Watch those puffs and butts, public told

PUC’s decision means threat of fire, says alliance spokesperson

24 December 2008

published by

USA — The approval of a 123-mile massive power line for southern San Diego means that communities near the project will face the threat of a major catastrophic power line fire over the life of the line, according to the Mussey Grade Road Alliance.

The alliance, a grassroots community organization in Ramona, intervened in the three-year California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proceedings concerning San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink transmission line project.

“The massively destructive power line won’t just cause terrible harm to our county in its construction phase or in its long-term destruction of viewsheds and environment in south San Diego County, it will also be a fire threat for the next half century,” said Diane Conklin, who heads the alliance.

The alliance brought the issue of wildland fires caused by power lines to the commission in 2006.

“The commission’s own environmental impact report echoed our warnings about the risk of catastrophic fire, but their attempts at mitigation, which SDG&E is likely to contest, do not significantly reduce the risk of fire,” said Conklin. “We shouldn’t be running new lines through the windiest and most flammable parts of our county.

“The Commission’s action to approve this line despite the power line fire threat is not what we expect from our regulators.  We depend upon them to protect us and have the interests of the public at heart above all other considerations — especially after the October 2007 fires in our county, two of which were started, according to Cal Fire, by SDG&E power lines.”

Conklin, who also is the coordinator for a county-wide community organization called CUSP (Communities United for Sensible Power), said that communities around the county are united in their opposition to any power line anywhere.  Fire risks due to the massive power line exist in all routes considered, she said.

“We are still engaged and we intend to stay engaged because, as the Administrative Law Judge’s Proposed Decision denying the line says, the line is not necessary,” she said. “In fact, San Diego’s communities potentially affected by this line have been loyal standard bearers of a united opposition.  We have always stood for no line anywhere due to all the impacts involved.  We advocate for local and better energy solutions for San Diego as the CPUC environmental report recommended.  Southern California Edison’s 250MW rooftop solar project in Riverside County is one model.

“We should not be denied this opportunity to lead the nation in a model program of local solar generation.  We have the sun, we have the technology.  What we don’t have is the governor’s support and the support of his commission.  We cannot allow this decision to delay a new and safer way to get our energy that benefits ratepayers and the environment instead of enriching SDG&E.  So, let’s be clear — this issue is not over until it’s over.”

The alliance intends to file for a reconsideration of the PUC decision and to work with others on further steps, Conklin said.

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