SCE sides with ALJ, disagrees with CPUC president, over Tehachapi recommendation

Southern California Edison (SCE), the developer of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP), said it agrees with the proposed decision drafted by an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that would deny a petition by the city of Chino Hills, Calif., that the portion of the project through the city be placed underground (Docket No. A07-06-031).

In a statement provided to TransmissionHub June 12, SCE said it disagrees with the alternative proposed decision by CPUC president Michael Peevey, which said that the project and its 200-foot towers “effectively ignores community values and places an unfair and unreasonable burden on the residents of Chino Hills.”

The utility said the additional costs that undergrounding would entail would be unfair to utility ratepayers elsewhere in the state.

“A requirement to underground a portion of the Tehachapi project high-voltage lines in Chino Hills would burden California energy users with additional costs that SCE estimates would range from $368m to $722m for an approximately 3.5 mile stretch of the 173-mile transmission line route,” the utility said in the statement. 

According to the CPUC’s directive, the full cost of the project – including additional costs for undergrounding through Chino Hills, should that be approved – will be shared among all California ratepayers.

In addition, the utility noted that Peevey’s proposed decision overturns the project’s originally approved terms.

“In 2009, the commission unanimously approved SCE’s application to build Segments 4-11 of the Tehachapi project, following public review and an extensive environmental and regulatory analysis, which included a thorough evaluation focusing on Chino Hills’ concerns,” the utility said. “The commission’s decision rejected undergrounding, and found that an overhead construction option through Chino Hills was in the best interest of California.”

The utility also took issue with rulings Peevey issued subsequent to his November 2011 direction that SCE prepare updated descriptions and cost estimates for various alternatives to the overhead line construction. 

“President Peevey narrowed his directive to consider only underground alternatives,” the utility said, noting that those subsequent “rulings were issued in response to a request by Chino Hills that the commission reverse the 2009 decision in favor of undergrounding of the transmission line.”

Finally, SCE’s statement revisited concerns expressed previously, that an order to underground Segment 8A could delay the project beyond its planned 2015 energization date. The utility anticipates completing the Tehachapi project in late 2015 or early 2016, it said, though it allowed that the estimate “could be impacted by the commission’s final decision and unforeseen circumstances.”

Both the proposed decision and the proposed alternate decision were issued June 11. Under commission rules, commissioners can act on proposed decisions 30 days after publication, meaning that the proposed decision can be voted on as early as the commission’s July 11 public meeting at CPUC headquarters in San Francisco.

The five-member commission can either adopt all or part of either decision as written, amend or modify the provisions of either decision, or set them aside and prepare its own decision. Only when the commission acts are the recommendations binding on the parties involved.

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