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Group asks state high court to review Pio Pico case

The Protect Our Communities Foundation asked the California Supreme Court this week to review a case related to the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the Pio Pico Energy Center, a "peaker" power plant proposed for Otay Mesa.

The CPUC denied approval of the proposed plant's power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric in 2013. Southern California Edison then announced it would permanently shut San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which had been included in the energy projections the CPUC used to first deny the Pio Pico application.

The CPUC approved an amended power purchase agreement in February.

But the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POCF) said Tuesday that the CPUC’s approval set a bad precedent.

"If critical evidence about whether the plant is even needed cannot be discussed and debated, it calls into question the transparency of the whole process,” said Bill Powers, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

Other groups, such as the Environmental Health Coalition, also protested the PUC's approval.

The petition to the state Supreme Court follows a state appellate court’s rejection of POCF's request for review. Powers called the natural gas-fired power plant, which is planned for development by Apex Energy Group, a $1.6 billion "white elephant."

As a peaker power plant, the proposed 305-megawatt-capable facility would run only at times of great need, such as exceptionally hot days, and would be left idle when demands are more typical. The California Independent Systems Operator would determine when it's needed.

When the PUC approved the Pio Pico power purchase agreement, Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval said a source is needed for standby energy during peak times in San Diego. Existing renewable energy strategies don't give stability after sunset during the region's second daily peak in energy demand, she said.

Kayla Race, policy advocate with the Environmental Health Coalition, said in February that better options exist.

“But the Commission is choosing, once again, to dump a polluting power plant in a low-income community of color that already shoulders a huge burden of pollution from various sources," Rice said.

The POCF petition to the California Supreme Court was filed by Loretta M. Lynch, a former chair of the California Public Utilities Commission, and Orly Degani of Degani Law Offices.

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