On August 29, 2011 the Application for Certification for the Quail Brush Power Plant on the border of Santee was filed. According to The California Energy Commission Quail Brush is a 100-megawatt generating facility that will consist of, "eleven natural gas-fired reciprocating Wartsila engine generators." Wartsila is the company that makes the engines, they are from Finland. The project is to be built near the and Highway 52 by the Mast Blvd. entrance and .
Pollution and Air Quality in Santee
The expansion of the 52 may or may not have reduced traffic congestion in Santee, but what it has done is caused a giant cluster of idling cars at the intersection of the 52 and 125 freeways. Idling cars in the heart of Santee has definitely increased the level of auto emission pollution and smog in our city.
Let's start with nitrogen oxides (NO). NO is a main compent in the formation of acid rain and more smog, it contributes to global climate change and in can inhibit plant growth. NO's affect on humans exposed to includes, but is not limited to, airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma, and that is from short-term exposure (30 minutes to 24 hours).
Carbon Dioxide (Co2), which has catapulted into the mainstream as awareness of the global climate crisis has expanded, is probably the most well known of the greenhouse gases, so I won't go to into that. In 2008, Reuters, published an article subtitled, "Climate-warming carbon dioxide spewed by coal-fired power plants and fossil-fueled vehicles has been causing hundreds of premature U.S. deaths each year over the several decades, a new study reported." Although natural gas burning is cleaner then coal it is not better. It release the same toxins just in lower concentrations, as you can see here. The Reuters article reports that of all the premature deaths due to air pollution in the United States (estimated between 50,000 to 100,000), "about 30 percent of those occurred in California, which has 12 percent of the (U.S.) population."
Methane (Ch4) is a little less know as a greenhouse gas compared to Co2, but it is twenty times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere according to the EPA. I will cover more about global climate change and its effects on the planet later in the article.
Eleven 100 foot tall smoke stacks spewing toxics into Santee's air will not be good for our children. The power plant is right across the street from and is upwind from . But the poor air will affect all that live in and visit Santee.
Mission Trails Regional Park is right across the highway from the purposed power plant. It is frequented by , bikers, dog lover, rock climbers, school groups, senior citizens, people trying to lose weight, nature lovers, , mushroom hunters and horse riders. None of these people want to or will be able to enjoy one of their pastimes next to a monstrous gas burning power plant.
, of Preserve Wild Santee, commented that, "The site proposed functions as a refuge for people from urban disturbance and is within the midst of an ."
Fires Along The Freeway
Fires along the freeways in San Diego are so common we hardly make a big deal about them. But with a natural gas pipeline and gas burning power plant not too far from the freeway they can be expected to become a lot worse for Santee.
The 2003 Cedar Fires came right down into Oak Canyon under the 52. Brush fire on 52, September 13, 2005. Fire September 19, 2010 by Santo Road. July 20, 2011, fire on the 52 Freeway by Mast Blvd (right where the Quail Brush Power Plant will be). That's just a short list to get you thinking. We all know how easily one spark from a car or someone throwing a cigarette butt out their window can cause a fire. Do you really want a gas powered plant few hundred yards away?
When I drive East on the 52 back to Santee, I get to that second bridge and you come around the corner and slowly our city come into view more and more (it's really nice at night when the lights of our city come more and more into view), that's how I know I am almost home. I know the last thing we want to see every time we come home is 11 one-hundred foot tall smoke stacks, doing what they were designed for; releasing pollutants into our air. It's ugly.
Property Value Decrease
For most people the only asset they have left in the current economy is there home. The construction of the eye sore, climate change causing, air quality reducing, power plant will undeniably lower property values in Santee. A study (PDF) from the University of California at Berkeley shows that home values within two miles of a power plant can be decreased between 4% and 7%. If a house worth is worth $400,000 it could lose $28,000 in value. That's year of your child's college tuition just gone, disappeared.
Quail Brush Supports Renewable Energy
They are trying to promote the Quail Brush Power Plant as a renewable energy facility; it is not. They are also saying that it is back up for the times when the renewable energy from the destructive Sunrise Power Link is not enough. But the Sun Rise Power Link will more than likely not bring renewable energy.
The first problem with the Sunrise Power Link is that renewable energy requirement is voluntary! SDG&E gets to decide if they want to do that or if they want to get cheap dirty energy from Mexico which has even less environmental regulations then we do. By getting energy from Mexico they are cunningly evading U.S. clean air laws that environmental activists have fought for.
