “business
as usual” interests of the past?

For more information on this crossroads at San Diego’s and California’s
energy future, I heartily recommend a recently- and locally-produced documentary, “A
Question of Power,” which takes a hard look at Sempra/SDG&E's claims
regarding its Sunrise Powerlink project and the sustainable alternatives that
could be San Diego's energy future if this line is defeated.  

In addition to many local grassroots activists and experts, some local luminaries
are featured, including San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye, expressing
her admiration for the grassroots organizing toward a new energy economy for
San Diego; Mike Aguirre, San Diego City Attorney who is suing SDG&E for
negligence resulting in wildfires and has threatened to sue it for negligence
in meeting state renewable energy standards; and Dianne Jacob, San Diego County
Supervisor who has very ably voiced her constituents' opposition to the Sunrise
Powerlink in ANY form, in unusual agreement with Frye and Aguirre on the need
for greater renewable and clean energy generation within San Diego, not Imperial
County as advocated by Sempra/SDG&E.

The documentary is online at:
video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2122441201953611718&ei=Zrj8SL6JNaXcqAPek9D3DA&q=a+question+of+power&hl=en

If you want a complimentary, postage-paid DVD of "A Question of Power",
please email co-producer Donna Tisdale with your postal address at:  donnatisdale@hughes.net

Requests for the DVD will be handled on a first come, first serve basis and
supplies are limited.  Once you have a copy, organize a viewing in
your community
.  If you do, let Diane Conklin, writer/narrator, know
when and where these will take place and she will email you an ACTION Flyer
(similar to the following info) for distribution at locally organized: viewings:  dj0conklin@earthlink.net

As mentioned earlier, the CPUC will be deciding in the next several
weeks whether California's ratepayers will pay the heavy price in the decades
to come for this outmoded and destructive technology. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1. Contact Governor Schwarzenegger Immediately.  Schwarzenegger
has come out for this line and four of the five California Public Utilities
Commissioners are his appointees.  The Governor must feel the heat from
folks like you who don’t want this project. Call him today and follow
up with an email.  Let him know YOU expect better solutions from him!
Phone: 916-445-2841
E-mail Form: http://gov.ca.gov/interact#email
Fax: 916-558-3160
Regular Mail:  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Capitol
Building, Sacramento, CA 95814

2.  Contact CPUC Commissioners.   The CPUC will be
deciding on the Sunrise Powerlink Project any time after October 24, 2008.  Each
of the five Commissioners may draft an Alternate Decision presenting differing
conclusions or opinions. All five Commissioners will then vote on the Proposed
Decision and any Alternate Decisions at a meeting of the full Commission before
the end of the year.  Let them know you have contacted the Governor and
tell them to listen to YOU and why you don't want this project.
CPUC Commissioners email:

President Peevey www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/Commissioners/01Peevey/contact.htm
Commissioner Bohn www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/Commissioners/04Bohn/contact.htm
Commissioner Chong www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/Commissioners/05Chong/contact.htm
Commissioner Grueneich www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/Commissioners/03Grueneich/05contact
Commissioner Simon www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/Commissioners/06Simon/contact.htm

COPY the CPUC Public Advisor on your email:  public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov
Phone: (866) 849-8390 

3. U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Record of Decision (ROD).  The
Final EIR/EIS and Proposed Land Use Plan Amendment are available for review/comment
until November 15, 2008 (see link below). The BLM has selected the southern
Sunrise Powerlink transmission route as their preferred project. They need
to amend the just revised Eastern San Diego County Resource Management Plan
(RMP) to accommodate a new utility corridor for Sunrise--where none currently
exists. The ROD for the RMP, just released Oct 10th, approved the downgrading
of the proposed utility route area from a Visual Resource Management Class
II down to the lowest Class IV, allowing both Industrial wind turbines (400
- 500 feet tall) and new transmission lines where they were not allowed previously.  The
record shows that a foreign corporation, Iberdrola Renewables, was behind the
significant land use changes. The process is purposely being piecemealed. At
a minimum, the new ROD cannot be issued until this review period has lapsed.  The
decision of the BLM Director is the final decision of the Department of the
Interior, so make your opinion known!  Register your opposition
to approval of the Sunrise Powerlink and the amended BLM land use plan via
e-mail, fax and/or postal mail:

Brenda Hudgens-Williams, BLM protest coordinator
E-mail: Brenda_Hudgens-Williams@blm.gov
Fax: 202-452-5112
Regular Mail:
Director (210), Attention: Brenda Williams, P.O. Box 66538, Washington, D.C.
20035

For more information about the BLM and CPUC approval processes, see: www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/aspen/sunrise/feir/000%20fnoa.pdf

Martha Sullivan served as a staff person at the California Public
Utilities Commission for over 20 years. During her tenure there, she was
a senior project manager who directed the preparation of environmental
impact reports for energy transmission proposals.  She now resides
in San Diego.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are the views of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine
or its publisher.  If
you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.