September 19, 2008

Community unites against peaker electric power plant

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Residents of southwest Chula Vista protested against a proposed peaker electric power plant in their community during a luncheon where Mayor Cheryl Cox was scheduled to receive a recognition.

There were about 40 protesters on Wednesday, September 17, in front of the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, including many children and seniors, most of which live within 350 feet of the proposed MMC Energy Plant, which would be built at the end of Albany St. to replace the current, smaller plant at the corner of Harvest and Otay Mesa Rd.

Protesters are against the Chula Vista City Council’s agreement with MMC where the company agrees to pay the city $210,000 in exchange for allowing it to expand the power plant.

The residents said their health is at risk with the proposed construction of the peaker electric power plant in the middle of the community.

“We want to make it clear that it is the City Council’s responsibility to protect its citizens,” said Theresa Acerro, president of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, the group organizing the protest. “By allowing MMC to build this plant, the council is not doing its job. This is a civil rights injustice. Our City Council is failing all of these children. We’re outraged by this. It’s insulting.”

According to the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, the new power plant would be 350 feet from homes, 1,300 feet from Otay Elementary School, and 1,200 feet from Otay Recreational Center.

Among the health risks for residents especially children and seniors, are poor air-quality, pollution, asthma, and even cancer.

“Historically, the city has dumped all the toxics to southwest Chula Vista because they’re always taking advantage of low-income families of color,” said Diana Vera, who has lived in the area since she was 11 years old. “We’re finally raising our voice to say we will not tolerate this any longer. We want our children to live free of toxics. It is ironic that in the U.S. where we have freedom of choice and freedom of speech, we have to fight for our right to clean air.”

Acerro said that the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association has more than 2,000 signatures of residents opposing the construction of the power plant.

During the protest, residents were chanting slogans such as “Recall Cox!” “Justice now!” and “Bruja Cox!” The signs they were carrying put an emphasis in protecting the health of the children. One of the signs used the initials of the MMC company to read: “Making Miserable Children.”

Letters issued in August to the California Energy Commission show the city droping objections to the MMC power plant expansion.

Letters acquired by La Prensa San Diego detail an agreement between MMC and the City of Chula Vista which includes payment of $210,000 by MMC to the city.

Harry Scarborough, vice-president of MMC Energy Inc, in a letter to the California Energy Commission states: “We believe that the City will find that the Project is in harmony with and therefore, consistent with the City’s General Plan.”

But Chula Vista Council-ember Rudy Ramirez addressed the crowd during an August protest in front of the City Council Chambers and told them he is against the expansion of the power plant because the proposal contradicts the General Plan, which states that energy facilities should hot be within 1,000 feet of sensitive receptors.

“The power plant is still over 100 percent larger and will increase pollution in the neighborhood, is too close to homes and schools, and is in direct violation of the City’s general plan. The terms of this new ‘agreement’ do not represent any improvements to the project,” Acerro said. “From all appearances, it looks as if the Council has sold out our community health for $210,000. Our health is not for sale.”

She said that the Southwest Chula Vista Association and other community and environmental groups will continue to oppose this project.

She encouraged Chula Vista residents to attend the California Energy Commission meeting on October 2 at 3 p.m. at the Chula Vista City Council Chambers, 4th & F, across from the library.

“Please tell the city council to oppose this,” she said. “Tell the State Energy Comission that this is blight on our neighborhood and way too close to homes.”

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