A business group launched a utility-financed advertising campaign Tuesday morning to promote the proposed $1.5 billion Sunrise Powerlink transmission line that San Diego Gas & Electric Co. wants to build.
The campaign comes on the heels of crucial hearings next week in San Diego.
The Community Alliance for the Sunrise Powerlink unveiled a pair of giant billboards that attempt to portray the debate over the line as pitting a dark future of polluted skies fueled by local power plants versus a bright future of blue skies and clean wind power.
The pictured generator is the South Bay Power Plant, according to a group news release.
One of the billboards is along Highway 163, just north of Interstate 805, in Kearny Mesa.
Another one is along Interstate 5 at E Street in Chula Vista, near the South Bay plant. That plant is scheduled to be retired soon, but one of the project alternatives being explored entails construction of more, although cleaner, natural-gas-fired generators.
In a news release, the group also said it purchased advertising in newspapers, on radio spots and on Internet news sites.
Dubbed “Your Choice,” the promotional campaign carries a price tag of $45,000, Julie Meier Wright, co-chairwoman of the alliance and chief executive officer for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., said.
“The costs are being borne by SDG&E,” Meier Wright said.
She said she believes it is fair for the ratepayer-funded utility to pay for a campaign advertising a company project.
“I think that if we’re going to make infrastructure investments only when we are in a crisis, we are really going to be at a disadvantage as a region,” Meier Wright said. “And I think SDG&E is trying to educate the public. … I don’t think SDG&E is in a conflict by running it.”
She said the business group is trying to get San Diego County residents to tell state regulators they want the power line to be built.
The campaign comes as the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulatory agency that will decide the fate of the power line this summer, is conducting public hearings on the project next week at the California Center for Sustainable Energy at 8690 Balboa Ave., Suite 100, in San Diego.
The hearings that begin at 10 a.m. Monday, and continue Tuesday and Wednesday will explore the environmental impacts of the project and alternative ways of meeting San Diego County’s future electricity needs.
SDG&E is proposing to string a high-voltage line from metal towers reaching as high as 160 feet, along a 150-mile meandering path between El Centro and Carmel Valley.
The utility’s preferred route would run for 23 miles through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and cross neighborhoods in Ramona and Rancho Penasquitos. About 10 miles of the wires would be laid in the ground near homes.
A voluminous environmental impact study prepared for the project found in January that five alternate projects could meet the region’s needs for a 20-percent boost in its power supply while leaving a lighter footprint on the environment.
Those alternatives included new natural gas-fired power plants in metro San Diego County, an assortment of solar and wind energy projects in the county, and a much-shorter 32-mile high-voltage line through western Riverside County and Camp Pendleton.
The report also said laying large sections of the line in the ground or moving it to the south, along Interstate 8, would avoid harming the popular state park.
The Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to decide by August whether to grant permission to SDG&E to build the line.
“We’re running out of time to really make the case as a region that we need this power line,” Meier Wright said.
By Dave Downey
1 April 2008
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