What’s Going On Behind Closed Doors? What Can I Do?

What’s Going on Behind Closed Doors regarding power plants at Mission Trails/Santee and in Chula Vista? Turko Video The CPUC, CEC, Cogentrix, SDGE, CleanTech, and other industry and corporate stakeholders (excluding the public and the press) will meet in San Diego one day before the CPUC votes on whether the power plants are actually needed, four months after the CPUC correctly rejected these fossil fuel-burning plants as not needed.
Click above for what Turko says on 3/6/13 about this secret meeting.
UPDATE: Turko File Follow-Up 3/11/13 says a lawsuit has been filed to stop the meeting.

What You Can Do Now to Prevent new unneeded Fossil Fuel-burning Plants in our region, including grading hills for an 11-stack monster adjacent to majestic Mission Trails park and open space area. Want to stop a massive waste of taxpayer dollars?

1. MOST IMPORTANT – Attend the CPUC meeting THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 8:00 AM  [NOTE TIME REVISION: RALLY AT 8:00, PUBLIC COMMENT SIGN-IN AT 8:30, COMMENT SIGN-IN CLOSED and MEETING STARTS AT 9:00 AM. COME AT 8:00 IF YOU CAN!]
We need a huge show of force–yes, again!–to tell the CPUC to uphold the November draft decision which rejects these power plants. Take off work to attend, if you can.
PRE-MEETING RALLY: 8:00 AM at the site – Public Comment sign-in 8:30 AM
LOCATION: 5520 Overland Avenue, San Diego, 92123 — County Operations Center’s Conference Center (Campus Center) in Kearny Mesa. Check this website for any changes before you go.
BE COUNTED! We encourage EVERYONE to speak (1 minute or less), or at least submit a written comment on a speaker slip. Arrive by 8:30 AM to sign in.
SIMPLY STATE: “I support the CPUC’s A.L.J. and alternate draft decisions”
(at a minimum) and your name.

2. If you can’t attend, you still have a voice. Email and/or phone the CPUC today and ask two friends to do the same.

3. Over 600 letters opposing Cogentrix’s Quail Brush are on the CA Energy Commission (CEC)’s public docket. Let’s make it 1,000! Read some of the letters and send yours — or commit two friends to do so — today. Easy instructions on the Email Activism Page No. (2). PLEASE NOTE: The CEC will reject, approve, or withdraw the Mission Trails/Santee power plant application this spring, regardless of the CPUC vote. Don’t let the CEC and Cogentrix grade our beautiful park hills and pollute our air.

4. Ask Governor Brown to speak on behalf of the public interest and to relieve the pressure on the CPUC to rewrite their decision in favor of SDG&E/Cogentrix allowing another ratepayer rip-off.

5. Have fun at a SMT volunteer community outreach event! Join an early-morning hike up Cowles Mountain and/or petition-signing at the trailhead on March 16. Details on the Meetings Page.

6. “Like” and share our Facebook page and tweet us!

FAST FACTS: Peak electricity demand has been stable in San Diego and statewide since 1999. Generation capacity of gas-fired plants is in excess of 30% now. The Los Angeles basin will add 2,000 MW of gas-fired power plants this summer that will further balloon generation capacity. And yet another 2,000 MW are slated for construction elsewhere in California.

SDG&E has ample power generation without San Onofre. The required reserves is 15 to 17%. On the hottest hour of the year on Sept. 14, 2012, SDG&E still had reserves of about 24% without San Onofre.

BOTTOM LINE: The public would be saddled with at least $1.2 billion in construction and finance costs for just Pio Pico and Quail Brush in exchange for only 23 permanent jobs in our region. Claims by SDG&E that peak demand is rising and new peaker plants are needed for the hottest days are false.

We are steadfast in fighting the good fight. Thank you for all your hard work!

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We Need an Army to show up Friday evening, Feb. 1, at the CPUC Public Forum!

What happened at the CPUC meeting? If you asked that question, then you are concerned about your community or park. Everyone who cares about this issue and wants to stop the Quail Brush power plant by Mission Trails Regional Park must show up at the CPUC Public Forum on Friday, February 1, 6PM,  Al Bahr Shrine Center, 5440 Kearny Mesa Rd, San Diego – click here for Google map.  Rally at 5:15 PM in the Al Bahr Parking Lot. See additional image for directions and map below.  Save the Date, Save the Park. 

