An administrative law judge (ALJ), in a recent proposed decision filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), granted a permit to Southern California Edison (SCE) to build the Mesa 500-kV Substation Project, with certain mitigation identified in a “Mitigation, Monitoring, Compliance and Reporting Plan.”
According to the Jan. 20 filing, the proposed decision may be heard, at the earliest, at the commission’s Feb. 9 business meeting.
The ALJ said that SCE, in its application for a permit to construct (PTC) the project that was submitted in March 2015, requested authorization to:
- Build the proposed substation and demolish the existing substation within the City of Monterey Park
- Remove, relocate, modify and/or build transmission, subtransmission, distribution, and telecommunications structures within the cities of Monterey Park, Montebello, Rosemead, South El Monte and Commerce and in portions of unincorporated Los Angeles County
- Convert an existing street light source line from overhead to underground between three street lights on Loveland Street within the City of Bell Gardens
- Install a temporary 220-kV line loop-in at the Goodrich substation within the City of Pasadena
- Perform minor modifications within several existing substations; those modifications would be located within the substations’ existing fenced perimeters, and the associated work would be similar to operation and maintenance activities that the company currently performs
SCE estimates that its proposed project can be built in 48 months, with a potential operational date of June 2021.
The ALJ also noted that the proposed project would enable SCE to:
- Address anticipated violations of NERC “Standard TPL-001-04 (NERC 2015),” Western Electricity Coordination Council, or WECC, “Regional Business Practice TPL-001-WECC-RBP-2 (WECC 2011),” and California ISO (Cal-ISO) planning standards that would occur by Dec. 31, 2020, of generators that use “once-through cooling,” or OTC
- Avoid introduction of new violations of NERC, WECC, and Cal-ISO standards
- Maintain electrical service by minimizing service interruptions during the project
The ALJ said that while the OTC retirement compliance requirement date is Dec. 31, 2020, for generating plants in SCE’s service territory, the system reliability concern does not become critical until the following summer peak loading period, June 1, 2021.
Discussing the environmental impacts of the proposed project, the ALJ said that the project would have a significant and unavoidable impact on the aesthetics of the surrounding area, and that air quality would also experience significant and unavoidable consequences as a result of the project.
An environmental impact report (EIR) determined that the project would have no impact or a less than significant impact on the resource areas of greenhouse gases; land use and planning; population and housing and recreation. The ALJ also said that the project would result in impacts that can be mitigated to a less than significant in the remaining resource areas of biological; cultural and paleontological; geology, soils and minerals; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology and water quality; public services and utilities; and traffic and transportation.
The ALJ noted that the EIR screened nine project alternatives and determined that three of them should be carried forward for full analysis in the EIR because they meet certain requirements for alternatives.
The “One-Transformer Bank (1600 megavolt amperes (MVA)) Substation” alternative –which involves the project being built as proposed, but using one 1600-MVA 500/220-kV transformer bank with space for a spare transformer bank – is considered to be the overall environmentally superior alternative, the ALJ said.
The ALJ said, “Having (i) adopted all feasible mitigation measures, (ii) recognized all significant, unavoidable impacts, and (iii) balanced the benefits of the project against its significant and unavoidable impacts, the commission finds that the project’s benefits outweigh and override its significant unavoidable impacts.”
The ALJ said that while the identified alternatives are environmentally superior, none of them is feasible. While the One Transformer Alternative, for instance, is likely similar in cost to the proposed project, it is not feasible from a reliability or schedule standpoint.
The ALJ further noted that the One Transformer Alternative includes a “remedial action scheme,” or RAS, and that upon the loss of two transmission lines, the RAS will open two other transmission lines in the Serrano Corridor, which would result in the loss of four transmission lines that serve the Western L.A. Basin, and degrade system reliability by making the system less likely to withstand the next contingency.
The proposed project with three 1120 MVA transformer banks does not require an RAS, the ALJ added.
Among other things, the ALJ said that with the mitigation identified, the proposed project will avoid or reduce all significant environmental impacts to less than significant other than aesthetics, air quality and noise impacts during project construction.
SCE is a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE:EIX).