SAN DIEGO - A proposal for a power plant adjacent to Mission Trails Regional Park, the state's largest municipally owned park, was unanimously voted down Monday by the San Diego City Council.
The Quail Brush Energy Generation Project proposed by Charlotte, N.C.-based Cogentrix raised the ire of environmentalists, residents of Santee and the Santee School District. It was previously rejected by the city of San Diego's Planning Commission, prompting a company appeal directly to the City Council.
Cogentrix officials, along with San Diego Gas & Electric, said the Quail Brush plant is necessary to assure San Diego County's future energy needs are met.
"Our project meets all state and federal air emissions requirements [and] will not pose any health risk to the community," said Cogentrix's Lori Zeibart.
Council members were asked whether to have city staff initiate studies on the proposal for the 100-megawatt plant on almost 22 acres near the Sycamore Landfill, close to state Route 52 and Mast Boulevard and down the street from residential neighborhoods and West Hills High School.
The council members said after about two hours of public testimony that they understood the need for more energy resources. But the Cogentrix proposal for a "peaker plant" -- which would be turned on only during periods of high energy demand -- was simply in the wrong location, they indicated.
"SDG&E has fought distributed energy like rooftop solar at every opportunity. Why? Because they don't make money from it. They make money from building power plants," said plant opponent Lynne Sandoval.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she objected to "converting land designated as open space to industrial use, and also its proximity to schools and its overall impact to Mission Trails Regional Park." She also said the city would save hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees by denying the project.
"Seems like a bad idea to be taking that land that's been set aside for conservation and changing that. That would endanger many species," said plant opponent Kevin Brewster.
But the final decision on whether the plant will be allowed rests with the California Energy Commission. Under questioning by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, a CEC representative said the agency will consider the city's opposition.
A representative of Cogentrix refused to withdraw the company's proposal in advance of the CEC's ruling.
The coalition opposed to the plant included the Sierra Club, Save Mission Trails, the League of Women Voters of San Diego, San Diego Audubon Society, the Environmental Health Coalition, Preserve Wild Santee and SanDiego350.org.
Their speakers said the plant was incompatible with the area and could be located elsewhere, and that solar energy was more efficient.
Supporters said solar energy is fine, but San Diego needs a power source that can fill the gaps when solar isn't available. Plus, they said it would be good for the local economy.
"For those that say that the answer is rooftop solar, their challenge is to solve the riddle that peak demand in our region occurs not at noon, but at about four or five in the afternoon," said plant supporter Erik Bruvold.