The California Public Utilities Commission on August 19 unanimously approved Pacific Gas & Electric?s Jefferson-Martin high-voltage transmission project. The new 27.5-mile, 230 kV line promises to provide relief to the San Francisco Peninsula?s constrained grid by tapping into power south of the peninsula. It is also expected to speed the closure?if not seal the fate?of the polluting, circa-1929 Hunters Point power plant, which is an anathema to those living in its shadow. While the CPUC has been roundly criticized for dragging its feet before approving additions to the transmission system, the range and intensity of voices speaking out about Jefferson-Martin before the vote underscored complexities inherent in transmission siting. Race, environmental justice, health, the need to promote a healthy business climate, jobs the new project will produce, and protecting wildlife and recreational areas were addressed by the public crowding into this week?s meeting. ?Black people coming before you are talking about sickness,? not property rights, fumed one speaker. People in the largely African American neighborhood in Hunters Point blame health problems on pollution from the plant. Despite controversies, commissioners displayed an unusual degree of cooperation, adopting a compromise plan that calls for reduced exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). PG&E must spend $8.3 million to bury the 24 miles of the underground portion of the line at least 11-foot underground to reduce potential exposure to EMFs. Though saying he is unconvinced that science shows a firm link between EMFs and health risks, commission president Mike Peevey dropped his version of the plan that would have required 11-foot line burial only near schools in favor of a scheme that requires undergrounding near schools, day-care centers, and residential neighborhoods. ?We?ve opted for a more conservative approach,? said commissioner Geoffrey Brown of the compromise plan. ?I don?t want to wake up 11 years from now with elevated incidence of cancer or disease.? Paul Moreno, PG&E spokesperson, said the utility will adopt undergrounding orders imposed by regulators. He said that final engineering must be completed to determine whether these requirements will cause delays. The CPUC expects Jefferson-Martin?which has a construction cost cap of $207 million?to be up and running in 2006. Politicians, regulators, and the public near the Hunters Point power plant all hope that the CPUC?s approval of the transmission project causes the plant to finally be shut down. Still, ceasing plant operations, even though linked with a high incidence of asthma and other illnesses for people living in proximity to the plant, is up to the California Independent System Operator. The CPUC believes that a combination of PG&E?s new line and additional transmission reinforcements would allow the old plant to be closed. PG&E expects its new line to infuse the San Francisco corridor with an additional 400 MW of capacity. ?If it was up to me, I?d close Hunters Point as soon as possible, but it?s CAISO?s call,? said commissioner Loretta Lynch.