US Forest Service Approves SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has received approval to move forward with construction of the approximately US $1.9 billion, 120-mile Sunrise Powerlink transmission line from the Department of Agriculture’s United States Forest Service (USFS).

“This key decision accelerates the momentum for the Sunrise Powerlink, a project that will create much needed jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and bolster reliability for the region’s power grid,” said Jessie Knight, Jr., chief executive officer of SDG&E. “This project will access vast, untapped sources of renewable power for the people of San Diego County and help create a cleaner, more environmentally-responsible future for the region.”

After a rigorous environmental review, the USFS issued a Record of Decision approving the construction, operation and maintenance of a 19-mile segment of the transmission line through the Cleveland National Forest (CNF).

The milestone decision joins key prior project approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in late 2008 and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in early 2009, and signals the imminent start of the project’s construction. The permitting process and environmental reviews for the Sunrise Powerlink represent the most comprehensive completed for a power line in California history.

“California has two dozen renewable energy projects looking to break ground this year alone that will create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in our state. But, many of these projects will be built in remote locations in the desert, and we need more transmission lines, like the Sunrise Powerlink, to transport this renewable energy to population centers,” said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “These are exactly the types of projects California needs to transition to a brighter clean-energy future.”

When completed in 2012, the 500-kilovolt Sunrise Powerlink electric “superhighway” will have the capacity to carry at least 1,000 megawatts of clean power. The project will create 400 to 500 direct construction jobs and provide more than $100 million in annual energy savings.

The environmental review process, a collaborative effort between SDG&E, USFS and other federal, state and local agencies, has led to several modifications that will substantially reduce the environmental impacts of the project, including preserving sensitive resources within CNF. Even with these modifications, SDG&E recognizes there is opposition to the project and pending legal challenges, and is committed to working with the communities impacted by project construction.

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