Hagman’s Tower Reparation Bill For Chino Hills Fails

What was widely viewed as a moribund legislative attempt from the outset failed last week when Assembly Bill 2235 was shot down at the committee level.
Authored by Assemblyman and former Chino Hills mayor Curt Hagman, Assembly Bill 2235 would have mandated compensation to Chino Hills residents whose property was determined to have been “devalued by the installation” of Southern California Edison’s 198-foot high towers for high-voltage electric lines through the city.
Edison has long had a right-of-way for its power lines that runs for nearly five miles through upscale Chino Hills. In its effort to meet state-mandated renewable energy goals, Southern California Edison has undertaken the $2.1 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which is intended to generate at least 1,500 megawatts of power from new windmills to be erected within a 50-square mile wind field in the Tehachapi area, an undertaking three times the size of any existing wind farm in the United States. In routing the lines carrying that energy southward from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin, Edison sought, and in 2009 obtained from the California Public Utility Commission over Chino Hills city officials’ objections, permission to utilize the power line right-of-way through Chino Hills from Tonner Canyon to the Riverside County line.
Beginning last year, Edison erected 12 of the towers before a city appeal to the California Public Utility Commission and Public Utility Commission Chairman Michael Peevey in particular succeeded in the imposition of a temporary halt to the towers’ construction while a potential alternative, such as undergrounding the lines or rerouting them through Chino Hills State Park, is explored.
But given the money SCE has already put into erecting the towers and the cost of alternatives, the imposition of the towers and the high voltage lines in Chino Hills appears, if not inevitable, highly likely.
According to Edison officials, any change to the approval of the overall project already given by the California Public Utilities Commission would boost considerably the already budgeted cost of that portion of the project through Chino Hills per the specifications adopted in 2009 of $166 million, and would entail an added expense of no less than $8 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.
In an unorthodox move, Hagman put forth Assembly Bill 2235,  which called for homeowners receiving “compensation for any substantial reduction value of their property resulting from the building, expansion or operation of a plant, line, pipeline or other facility by a public utility.”
There is no precedent whatsoever in California law for such provisions. Historically, citizens have been required to accommodate the undertakings of utility companies, the expansions of which have been considered of benefit to the state and its citizenry individually and collectively. On April 23, Hagman’s proposed law was soundly rejected by  the Utilities and Commerce Committee, which did not provide even a single vote in its favor. In a face-saving gesture, Hagman has asked that the bill in a substantially different form be reconsidered.
A bail bondsman by profession, Hagman previously to no avail sought to push through the legislature legislation that would have delivered Chino Hills out from beneath the onus of the large power towers. In 2010 he introduced Assembly Bill 2662, which would have prohibited an electrical corporation from constructing substantially larger transmission towers in an easement intended for smaller transmission towers when the easement runs through an occupied residential area. Like AB 2235, that bill did not pass muster to be considered by the whole legislative body, dying at the committee stage.
Hagman’s ineffectual efforts in Sacramento with regard to the power lines in his hometown have not put a dent in his popularity within his current bailiwick, the former 60th State Assembly District, which includes all, or portions of Anaheim, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Industry, La Habra, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Orange, Rowland Heights, San Dimas, Villa Park, Walnut, Whittier, and Yorba Linda.
In 2008, he was elected to the Assembly with 55.9% of the vote. The year his colleagues rejected Assembly Bill 2662, Hagman was re-elected by his constituents with 65.3% of the vote. Hagman  was displaced from his current district by redistricting  and is now running for reelection in the newly drawn Assembly District 55, which is to consist of Chino Hills, Walnut, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Brea, La Mirada, and Hacienda Heights.
Members of the group Hope for the Hills, who are advocating any plausible alternative to the currently approved placement of the towers, have lauded Hagman for his efforts.
The city of Chino Hills has spent more than $2.3 million in legal fees fighting Edison on the project, suing Edison in 2010, claiming the company had “overburdened” the power line easements. That effort failed when West Valley Superior Court Judge Keith D. Davis ruled the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison and that the matter fell entirely out of the Superior Court’s purview. Davis threw the suit out. Chino Hills appealed Davis’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, asserting the city had the right to have the case heard by a jury because the Public Utilities Commission allowed the imperative of completing the transmission line to facilitate the wind power project to take precedence over policy and safety and aesthetic guidelines, which should have been considered and adhered to as part of the approval process.
But on September 12, the 4th District Court of Appeal turned back the city of Chino Hills’ chal-lenge and affirmed Davis’ 2010 Superior Court decision, ruling that the California Public Utili-ties Commission, and not the courts, has exclusive jurisdiction over property rights issues between the city and Edison.

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