Okay! But what happened at the meeting? The vote was delayed AGAIN. Why? Cogentrix and SDGE successfully lobbied the CPUC to delay the vote a third time for two more weeks. They requested the CPUC take a “wait and see” approach rather than reject the gas plant. Meanwhile, the CPUC agreed to hold a Public Forum in San Diego led by their top SoCal staff person.

Public MeetingSDGE will no doubt roll out their allies. For example, if SDGE treats this like the CPUC public meetings on wildfire expenses last year, we can expect to see recipients of their philanthropy that have nothing to do with this issue. So wear orange and let’s unite once again! Stop the polluting fossil fuel plant near our homes and MTRP!

This location is confirmed! AL Bahr Phone: (858) 292-0092

Turn into the driveway on either side of the Hampton Inn. The Al Bahr Center is behind the inn
Turn into the driveway on either side of the Hampton Inn. The Al Bahr Center is behind the inn
albahr-map
 

CPUC Vote Delayed AGAIN – Intensified Lobbying Threatens our Park and Communities

The CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) vote on Quail Brush was rescheduled from Dec. 20 to Jan. 10, and now postponed again to Thursday, JANUARY 24. Meanwhile, Cogentrix has intensified its lobbying. Top executives, their high-priced lobbyist, and lawyers met on December 12 behind closed doors with the Commissioners’ staff in an effort to sway the upcoming vote.

Remember David and Goliath. Keep up the good fight! It is imperative we continue to grow the CPUC email campaign. Please commit to recruit AT LEAST TWO of your friends and family to email TODAY. Comment via Save Mission Trails with our letter and easy instructions. (The Sierra Club link will be repaired and posted soon.)

Or comment with your own words. Email public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov
Include in the Subject Line: A1105023 – Support the Proposed Decision.
Be sure to INCLUDE YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, CITY, ZIP to be counted.

A FEW TALKING POINTS . . . 

  • The opposition’s energy planning and requirement claims are based on grossly inaccurate assumptions and estimates made on ten-year-old data that project unrealistically high energy needs.
  • Their out-of-date estimates ignore California’s massive and successful recent efforts to conserve energy, efforts that are being paid for by State tax payers, and that are involving the participation of thousands of our citizens.
  • As a result of widespread commercial and residential energy conservation, today we do not have the hyper-inflated energy requirements that the opposition claims as the necessity for plants such as Quail Brush.
  • Bottom Line: Support the CPUC Proposed Decision for A1105023.

GOOD NEWS!! Save Mission Trails is one of the East County Magazine’s Newsmakers of the Year for 2012. Congratulations, everyone! (Note: While the blurb mentions that TWO CPUC officials have deemed the plant unnecessary, the entire commission must uphold this decision on January 24 to stop Quail Brush.)

Mission Trails When the Days are Short

San Diego does not exhibit the kinds of blatant seasonal changes that you see in Vermont, Oregon or Michigan; we have a more subtle shift in the weather.  Here is what it looks like when winter comes to Mission Trails.

The sun goes down sooner…

Moon rise on a crisp blue sky is common.

Oak leaves turn orange and then drop off at their leisure.

The dam swells from occasional rainstorms.

Note:  Our iconic Mission Dam will turn 200 in the year 2016, which is the same time Cogentrix would construct their Quail Brush power plant in a spot that could be seen from just above the dam.

This is where many of us come to escape the distractions of civilization and the work-a-day life.  We all need Nature to balance us.

Have you ever sat on a rock and looked closely at the colors and patterns?

The sky flaunts drama.

Sunset signals our time to say goodbye until the next time.

Photographs copyright by Patty Mooney

Fire Danger! What’s the Impact Zone of an Explosion at the proposed gas power plant? Applicant: No response.

Fire Safety 101:  Don’t build a fossil fuel GAS power plant in a high fire-hazard zone.
(Scroll to bottom to view “What can I do to help stop this power plant?“)

John Gibbins aerial photo of 2003 fire around Scripps Ranch area.
Aerial of 2003 Cedar Fire around Scripps Ranch area taken by John Gibbins/Union-Tribune.

Will our communities, homes, and our lives be protected? The City of Santee has stated it refuses to provide any emergency services to the power plant. The only response would be from San Diego, which has also opposed the project. Therefore, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC), to meet the local regulations and standards (LORS), a fire would need to be impossible, the risk zero. Really? Zero fire risk? Residents in San Diego and East County know all too well, this won’t be the case!

