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Sen. Vargas calls for regulators to deny Sempra permit to import wind power

Sen. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for federal regulators to deny San Diego-based Sempra Energy a permit to import energy from a proposed wind farm in Baja California.

Vargas said the project would outsource five years worth of employment for 600 construction workers, jobs that could be better utilized in the Imperial Valley, which has the nation’s worst unemployment rate at 27.9 percent.

Officials with Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, could not be reached for immediate comment.

Sempra is near the end of the permitting process for its Energia Sierra Juarez plant, located just south of the border near the Mexican town of La Rumorosa. The firm hopes to begin construction next year and begin generating power in 2013.

“We can’t sit back and watch thousands of jobs be outsourced to Mexico while Imperial County is experiencing some of the worst unemployment in the United States,” Vargas said. “I’m urging our federal government to invest in our local workforce.”

Vargas said he wants the wind farm to be built north of the border.

The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 13, calls on the U.S. Department of Energy to reject Sempra’s request for a permit to construct a transmission line that will carry energy generated by the plant to this country.

Vargas cited a study by Peter Phillips, a senior labor economist at the University of Utah, who reported that the outsourcing would cost the Imperial Valley $4.5 million in human capital investment.

Imperial County makes up the bulk of Vargas’ district. He has filed to run for the congressional seat being vacated by longtime rival Bob Filner – who is running for mayor of San Diego – that includes the same area.