Scope of Tehachapi hearings will not be expanded

As evidentiary hearings into the question of whether to place underground a portion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) moved through the first day, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) denied a request that the commission reexamine the need for a 500-kV transmission line through the city of Chino Hills, Calif., as part of the project (Docket No. A7-06-031).

CPUC President Michael Peevey on April 22 denied a motion from the California Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) to expand the scope of the proceedings regarding whether to place underground a 3.5-mile portion of the project to also consider, “[W]hether a 500 kV power line running through Chino Hills is needed at all, or whether there are better alternatives.”

Responding to the DRA’s original motion filed April 5, project developer Southern California Edison (SCE) argued that “DRA’s request goes far beyond the Chino Hills’ petition for modification and that it is very late in the proceeding, just two weeks before the commencement of evidentiary hearings, to so dramatically broaden the scope.”

Peevey agreed. “DRA’s issue goes to approval of the entirety of TRTP, not merely to the appropriate capacity for an underground line in Segment 8A, if the commission approves that change,” he wrote in his three-page ruling.

Although DRA requested a broadening of the scope of the proceedings, Peevey noted that the agency had provided no factual support for its motion. He added his voice to direction given during the prehearing conference of April 15 by administrative law judge (ALJ) Jean Vieth and stated that, if it wished to refile its motion, DRA has to include a transmission study and “appropriate declarations or affidavits,” as an offer of proof that transmission needs underlying approval of the TRTP have changed.

As defined by Peevey’s assigned commissioner’s ruling of July 2, 2012, and modified on Nov. 15, 2012, the scope of the hearings is limited to the narrow question of whether the stretch of transmission through the city of Chino Hills should be placed underground, or whether the above-ground alignment originally approved remains the best option.

In a separate filing on April 22, SCE asked the commission for permission to file under confidential seal information contained in its Feb. 28 refined underground testimony, its April 12 rebuttal testimony, and related hearing exhibits.

Those exhibits, SCE said, “contain confidential information regarding SCE’s active and ongoing competitive procurement process for civil construction and cable manufacture and installation work in the event that the commission requires undergrounding of the approved overhead … transmission line through Chino Hills, as well as confidential critical energy Infrastructure Information.”

The utility pointed out that its intent was not to obscure the information it was compelled to present but to protect proprietary information that, if divulged, could compromise its ongoing competitive procurement process and potentially harm ratepayers.

“SCE has sought to aggregate, summarize, mask, or otherwise provide information in a way that allows disclosure of information where possible,” including the use of narrowly drawn redactions, it said in its motion, while noting that, “market-sensitive data from SCE’s ongoing confidential competitive procurement process — as well as SCE’s cost estimates derived from that data —are confidential … and therefore should be protected from public disclosure.”

Evidentiary hearings are scheduled to continue through April 26. Following the hearings, parties will prepare opening briefs, which must be filed with the CPUC by May 6. Reply briefs are due May 13. A proposed decision is scheduled to be filed by June 11 and considered publicly at the commission’s July 11 meeting. By commission rules, a proposed decision must be issued at least 30 days in advance of the meeting at which it will be considered.

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