Judge Asks For SCE Line Change

Administrative law judge Jean Vieth has directed Southern California Edison to give serious consideration to an alternative for routing the Tehachapi Line through the city of Chino Hills.
Southern California Edison is committed to completing the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which consists of a massive wind power field near Tehachapi that will deliver electricity to Southern California’s population centers by means of the Tehachapi Line, a series of 200-foot high transmission towers.
The California Public Utilities Commission in 2009 granted permits to Edison to proceed with the line over protests by the city of Chino Hills, the most densely populated area through which the line will pass. Efforts to have the line rerouted, including lawsuits and by legislation, failed. After 12 of the towers were erected, city officials last fall importuned members of the commission to reconsider the matter. Late last year, the commission, which is now led by Michael Peevey and consists of three new members who were not party to the 2009 approval of the project, put further work on the line, which was scheduled to entail 18 towers through the city upon completion, on hold and asked Edison to study alternative routes.
On January 10, Southern California Edison offered up four variant ways of bringing the electricity through upscale Chino Hills by means other than the 200-foot high towers. Those methods were routing the lines through Chino Hills State Park, undergrounding 500 kilovolt lines through the city, utilizing a route that skirted the perimeter of the city, and using the existing right of way with shorter and more closely-spaced towers.
Vieth, after looking at Edison’s presentation of alternatives, was presented on January 16 with a suggestion by Michael B. Day, the city’s legal counsel, that the utility company could use a single circuit 400 kV underground cable to transmit the electricity.
Day referenced the practice in Europe of utilizing 400 kV-capable cables for high voltage transmission, which is less than the 500 kV voltage design that is standard in the United States and Canada. “There is virtually no difference between 400 and 500 kV lines for purposes of underground construction, maintenance, safety and reliability,” Day stated. “The California Public Utilities Commission should have complete and accurate information on the extensive use of these lines in order to fairly judge their safety and reliability.”
Day requested that Vieth have Edison provide more information about the feasibility of reconfiguring underground methods of conveyance, including spanning the city beneath the utility’s existing right-of-way and beneath the city’s streets.
More than 70 well-heeled city residents sojourned to San Francisco to attend the hearing on the matter January 18.
Vieth called upon the City of Chino Hills and Edison to initiate a mediation of the matter by early February.
Edison officials maintain that even the least expensive alternative at this point will entail an added expense of no less than $8 million, given that twelve of the towers are already erected. Any change to the approval of the overall project already given by the California Public Utilities Commission would boost the project cost considerably, Southern California Edison corporate officers maintain.
According to Edison’s list of alternatives, the cost for completing the portion of the project through Chino Hills per the 2009 approval was projected as $166 million. The alternative of erecting shorter towers would boost that projection to at least $174 million and perhaps as much as $192 million. By skirting the city and going through the state park, the cost would escalate to at least $424 million and could go as high as $589 million. The undergrounding option would be the most expensive, running from $601 million to more than $1 billion, Southern California Edison officials maintain.

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