Friday, March 23, 2012
The planning process has begun for a peaker power plant on the border of San Diego and Santee just East of Mission Trails Regional Park, and Santee residents aren’t letting it happen without a fight.
About 200 people, mostly Santee residents, made their presence known at Thursday night’s California Energy Commission (CEC) public workshop that detailed the proposed Quail Brush Power Plant and explained how the planning and permitting process will proceed.
More than 60 public speaker forms were submitted, and every one of the speakers expressed their wish for the applicant, Cogentrix, to withdraw their application for the plant or for the CEC to deny them a permit. The workshop lasted for six hours, ending at about 11 p.m.
A stack of more than 1,000 signatures gathered online and in person were submitted to the board.
The main concerns from the public revolved around various health impacts, especially air quality, the proximity of the plant to residential housing, West Hills High School and other schools, the visual affect of the plant and the impact on housing prices in the area.
Amongst the public speakers were many engineers, doctors, firefighters and other professionals with insight into the potential affects on the community, which are far ranging.
Proposed Location of the Quail Brush Generation Project
One of the biggest concerns expressed by Santeeans was that because the plant is technically within City of San Diego borders, but would most affect Santee, that this is another case of Santee being used as a “dumping ground.” The city and its residents are still sore about the Las Colinas Detention Facility expansion, Sycamore Canyon Landfill and other “undesirable” projects being located in their town, and are wary of another such project.
Eleven specialists working with the CEC, experts in various fields such as biology and air quality, made up the CEC panel that presented a power point and answered questions. This was followed by a Q&A with Cogentrix representatives.
The panel said the workshop was convened in response to more than 80 formal comments from the public sent to the CEC over the last couple months, a huge response according to the panel.
Organizations represented by speakers at the workshop included Santee City Hall, Grossmont High School District, San Diego Mountain Bike Association, Preserve Wild Santee and more. The grassroots Stop the Santee Power Plant organization was out in full force with signs and speakers at the meeting.
Santee City Councilmember Jack Dale spoke representing the City of Santee and said the council will likely take a position against the project when it is discussed at next week’s council meeting.
Rudy Reyes, injured in the 2003 Cedar Fires and candidate for County Supervisor, was one of many speakers that emphasized the risk of wildfires in the area- the very fire that injured him tore through the area where the plant would sit.
The public speakers- hikers, bikers, residents and lovers of nature- did not hold their tongues, through tears and anger they voiced their thoughts about a power plant.
“I might be a person to lie down in front of a bulldozer if it comes down to that,” said one speaker, to which the audience applauded and calls that others would do the same could be heard.
Another speaker asked if the plant would be visible from the top of Cowle’s Mountain, the most popular urban hiking spot in the entire country. Though not definitive, all indications show it would be.
The CEC said that at least one workshop will be held a month while this process goes on, and the public is welcome to those as well. The next scheduled meeting of importance to the project is the San Diego Planning Commission meeting on April 26, where a decision might be made whether to change the zoning of the site from open land to industrial use.
One speaker summed up the feeling of the audience at the meeting: “You have not yet heard the wrath that will come from Santee.”