Renewable energy group seeks stay of negotiations between SCE and Chino Hills

A California group that advocates for renewable energy filed a motion May 9 asking the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to halt confidential settlement negotiations between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the city of Chino Hills, Calif., over the routing of the 500-KV Tehachapi renewable transmission project (TRTP) power line through the city.

In the motion, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) said the negotiations “will affect the outcome of this [project] application, but have not been noticed in this proceeding and do not provide an opportunity for interested parties to participate.”

The CPUC announced the negotiations in a statement on May 3, noting that 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.”

In its motion, CEERT states that neither it, nor to its knowledge any other intervening organization, was sent notice of the CPUC’s statement announcing the negotiations but “only learned of its existence in [an] indirect manner and was required to search for it on the Commission’s website.”

While the group would not have objected to negotiations between SCE and Chino Hills, the fact that the CPUC joined the process “fail[s] to comply with either Commission rules or applicable legal standards,” the group said in its motion.

Failure to halt the confidential settlement negotiations “constitutes a violation of the due process rights of all parties to this application and will result in actions that will be highly prejudicial to the rights and interests of those parties,” the group said in its filing.

The attorney for the group declined to comment further. Phone calls seeking comment from CEERT officials were not returned by press time.

While representatives for SCE and the city of Chino Hills confirm that they “are at the table,” few other details are available.

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. In addition CEERT, NextEra Energy Resources (NYSE:NEE), EnXco Development Corporation, Terra-Gen Power, and Iberdrola Renewables have stated their opposition to reconsideration of the project’s CPCN or unnecessary changes to SCE’s construction of one of the critical segments of the TRTP. Such changes would “constrain the development and timely delivery of Tehachapi renewable resources and inappropriately increase the costs and burden on SCE’s ratepayers to do so,” CEERT said in its motion.

To date, the city of Chino Hills has spent approximately $2.8m in its fight with SCE, which began in August 2007.

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).