California state regulators return transmission reliability project to city of Riverside, Calif.

The Riverside Transmission Reliability Project (RTRP) is back in the hands of the city of Riverside, Calif., and its department, Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), now that California state regulators have denied, and subsequently refused to rehear, a neighboring city’s challenge to Riverside’s right to serve as the lead agency on the project (Docket No. C13-02-004).

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Sept. 23, 2013, dismissed a complaint by the city of Jurupa Valley, Calif., saying that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the complaint, and denied Jurupa Valley’s motion for rehearing last month.

“Under Pub. Util. Code § 1702, the commission maintains jurisdiction over public utilities, not municipally-owned utilities or governmental agencies,” the CPUC said in its September decision.

The challenge grew out of concerns that the city of Riverside and RPU failed to acknowledge the city of Jurupa Valley and its importance in the approval process of the draft environmental impact report (EIR) that was being prepared for the project. The city completed the draft EIR in mid-2011. The city of Jurupa Valley was incorporated on July 1, 2011.

One day after the Riverside City Council voted to certify the draft EIR on Feb. 5, 2013, Jurupa Valley filed a complaint with the CPUC, seeking to have the CPUC take over as lead agency on the project and recirculate the draft EIR. Such a move would have reopened the review and public comment period for the document.

RPU officials were unavailable to provide additional details about the project’s status as of press time Jan. 3.

The project dates to June 2006, when the California ISO’s board of directors directed Southern California Edison (SCE) to build the line “as soon as possible and preferably no later than June 30, 2009,” according to the draft EIR.

The proposed project would include a 10-mile, double-circuit 230-kV transmission line, a new 230-kV substation called the Wildlife substation, a 230/69-kV electrical substation called the Wilderness substation, and new 69-kV subtransmission lines. The project, which would be a combined effort of the city of Riverside and SCE, would be built within the city limits of Riverside and Jurupa Valley.

On its project website, RPU said the project is needed to provide additional sources of electricity to maintain reliable service for its customers. At present, all of RPU’s imported energy comes through SCE’s Vista substation in the city of Grand Terrace, Calif. The capacity for RPU at that substation is limited to 557 MW.

The project would also help increase the reliability of RPU’s electrical system, RPU said, adding that it would provide a second point of electricity delivery, reducing dependence on the existing Vista substation, and providing the capacity and reliability needed to support recent and future growth in the area.

The project is estimated to cost between $150m and $200m. As planned, it will be built by SCE, an Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary, and RPU, with each entity building 10 circuit-miles of line and a substation as part of the project, with costs spilt approximately evenly between the city and SCE. The project will be complete in 2018 or 2019.