DOE Seeks Citizen Input on Impact of New Border Plants

By Published On: December 14, 2003

The Department of Energy?which was found to have illegally permitted transmission lines importing power from two new power projects near the California-Mexico border and is facing court revocation of those permits?solicited public input this week on the projects? impacts on human and environmental health. Last July, a San Diego federal court judge ordered the DOE to conduct an extensive environmental analysis of InterGen?s 1,065 MW and Sempra?s 600 MW projects after a San Diego?based group sued DOE for permitting the lines after summarily concluding they would not cause any significant air- or water-quality impacts. Many are watching DOE?s precedent-setting comprehensive environmental analysis of the facilities? impacts on a region that suffers the highest rate of childhood asthma in the state, as well as the agency’s meetings to address public concerns. ?It will set the standard for future power plants built on the border,? said Bill Powers, chair of the Border Power Plant Working Group, which sued DOE. Federal judge Irma Gonzales allowed the continued importation of power from InterGen?s project, a Bechtel and Royal Dutch Shell venture, and Sempra?s plant but ordered the DOE to make a case on why its cross-border transmission line permits should not be revoked before next July. DOE had stalled for a year on carrying out an extensive environmental analysis of the plants? effects on the surrounding communities but announced in the <i>Federal Register</i> earlier this month that it would produce an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Protection Act. ?DOE is finally getting the message it cannot allow big businesses to pollute our air and water without regard to health and environmental standards,? said Marcello Mollo, an attorney with Earthjustice representing the border group. InterGen said it supports public involvement and the DOE?s comprehensive analysis of the project. ?It is DOE?s show,? said InterGen spokesperson Sarah Webster. She added that InterGen sent a representative to the November 20 scoping meetings, considered ?the first step in a long process.? Sempra is confident its new Termoelectrica de Mexicali facility will pass environmental muster because it meets California?s emissions standards and is less polluting than any other power plant in Imperial and San Diego counties, said Art Larson, Sempra spokesperson. The company spent $20 million on state-of-the-art air pollution controls and uses treated wastewater to cool the plant. InterGen?s new La Rosita plant in Mexicali is said to be 70 percent cleaner than existing plants running in California. Sempra?s smaller plant is significantly cleaner, emitting far less nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and PM 10.

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