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Opposition arises over Sunrise Powerlink in San Diego

California's power-grid operator is endorsing a plan to build a major power line through San Diego County's backcountry. Residents sounded off last night about their environmental concerns for the Sunrise Powerlink, including the worry of so-called "dirty" energy coming from Mexico. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps has more.

California's Independent System Operator says San Diego needs the thousand extra megawatts the Sunrise Powerlink would provide. The group says the 120-mile line that draws power from Imperial County makes economic sense.

Local residents say the line does not make environmental sense because it crosses Anza Borrego Desert and rural San Diego County. SDG&E says the project is eco-friendly because it draws power from renewable energy sources.

But many at the meeting, including Michael Bell of Encinitas, said the energy won't be so green if it comes from a few miles south of the border.

Bell: "In Mexico it's like a lawnmower. It's completely pollution coming out of the stacks, so why are you calling it a green line if you're using a thousand megawatts right now that's being produced there?"

SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan says it's tough to control the path of electrons on power lines. Residents are also concerned about incurring the project's construction costs. But Donovan says importing energy, rather than building local power plants, lowers prices for San Diegans overall.

Donovan: "This line will pay for itself in probably the first year or so in terms of the energy savings because we won't have to be paying higher costs for inefficient generators in San Diego."

A coalition endorsed the Powerlink, including City Councilman Jim Madaffer and the trade association BIOCOM. The power-grid operator's report advises the Public Utilities Commission, which will decide whether to approve the project next month.

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