Required vs. Actual response times for San Diego Fire Stations to the proposed plant site:
Fire Response Times Chart
At the October 19, 2012, CEC Public Workshop, San Diego Deputy Chief Doug Perry stated the “drawdown” of emergency response resources and extended response times by the Fire Dept. are significant. We “can’t get there as quick as CityGate rules say that we should.” He continued, “It will take longer and the fires will potentially be larger.”

The applicant CoGentrix said that to bridge this time gap, they will create a “shelter in place” with breathing apparatus for the workers. Perry agreed it could be safer to keep the workers in the structure and let a wildlands fire go around it. SMT volunteer Sonja Ramos, who lives close to the proposed site, noted this shelter will be of no help to her and other local residents, though.

Photo from CEC Workshop 10/19/12 fire discussion
Deputy Fire Chief Perry and SMT volunteer and local resident Sonja Ramos discuss fire impacts at the Oct. 19, 2012 CEC Wksp, while Ziebart, hired lobbyist and applicant mgr. for CoGentrix (left), looks on.

Perry says he won’t put his people at risk if the plant itself has a fire. This is understandable due to high voltage and other dangerous issues. SDGE would have to come first and de-energize the plant. Perry notes that this will take awhile as in the recent case of fire in a Kearny Mesa facility. The fires burned for nearly three hours before being considered safe for fire crews to enter and do their job.

The cul-de-sac of the cul-de-sac…
At the CEC meeting, the public learned that CalFire and US Forest Service would not be dispatched until it was considered a 3rd or 4th alarm fire and only if the fire is on wildland (not within the plant facility). Perry said that in the San Diego area, we don’t always get the resources we need. “We’re the cul-de-sac of the state.” Yes, and many of us live in the cul-de-sac of a neighborhood with only one escape route. About 1,000 residents in three townhome/condo complexes live in the cul-de-sac area near Bushy Hill/Simeon Drive less than a mile southwest.  It’s unlikely residents will be able to effectively evacuate when there is only one escape route.

What if there is a natural gas explosion at the site…or another Santa Ana-wind driven fire like those of 2003 and 2007?

Santa Ana conditions are common in San Diego. Here, the 2003 Cedar Fire jumps Interstate 15.
Santa Ana conditions are common in San Diego. The October 2003 Cedar Fire jumped Interstate 15 and burned through major parts of Mission Trails Regional Park and Tierrasanta. Photo by CHARLES STARR / Union-Tribune

Communities at the west end of Santee and the West Hills High School are within 800 yards of the site. Fire Chief Perry stated that fires would be past the plant within five to ten minutes at the most.

Going up in smoke…..
A homeowner less than a mile south of the power plant site has been denied insurance on her condo by both Ameriprise and the Automobile Club (Triple A). She called Ameriprise to get specifics about her denial and was told, “It’s because of being in a fire zone.” Ameriprise utilizes “risk meter.com” (a member site used by insurance companies to determine insurance risk) and Google Maps. The company told her the area is extremely high risk, and that underwriters would not insure her condo or any other properties within 500 feet of a fire zone. Another homeowner living near Medina St. east of the proposed plant told SMT, “My husband and I were denied home insurance by Wawanesa Insurance Group due to the fire zone at Mission Trails Regional Park.”

So, if homeowners can’t get insurance due to proximity to a designated fire zone, why should a gas-powered plant covering 11+ acres within this zone get a green light? And how will a gas power plant impact the residents of the surrounding area? Residents worry about insurance coverage and rate increases compounding property value loss.

Unusual and fierce…
San Diego is known for its unusual and fierce wildlfire conditions. Santa Ana conditions produce winds blowing sometimes over 100 mph. Once started, fires are difficult if not impossible to stop in winds more than 25 mph, and fires are commonly blown up and down hillsides. The result is very fast spreading fires that typically get out of control quickly. One good spark and we’re all up in smoke.

The fire moves south down Oak Canyon toward the 52 freeway. Photo by Charles Starr.
A fire moves south down through Oak Canyon / East Elliott toward the 52 freeway. Photo by Charles Starr.

Additionally, brush fires in and along Mission Trails and East Elliott Open Space are common, especially along Highway 52. Locals (like myself) are used to seeing a few every year, with many started from car sparks or cigarettes thrown out car windows.

At the workshop, the applicant and the CEC tried to assure us that we are safe from fires and that fires in these types of power plants are rare. Meanwhile, CEC staff recommended that CoGentrix hire and train their own in-house fire brigade and have an onsite EMT. Our reply: We won’t take this risk.

