whack a mole energy strategyOriginally published in the UT San Diego, February 8, 2013.

In early February, we watched the implosion of the South Bay Power Plant— just one day after the California Public Utilities Commission heard public comments on two new SDG&E-proposed fossil fuel power plants in San Diego.

We're playing a game of Whack-a-Mole with our regional energy policy at ratepayers' expense. Though the demolition of the South Bay Power Plant is striking, we can't let SDG&E continue to turn a blind eye to the reasons why we don't need that plant anymore.

Reliance on fossil fuels has led to an Orwellian-esque era where each year is becoming the hottest on record and we are suffering through a series of costly and deadly weather events. In San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warns us to expect hotter and more humid mid-summer heat waves that are worse than many inland areas while freshwater in the Southwest is becoming scarcer and our oceans are rising faster than expected.

So why is SDG&E proposing to build unneeded fossil-fuel power plants using the expensive, dirty and outdated centralized power plant model when we're barely scratching the surface of our clean energy and smart grid potential?

San Diego deserves better than this.

On top of the harmful impacts to public health and our climate from the greenhouse gases, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide that would be emitted by these two power plants, the nearly $1.6 billion dollar price tag of the power plants would be passed on to ratepayers over the next 20 years, according to the California Energy Commission.

Perhaps what's most perplexing about SDG&E's proposal, though, is that the energy from these plants is not even needed, according to both the Administrative Law Judge and the lead California Public Utilities Commissioner for the proceeding. Both have issued proposed decisions denying the plants due to a lack of need.

Even without San Onofre coming back online, SDG&E has ample power reserves to "keep the lights on." On the hottest day of the year last September, SDG&E had approximately 24 percent more energy than was needed. Further, the state agency that manages our energy grid, the California Independent Systems Operator, said the way to address the San Onofre shut down was through fixes to our transmission lines, not construction of new power plants.

Our regional leadership must embrace a strategy that prioritizes building a better future for our children by integrating demand management strategies, conservation, local clean energy generation, and energy storage into a smart modern grid that benefits all communities in San Diego.

In fact, San Diego is on the cutting-edge in this arena already. SDG&E proudly announced smart grid breakthroughs just last week that will allow them to prevent blackouts and integrate renewable resources seamlessly. UCSD has its own nationally recognized microgrid -- an on-site energy generation, distribution, and management network that balances renewable energy, electric vehicles, storage, and demand management. The microgrid is connected to SDG&E's grid but can disconnect and operate independently in "islanded mode" as needed, such as during the SDG&E blackout of September 2011, giving UCSD energy independence and security. Our local military bases are also investing in this new smart grid/microgrid approach to maximize the security and reliability of their energy needs. Naval Base Coronado and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are both pursuing these new solutions/grid-independence.

Environmental Health Coalition knows from our recent educational efforts within the local communities that small changes to our daily habits can result in drastic reduction in energy use.

With a newly elected Mayor Bob Filner in the City of San Diego and other progressive elected officials who have pledged to pave a new pathway for our energy future, we are excited to build a new energy paradigm as part of San Diego's innovation economy. We look forward to working with our partners in local government, labor, the business community, the military and our educational institutions to create local, family-wage, career-track jobs while reducing our carbon footprint and protecting the health of every San Diego family.

It's time we put a stop to the Whack-A-Mole approach to energy. We must demand more from our energy utility so that it produces big new solutions to the big challenges we face.

Nicole Capretz
Green Energy / Green Jobs Campaign Director for Environmental Health Coalition
City Heights Resident

blood lead testing king chavez 2013 2On February 26, 2013, EHC, the San Diego Housing Commission and La Maestra Health Center hosted a blood lead testing event for kids at King Chavez Primary Academy. This was our seventh blood lead testing event, testing 79 kids and bringing the total up to 542 for the program since October 2010. The testing events help families know if their children have any levels of lead in their blood and provide education on eliminating lead from their homes.

Blood-lead level testing is important because lead poisoning does not produce physical symptoms. Childhood lead poisoning is a silent disease. We don't see it. We don't smell it. Yet it is hidden in the paint of many of our older homes. There is no safe level of lead exposure.

Blood-lead levels can be detected easily with noninvasive portable blood analyzers. The blood analyzers require only a small pinprick to a child's finger and provide results within three minutes. Families with children who test positive are referred for further medical evaluation.

The blood lead testing events are a part of the "Home Safe Home" program. Visit the San Diego Housing Commission's YouTube channel for a video about the event.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at EHC for more information on future events.

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February's implosion of the South Bay Power Plant was a cause for great celebration. South Bay became a different place when the Power plant was built and will be a different and better place, when it is removed. Its removal is a victory for community health, the environment, and for quality economic development.

For the first of a three part series written by Laura Hunter, who led a 20 year effort to stop the South Bay Power Plant from operating, she'll explain why the end of this dirty power plant means the end to decades of damage to downwind environmental justice communities of Chula Vista and San Diego.

Top 10 Ways to Poison-Proof your Home

  1. Keep the 24/7, free poison center helpline on you at all times (such as in your cell phone). 1-800-222-1222
  2. Be sure that cosmetics, personal care products, prescription and OTC medications, cleaning products, dietary supplements and vitamins, pesticides and lighter fluid, and household plants locked away or out of reach of children.
  3. Always keep cleaning products, gasoline, lighter fluid, antifreeze, pain and paint thinners in the containers that they came in.
  4. Never put something that it not food in a food or beverage container.
  5. Do not store food and household cleaners in the same cabinet.
  6. If you are caring for a little one, put purses or bags that may contain above mentioned products where a child cannot reach.
  7. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Make sure they work and change the battery every 6 months.
  8. Never call medicine candy.
  9. Do not take medicine in front of children; they love to do what adults do.
  10. Objects that use small batteries, like toys or remotes, should be kept out of reach of small children. Disc batteries are both poisonous and a choking hazard.

4 million poisonings occur each year – over half to children. Please take these simple precautions to protect your family.

keystone xl climate change rally franco garcia speaks 2Low-income communities of color have long been on the front lines of pollution and dirty energy, and now we're set to be hit first and worst by climate change. Lack of financial resources, vulnerability to poor air quality from asthma, lack of access to affordable healthcare and transportation, and minimal urban tree canopy means that our communities will be most vulnerable to impacts of climate change like hotter summer heat waves in San Diego and impaired air quality, more frequent extreme storms, diminishing freshwater and increased water prices, and rapidly rising sea levels.

keystone xl climate change kayla race bicycle to rallyCommunities on the front lines know we must do everything we can to stop climate change and the dirty energy economy that exploits our natural resources, jeopardizes public health and safety, and threatens our climate stability. So why aren't our national and energy leaders on the same page?

Our President and federal government are considering approval of the huge new Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from the tar sands of Canada—one of the dirtiest sources of oil—all the way to the Gulf coast. And in San Diego, our local utility SDG&E wants to build two new dirty power plants.

Both sets of projects would come at great cost to public health and our climate.

It's time we stand up and say San Diego and the United States deserve better. We must demand more from our energy utilities and our elected officials to produce big solutions to the big challenges we face.

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Thanks to Diane Lesher for the photos.