Senator fights to keep wind farm jobs in Calif.

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Sen. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for federal regulators to deny San Diego-based Sempra Energy a permit to import energy from a proposed wind farm in Baja California.

Vargas said the Energia Sierra Juarez plant would outsource five years worth of employment for 600 construction workers. Those jobs could be better utilized in the Imperial Valley, which has the nation's worst unemployment rate at 27.9 percent, he said.

"We can't sit back and watch thousands of jobs be outsourced to Mexico while Imperial County is experiencing some of the worst unemployment in the United States,'' Vargas said. "I'm urging our federal government to invest in our local workforce.''

Vargas said he wants the wind farm to be built north of the border.

Senate Joint Resolution 13 calls on the U.S. Department of Energy to reject Sempra's request for a permit to construct a transmission line that would carry energy generated by the plant to this country.

Scott Crider, of Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, said the plant would generate 300 jobs, and although the majority would be in Mexico, there would be some positions in the U.S.

"It's a shame than Senator Vargas would choose the interests of labor unions over the interests of Californians who want cleaner energy and a cleaner environment,'' Crider said.

Sempra hopes to have the final environmental impact report completed and ready for evaluation by federal officials by the end of this year, Crider said. The firm hopes to begin construction on the facility, located just south of the border near the Mexican town of La Rumorosa, next year and begin generating power in 2013, he said.

Several other permits are required, both in this country and Mexico, before work can begin, Crider said.

Vargas cited a study by Peter Phillips, a senior labor economist at the University of Utah, who estimated that the outsourcing would cost the Imperial Valley $4.5 million in human capital investment.

Crider countered that the study was funded by labor unions.

Imperial County makes up the bulk of Vargas' district. He has filed to run for the congressional seat being vacated by longtime rival Bob Filner -- who is running for mayor of San Diego -- that includes the same area.

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