Just recently in the news: “A natural gas power plant at Miramar remained offline this week after a weekend fire. Plant operator NRG Energy still is evaluating when its generator may return to service, said company spokeswoman Lori Neuman. An adjacent power plant run by San Diego Gas & Electric briefly had its fuel supply cut off as a result of the fire. The blaze broke out Saturday at about 6:15 p.m. at the plant on Consolidated Way north of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Flames soared 30 feet into the air.”

CEC Fire Safety Expert says there is no risk of fires from the pipeline due to strict Federal regulations of new pipelines. Here’s a list of some pipeline accidents resulting in fires. We’re sure the folks living near the San Bruno gas power plant explosion in 2010 had also been reassured that there was no danger.

What can I do to help stop this power plant? 1) Click for easy instructions to email and add your name to the growing army of opposition against this not-needed fossil fuel plant. It’s critical each one of us does this. Strong public opposition can help sway the state commissioners into making the correct decision for our communities and park and/or 2) Come to a SMT meeting to get more info and find out about volunteering. Thank you!

Does Jane Dumas Know Cogentrix is Trying to Ruin Mission Trails?

Jane Dumas is a respected Kumeyaay elder who was honored on April 28th by having a day named after her at Mission Trails Regional Park.  Kumeyaay is Jane’s first language and she remains one of the last living fluent speakers of the Kumeyaay language in the world.  And she has spent the last 60 years of her life educating people about Kumeyaay history and culture.

After I came across this heart-warming story about Jane Dumas Day, and learned about all she has done in support of Mission Trails Regional Park, I wondered if she had been apprised of the fact that Cogentrix and Sempra Energy are trying to ruin Mission Trails by placing their unsightly, noisy power plant right next to the Equestrian Center, just north of Kumeyaay Lake.

What I have appreciated about various tribes, after having studied their history for the last 45 years of my life, and contributing to various American Indian charities, is that their spirituality is rooted in Nature.  Does anyone remember the commercial featuring an Indian man weeping at the sight of pollution in the river?  I am afraid that Jane Dumas will have a reaction very similar to that, when someone informs her of what is happening now, just a few months after the day she was honored at her beloved park.

“. . . WHEREAS, Jane Dumas was inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002 and is recognized as the catalyst for Mission Trails Regional Park acquiring a Kumeyaay-Diegueño Nation flag to fly proudly at the Kumeyaay Lake and Campground in her honor from here on out; AND

WHEREAS, Jane continues to share her expertise in medicinal plants by teaching Ethnobotany classes at Sycuan’s Kumeyaay Community College.  It is her hope that the knowledge and traditions of her people will continue to be passed down from generation to generation and never be forgotten; NOW THEREFORE. . . “

. . . Jane Dumas we need you to stand with us now as we struggle to save Mission Trails Regional Park.

Cogentrix Rep Presents Plan at Navajo Planning Committee

Lori Ziebart, Cogentrix Project Manager, appeared at the June 18th Navajo Community Planners meeting to present the Quail Brush Power Plant plans and answer the board’s questions.  It was at the request of Council Member Marti Emerald that the board be apprised of the power plant issue.  Chairman Allen Jones repeated several times that board had no intention of voting one way or the other on the issue and seemed perplexed (and peeved?) that the issue had come to their table.  It didn’t seem to occur to him that it would be a good gesture to stand in solidarity with fellow San Diego communities, and our Santee neighbors by opposing the Quail Brush Power Plant which calls for a rezoning from Open Space to Industrial.

As you can see, the room was filled with people opposed to the power plant.  Ziebart took eight minutes to present her case.

The Navajo Community Planners council, led by Chair Allen Jones (center in orange striped shirt) granted eight minutes to four members of the audience to speak out in opposition to the power plant.

Although the room was full of people who wanted to ask questions or make statements regarding the power plant – many of them Navajo community members – Mr. Jones ended the meeting claiming that everyone had to vacate the premises by 9 PM.  Community members who had been silenced (in violation of the Brown Act) would have been fine with standing out in the parking lot to deliver their comments.  When I mentioned this, I was told to “Be quiet and sit down!”

The woman in the white tee-shirt to the left of the flag (Lynn Murray, the Treasurer) verbally spanked me when she saw me writing comments in their “Sign-In” book.  She pulled the book out of my hands saying that it was “highly inappropriate” and that the group opposing the power plant had “all acted inappropriately.”  In her role as a host, she could have been much more sensitive, welcoming and kind.  The same goes for the rest of the board.  After all, isn’t that what a “community” group is all about?  Or am I missing something?