CPUC order amends schedule for portion of Chino Hills controversy

The president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has revised the schedule for hearing matters related to undergrounding a portion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) through a portion of the city of Chino Hills, Calif. (Docket No. A07-06-031).

“I am persuaded … [that] the scope should be further revised from that set out in the July 2, 2012, scoping memo to create a two-track path to a final decision on whether to underground Segment 8A,” CPUC President Michael Peevey wrote in the amended memo and ruling of assigned commissioner issued Nov. 15.

The first track of the amended schedule will deal with cost recovery by project developer Southern California Edison (SCE).

The second track, which deals with the overarching question of whether Segment 8a of the TRTP should be placed underground, is not materially changed by the amended ruling from the schedule in Peevey’s assigned commissioner’s ruling issued July 2.

While the most recent ruling acknowledges concerns raised by SCE as well as several renewable energy producers, it does not address concerns that the current schedule will delay the TRTP well beyond its planned in-service date of 2015.

Recovering pre-decision costs

It several recent filings, SCE expressed concern about not being able to recover the costs of preparing engineering studies and estimates of the cost of undergrounding the portion of the project that passes through Chino Hills, should the commission ultimately approve an above-ground alignment.

Specifically, in its Nov. 9 filing with the commission, SCE argued that prudently incurred project costs would be subject to the FERC-approved rate recovery mechanisms set forth in the California ISO’s tariff, and said that the city’s request that it be ordered to provide a rate recovery proposal should be rejected as inappropriate.

Peevey disagreed and, in his amended scoping memo, set a Nov. 30 deadline for SCE to file a rate recovery proposal. An interim decision on the proposal is to be issued by Jan. 29, 2013, with a public meeting on the matter set for Feb. 28, 2013.

Schedule largely unchanged from prior ruling

The second track provides some slight modifications to the schedule for considering the matter of undergrounding the transmission line itself but does not include major changes other than the addition of a fourth day for evidentiary hearings.

The schedule, “thus retains parity with the allocation in the July 2, 2012, scoping memo,” Peevey wrote.

Revised, supplemental testimony from SCE on the question of undergrounding is due Dec. 3, with modifications due Feb. 28, 2013. Chino Hills’ prepared testimony is now due March 20, 2013, five days earlier than in the July 2 memo.

The testimony of other interested parties is now due April 5, 2013, 10 days earlier than previously ordered.

Evidentiary hearings are scheduled to convene April 22, 2013, at CPUC headquarters in San Francisco, and continue “as necessary” through April 25, shaving approximately one month from the previous schedule, which had hearings convening on May 20, 2013.

“The schedule does not provide for multiple rounds of prepared testimony (which SCE also suggested), since that likely would complicate the record rather than add clarity,” Peevey said. “The support or opposition for any not-yet-final assessment will not be particularly helpful to the commission’s final decision on the merits and could well be burdensome.”

A proposed decision is to be filed by the CPUC on June 11, 2013, with a first public meeting at which the CPUC may consider the proposed decision set for July 11, 2013. Those dates were “to be determined” in Peevey’s July 2 ruling.

Calls seeking additional comment from SCE were not returned by press time Nov. 16.

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