Union-Tribune

February 1, 2002

Filner urges pipeline be reconsidered
He says Mexican power plants will pollute U.S. county

By TOBY ECKERTt 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON Rep. Bob Filner has asked federal regulators to
reconsider their approval of a natural gas pipeline that is to fuel
power plants in Baja California and, possibly, San Diego.

Filner, D-San Diego, an outspoken foe of the Mexican power plants that the pipeline will fuel, has said pollution from the plants will drift into the United States. The plants will provide electricity to customers on both sides of the border.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, Filner said the agency should reconsider its decision because of "the huge air pollution impacts" that one of the plants will have on the residents of Imperial County. 

He also expressed concerns about the facility's potential threat to "the endangered species of the Salton Sea, which will be deprived of water by the plant's use of wet cooling."

Although Filner referred to a single plant in the letter, he said he was opposed to both plants being built near Mexicali. San
Diego-based Sempra Energy is building one plant and InterGen of Boston is building the other.

The pipeline will deliver natural gas to fuel the Mexicali plants and perhaps a third plant planned for Otay Mesa in San Diego. 

Sempra is developing the $230 million North Baja Pipeline with a unit of San Francisco-based PG&E Corp. and Proxima Gas of
Mexicali.

Sempra says its power plant will meet California air emission
standards. InterGen does not make that claim, but says its plant will be one of the cleanest in Mexico and will have "no significant" pollution impact on the border region.

Both companies say they will cool their plants with sewer water
from Mexicali that they will treat and discharge cleaner than when it came in, countering Filner's claim.

The water will ultimately find its way into the New River, which
flows into the Salton Sea, they said.

Opponents of the plants note that Imperial County already has one of the highest asthma rates in California and that pollution levels there and in Mexicali exceed U.S. and Mexican standards.

Imperial County is part of the newly redrawn congressional district, which also includes portions of San Diego, where Filner is running for re-election.

When FERC approved the 80-mile U.S. portion of the natural gas
pipeline last month, it said the pipeline did not pose a threat to the environment.

The Bush administration also has issued presidential permits to
allow the power plants' transmission lines to be built across the
border, after a limited Energy Department environmental
assessment.

Filner told FERC the assessment "was incomplete and a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement or mitigation measures to deal with the air pollution and the jeopardy to endangered species should have been ordered."