Negotiations begin on Chino Hills proposal to underground power lines

Confidential settlement negotiations between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the city of Chino Hills, Calif., on the routing of the 500-KV Tehachapi renewable transmission project (TRTP) power line through the city have commenced.  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made the announcement May 3.

“The negotiations … represent an effort by the CPUC, SCE, and the city of Chino Hills to agree upon undergrounding the line beneath the existing right-of-way in the city,” according to the CPUC’s statement.

“All of us at the CPUC are hopeful these negotiations … will be successful and produce an outcome that satisfies the concerns of the citizens of Chino Hills, while fulfilling the transmission needs of SCE and its renewable energy suppliers,” CPUC President Michael Peevey said in the statement.

Few other details are available.

“There’s nothing that we can share,” an SCE spokesperson told TransmissionHub on May 4.

“We are at the table with SCE,” a spokesperson for the city of Chino Hills told TransmissionHub on May 4. “In the past, we were discussing alternatives; this time, the only alternative they’re talking about is [whether] they can find any agreement about undergrounding.”

On Nov. 10, 2011, the CPUC ordered SCE to stop construction work in Chino Hills on the TRTP in response to an application for rehearing filed by the city of Chino Hills.

The city of Chino Hills and SCE commenced mediation on Feb. 14 in an effort to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to the issues. However, though “several mediation sessions were held, and proposals advanced by both the city and SCE were thoroughly discussed, the parties were not able to reach agreement that met the needs of both parties,” according to a joint statement issued by SCE and Chino Hills. Mediation was suspended on March 9.

A prehearing conference was held March 19 to discuss the next procedural steps to address the city’s petition.

Activity in the weeks since has included one-on-one meetings between various parties and CPUC representatives.

As reported by TransmissionHub on April 9, representatives of SCE and the city of Chino Hills held five meetings with representatives of three members of the CPUC on March 28 and 29 to discuss the ongoing dispute over the alignment of the portion of the project that runs through the city.

Other parties have also weighed in on the controversy.

The executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) spoke with advisors to two CPUC commissioners on April 13 and 16. John White expressed the group’s position that “significant costs and … delay could put at risk and jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in environmentally preferred, cost-effective wind energy projects in Kern County by causing those projects to miss their on-line dates,” according to an April 18 notice of ex parte communication.

To date, the city of Chino Hills has spent approximately $4m in its fight with SCE, which began in August 2007.

“From the very beginning, we understood the need for power and the desire for what they’re considering to be green power; that has never been an issue,” a city spokesperson previously told TransmissionHub. “It’s always been about overburdening the easements” with structures that are too large for the easement.

California has a mandate to obtain 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

For its part, SCE has previously called the Tehachapi project, “a critically important, high-voltage transmission line, the timely completion of which is essential for California’s progress toward its aggressive renewable energy goals.”

Once completed, the $2.2bn Tehachapi project will be capable of delivering up to 4,500 MW of wind energy from the Tehachapi area to population centers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California, according to SCE’s website.

SCE is a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).