By Kim Lefner
What started as a murmur is becoming a roar of protest over SDG&E’s deceptively named “Reliability Project” which will nearly double the size of the electrical substation at the entrance to downtown and substantially increase the voltage and height of transmission poles throughout San Juan.
Critics say the project is less about reliability and more about increasing power to other cities. According to SDG&E documentation, this hugely expensive project is also a result of government mandates to satisfy “Global Warming” legislation which forces cities to install taxpayer-subsidized plug-in stations for electric vehicles. This is odd considering that even SDG&E admits that less than 3% of their 13,000 customers surveyed had purchased electric vehicles. Despite the lack of demand for electric vehicles however, SDG&E claims this project is “customer driven” (click on this link to see “SDG&E Smart Grid Deployment Plan”: http://tinyurl.com/7g4roaq). Adding insult to injury, our rates are being increased to shove this concept down our collective throats.
Besides the enlarged substation and increased pole and tower heights as high as 130 feet on hill tops and hillsides, residents are greatly concerned about the effects of Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) from the increased voltage. While SDG&E attempts to convince us that health impacts from EMF are minimal, a recent state-sponsored study concluded that prolonged exposure to high levels of EMF may contribute to problems such as childhood leukemia and brain tumors. This has many residents asking, “Why risk it?”
Visual impacts include a massive new substation with two 45 to 50-foot tall buildings and a 10-foot high wall the length of a football field at the Northern entrance to historic downtown. The increased EMF from the new substation is unknown, but families living near smaller electrical substations have experienced health problems ranging from hair loss to cancer (click on this link to see CBS news story “South Redondo Beach Residents Believe Stray Voltage Causing Unexplained Illnesses“: http://tinyurl.com/85rqmd7 )
Other impacted areas include; San Juan Hills High School, Juliana Farms, Hidden Mountain, Tar Farms, Sun Hollow, Belford Terrace, Rancho Madrina, Marbella and the neighborhoods surrounding the existing substation on Camino Capistrano between the Mission and JSerra High School.
SDG&E employees admit that this project is to increase power to the region, not just to our town. The Rancho Mission Viejo Co’s new city being built on our eastern border will have a substantial need for power, leading residents to question why our historic town is being made a center hub for electricity. Why, they ask, are we absorbing all the risks and the visual blight with no direct benefit?
SDG&E may have the right-of-way for the transmission lines but they don’t have the right to force on us unnecessary risks to health and safety nor blight on our historic town. SDG&E admitted they can relocate the substation away from residents but said they prefer to save money by building this project in our town since they “already own the land”. When the substation was built in 1918, there were no residential areas or schools around it. Now it’s surrounded by residential neighborhoods and schools making it an inappropriate location for such an unsightly and potentially unsafe facility.
SDG&E plans to submit their application to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) at the end of April. Despite SDG&E’s claim that “there is nothing you can do” about their plans, utility expansion has been stopped by community opposition in the past. You can email or write to express your opinion about this project to the CPUC after April 30 at: firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to: CPUC Public Advisor, 320 West 4th Street Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013