Second, the Sunrise Power Link is destroying habitat for the Golden Eagle, Peninsular Bighorn Sheep and the Quino Checkerspot butterfly, according to The Center For Biological Diversity.
Lastly, in order for renewable energy to be sustainable it needs to be produced locally. Destroying habitat to put in five square miles of solar panels in the middle of the desert is not sustainable. Putting five square miles worth of solar panels on the roofs of buildings in the cities where energy is needed is.
This is Southern California it is sunny almost every day we should have solar panels. If they want to build a power plant it Santee it needs to start with solar panels on the roofs of buildings like City Hall, both high schools, the elementary schools, and the large shopping centers. Because climate change is a global problem that effects every species on this planet we need to create a new way of doing things. In Germany, 51% of all renewable energy is owned by citizens and farmers, not big utility companies. They did this by making having renewable energy a good idea. This is not what SDG&E wants to do.
Recently, SDG&E tried to increase the rate at which individual solar providers pay. The North County Times reported, "The effect of the charge on traditional customers would be minimal, but the new charge would add $22 a month to a typical residential solar customer's bills, and add thousands of dollars to the bills of cities, water agencies, and schools that have installed solar generators in recent years to save money." This is not how a company that promotes renewable energy acts and they cannot be trusted.
Gas Pipelines, Safe?
SDG&E does not have the consumers best interest in mind. When they were found responsible for the Witch Creek Fires, the second largest fires in California history, it was due negligence. The fires caused $2 billion in damage and the insurance will only pay for $1 billion. To solve this problem of getting an extra billion dollars SDG&E purposed to push the bill onto consumers! That is ridiculous. We have no choice but to get power from them and they are abusing us. They would rather rake in the profits instead of use fire safety practices and now they want us to front the bill.
On September 9th 2010, a natural gas pipeline, owned by Pacific Gas & Electric in San Bruno California exploded killing eight people, including a 13 year old. After investigating the accident they found out that the pipeline exploded due to negligence (the same thing that caused the Witch Creek Fires). Earlier this year an independent audit from the State of California issued a report stating that PG&E had illegally diverted over $100 million from a fund used for safety operations, and instead used it for executive compensation and bonuses.
Although the gas pipe line explosion and the Witch Creek Fire were caused by two different companies, the motives where the same- greed.
Regardless of what political pundits and unintelligent politicians try to tell you, global climate change is happening. If you click here you can watch 131 years of the Earth's climate in 26 seconds, it is an eye opener. The way that science works is that experiments are created to be testable and repeatable. Repeated tests have shown climate change is real the only "scientists" who are saying it is not real are paid lobbyist using the same tactics the tobacco industry used to convince it was good for you.
The way that we consume and the way that we produce is having drastic effects on the global systems in our biosphere. We need to change the way we do these things drastically so that they are more . Even the Insurance Industry has come out and said that climate change is real and human activity is playing a role. Cynthia McHale, the insurance program director at Ceres recently stated that, "If we continue on this path, extreme weather is certain to cause more homes and businesses to be uninsurable in the private insurance market, leaving the costs to taxpayers or individuals.”
Building a new gas burning power plant will contribute to climate change. And for what? We as a community need to come out against this power plant. We need to branch this grassroots effort to those fighting against the expansion of the power plant in Carlsbad and to the organizers fighting the Pio Pico Energy Center in Otay Mesa. If you look at the "Community Benefits" tab you see... nothing.
Because The Quail Brush Power Plant is a climate change issue this should award us the support of such groups as The Sierra Club, 350.org, local renewable energy companies, Surfrider Foundation, The Coast Keepers, San Diego River Park Foundation, I Love a Clean San Diego. Due to its proximity to Mission Trails Mountain Bikers, Hikers, Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation, naturalist, Birders, and The Native Plant Society. And because of it's health implications the power plant should be opposed by local HOAs, the PTA (due to the proximity of the power plant to two local schools), The Santee School District, Grossmont Union High School District, Santee City Council, Santee Chamber of Commerce (no one will want to shop in a city with dirty air), local sports organizations should oppose it as well as every resident in Santee!
The power plant is unneeded. The world wants to switch away from fossil fuels and move into a renewable energy future. As SDG&E customers we should demand real renewable energy.
What You Can Do:
Consume Less Energy!