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Safety Enforcement Questioned On SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink Project

Aired 9/28/11 on KPBS News.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob questions the ability of state regulators to oversee the project’s safety.

The first 142-foot Sunrise Powerlink transmission tower was completed March 9, near McCain Valley Road in Boulevard, just north of Interstate 8.

Above: The first 142-foot Sunrise Powerlink transmission tower was completed March 9, near McCain Valley Road in Boulevard, just north of Interstate 8.

Safety problems on San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink project may be more widespread than the company is acknowledging.

An administrator with knowledge of the Sunrise project told KPBS that there have been several more accidental helicopter drops and rotor strike mishaps than SDG&E is admitting.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob says constituents have reported numerous safety concerns with the project including accidental fires. She said she notified the PUC for the past five months, but regulators did not act.

“SDG&E is not following the rules and the PUC is not doing their job," Jacob said. "So we have a combination of factors, the perfect storm just looking for a disaster. I don’t want to look back and say we told you so because somebody lost their life because those who have the responsibility to do their job are not doing it.”

The PUC grounded SDG&E helicopters Tuesday citing safety risks.

The utility would not respond to questions submitted by KPBS. However, in a written statement earlier this week, the company said its goal is to make any necessary changes to ensure helicopter operations for the project proceed safely.

Company president Mike Niggli says he looks forward to resuming helicopter operations as soon as possible.

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