Concerned that the proposed merger between San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison might worsen local air pollution, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday suggested that the merger, if approved, should be contingent on Edison’s promises to improve the county’s air quality.
By a unanimous vote, the supervisors--acting as the county’s Air Pollution Control Board--decided to ask the state Public Utilities Commission, which must approve Edison’s proposed acquisition of SDG&E;, to include the Rosemead-based company’s pledges to improve air quality here in any merger agreement. The same conditions, the supervisors added, also should be applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review of the proposed merger.
The board’s action came during its review of a recent report indicating that the utility merger could substantially increase air pollution in the San Diego area if Edison opts to generate power here for its Los Angeles-area market.
In response to the heightened environmental worries raised by that report, Edison officials, who dispute both the study’s methodology and conclusions, sought Tuesday to convince the board that the merger actually would mean cleaner, not dirtier, air for San Diego.
“I come to you with one simple message: The Edison-SDG&E; merger will result in lower power plant emissions in San Diego than would occur if there is no merger,” said Michael Peevey, Edison’s executive vice president. “Edison will operate San Diego power plants so that they will produce fewer emissions . . . while providing more, cleaner and cheaper energy for San Diego-area consumers.”
Reinforcing that pledge, Peevey explained that, if the merger is approved, Edison plans to use combustion and emission-control equipment to reduce fuel-burning pollution, to use the “best available control technology” on any new power plants needed here, and to defer the renovation of existing SDG&E; plants or the construction of new ones.
Although pleased with those assurances, several supervisors told the Edison executive that they would feel more comfortable if those pledges were not simply verbal promises but rather were included in any merger agreement.
“If the merger should be consummated, one of our first actions . . . will be to see that Mr. Peevey’s statements are made law,” Supervisor George Bailey said.
That goal could perhaps best be accomplished, Board Chairman Susan Golding explained, by asking the state PUC and federal energy regulators “to make sure commitments made here today are tied to the approval of the merger.”
After the meeting, Peevey said that Edison would have no objections to incorporating such pledges into the company’s $2.4-billion buyout of SDG&E.;
The impetus for Tuesday’s meeting was a 2-week-old report by the county’s Air Pollution Control Office that found that the merger could lead to “substantial increases” in emissions in San Diego, jeopardizing the area’s ability to meet state and federal air-quality standards.