San Diego's City Council cast a unanimous vote Monday against a process that would pave the way for a new power plant in the Mission Trails area.
But backers of the so-called "Quail Brush Energy Generation Project" still have other political cards to play.
The proposed $150 million, 100-megawatt peaker plant would operate in periods of high electricity demand.
Its developers wanted a general plan amendment that would, in essence, rezone the target site from open space to industrial use.
In an interview with NBC 7, project manager Lori Ziebart said the plant’s output is vital to the regional and statewide energy grids.
"We have hundreds of business organizations in San Diego who employ tens of thousands of people who understand the importance of reliable power,” Ziebart said, “and know that need is growing, particularly in light of (the) San Onofre and Huntington Beach (power plants) coming down."
The Council chamber was packed, for the most part, with dozens of activists from neighborhoods both in San Diego and Santee.
They urged the Council to reject -- as did the Planning Commission, on a 4-1 vote in July -- the proposal by Cogentrix, in partnership with SDG&E as its prospective power purchaser.
The 22-acre target site is next to Mission Trails Park, south of State route 52, with West Hills High School downwind to the east.
Besides raising objections over the environmentally sensitive location and potential health hazards, critics raised questions about the necessity for the project.
Said Sierra Club spokesman Pete Hasapopoulos, in an NBC 7 interview: "We think, especially, the Public Utilities Commission is going to look at this and say, 'You don't need this natural gas expansion. We have high reserves in this state to meet demand. It doesn't matter if San Onofre stays down. We're still covered.'"
The PUC has a say over the power purchase agreement between Cogentrix and SDG&E.
And the California Energy Commission has a say over Cogentrix's application for an operating permit, along with authority to overrule the decisions of local jurisdictions.
So now the outcome of the regulatory process rests with the State of California.