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Simi Valley to Urge PUC Opposition to Merger : Utilities: Air quality could worsen for the next 6 years under a plan to combine Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saying the plan would be hazardous to health and the environment, Simi Valley City Council members voted to urge the Public Utilities Commission to oppose the proposed merger of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

During a special meeting Thursday night, council members said they will send a letter to the commission stating that the merger poses a threat to the county’s air quality.

If the merger is approved, Edison officials have said the utility will increase production at its two power plants in Oxnard while curtailing operations at less efficient plants in San Diego.

Council members also said they will send a letter to the County Board of Supervisors outlining objections to an agreement Edison struck with the board last week regarding the possible merger.

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If allowed to take over SDG&E;, Edison has agreed to reduce emissions of certain pollutants in Ventura County to levels that would more than compensate for increases expected to be generated from the merger. However, Edison officials said, those reductions would not begin to take place until 1996 because time is needed to implement various pollution-control measures.

“The real bottom line is that we’re talking about increased pollution for Ventura County residents for the next six years,” Councilwoman Vicky Howard said, after listening to testimony from several environmentalists.

Councilman Glen McAdoo said Simi Valley, which has the worst air quality in the county, cannot risk exposure to more pollution.

“This is a crap shoot,” McAdoo said. “It’s a crap shoot for the health of our children and especially for our citizens who have health problems now. We should do everything we can to oppose this.”

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Under the agreement approved by the Board of Supervisors, Edison would reduce overall nitrogen oxide emissions at its plants and elsewhere in the county by 45% more than the increases predicted in the PUC’s environmental report. Reactive organic compounds also would be reduced by 2,300% and carbon monoxide by 500% over the 17-year period covered in the agreement.

Edison officials said the utility will be able to reduce the level of pollutants in Ventura County, in part, by replacing internal-combustion engines at the company’s plants at Ormond Beach and Mandalay Bay in south Oxnard. The plan also calls for Edison to subsidize the replacement of gas or diesel engines at independent oil and water pumping stations in the county. But all of the engines would not be in place until 1996.

Until then, there will be a small increase in emissions in the county, said Michael M. Hertel, Edison’s environmental affairs manager.

If the merger is approved, the additional amount of nitrogen oxide released into the air during the next five years from Edison’s two Oxnard plants would amount to about 768 tons, Hertel said. On the average, there are about 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxide released every year from the plants, he said.

“It really is an insignificant amount when you consider how many hundreds of tons a day . . . are emitted into the air in Ventura County,” Hertel said.

Ultimately, residents will be better off if the merger is approved and emission control measures are implemented, he said.

Bill Mount, planning manager with the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, which supports the merger, agreed.

“It’s going to take a few years before we get the emission reductions,” Mount said. But, “over time, it’s going to be a benefit to the air quality in Ventura County.”

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Mount said the final environmental impact report on the merger was released Friday and is now being distributed to state air pollution control districts. He said there will be a three-week review period during which the districts can submit comments to the Public Utilities Commission.

Mount said the commission will then schedule a public hearing on the final environmental report.


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