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Appeal set for waiver on waste

Mike Lee
San Diego Union Tribune
09/17/2009

POINT LOMA — San Diego is going back to the California Coastal Commission next month in hopes of getting the 12-member board to reverse itself and approve a major pollution permit for the region's main wastewater treatment plant.

It might seem like a long shot, but the city used a similar tactic successfully in 2002 — the last time San Diego needed permission to continue operating its Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant below federal water-quality standards. City officials have pegged upgrading to the “secondary” level of treatment at up to $1.5 billion.

In August, commissioners voted 8-1 to deny San Diego's request for a third exemption from the Clean Water Act despite support for the waiver by the coastal agency's staff and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

San Diego leaders had said they would appeal the August ruling to the U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees disputes in the coastal zone. They still may do that, but first they are trying again at the state level in hopes of avoiding a time-consuming and costly federal appeal.

“I am just pleased that the Coastal Commission is willing to rehear this,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said yesterday.

Pat Kruer, a coastal commissioner from Rancho Santa Fe, cast the lone vote in favor of the waiver in August. Kruer said yesterday that he will likely back it again but doesn't know whether any of his colleagues have altered their positions.

City officials are assessing whether they can add new commitments or safeguards in their application to garner more votes.

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