Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mexico health threat uncertain

Reports are inconclusive on the effects of Mexican power plants on the health of their California neighbors:

Environmentalists and some U.S. lawmakers have objected to the plants run by Sempra and Intergen near Mexicali, Mexico, three miles south of the border. Critics say emissions from the plants, which began operating in 2003, can easily cross the border, yet the plants are not bound by U.S. pollution rules.

The GAO report was requested by Reps. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, and Hilda Solis, D-El Monte. It said that the plants use advanced technology and equipment, and partly as a result their releases of nitrogen oxide pollution are under the limits set by the Mexican government.

Pollution from the plants is comparable to pollution from similar plants recently permitted in California, and is relatively low compared to the primary sources of pollution in Imperial County - dust and vehicles, the report said.

But the report said that the full extent of the potential health threat to Imperial County residents is unknown. The report said that DOE's environmental impact statement on the plants, which estimated an increase in asthma hospitalizations in Imperial County of less than one per year, failed to assess a series of factors.

DOE did not address health conditions other than asthma, did not consider effects less severe than hospital stays and did not assess the health effects on susceptible populations like children and low- income adults, GAO said.

With Mexico's less-stringent environmental standards, makes you wonder whether we should let Sempra move California's critical energy infrastructure--from power plants to LNG terminals--South of the Border to begin with!