January 17, 2011

Tehachapi project begins; Clean-energy plan still has opposition

Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, www.dailybulletin.com 16 January 2011

Despite outcry and legal objections from Chino Hills over a high-voltage energy project, Southern California Edison’s work on the project through the city will begin this week.

Residents can expect to see brush clearing work along the five-mile easement through the city, and tower and pole erection work and conductor line stringing through the coming year.

When completed by 2015, the $1.8 billion Tehachapi project will bring wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin – part of a state mandate to use more sustainable energy.

Edison spokesman Les Starck said the project will enable the company to tap into additional supplies of clean wind energy to help improve the environment and reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy.

A number of residents expressed fears the larger new high-voltage power lines and towers, slated to cut through city neighborhoods, will impact safety, health, city views and property values.

Residents and local officials raised concern that the towers, which would be twice the size of the existing ones, could fall on or near homes during windy weather or an earthquake.

Starck said the concerns are legitimate, though he said the state Public Utilities Commission reviewed environmental issues prior to coming to a conclusion in December 2009 that Edison could move forward with the project.

“We understand the concerns of the residents, but we believe we can build this line safely, operate it very safely, and do so in a very responsible manner,” Starck said.

The state PUC sided with Edison’s proposed routes using its existing powerline routes through the city, compared to the city’s alternate route, which would have cut through the Chino Hills State Park.

In early 2009, the city filed a complaint in San Bernardino County Superior Court against SCE, claiming that the project would “overburden the easement over City property.”

Last April, Judge Keith D. Davis ruled that the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison and has rejected the city’s lawsuit.

In June, the city appealed the judge’s ruling. The request for injunction was aimed at halting the construction until the appeal is resolved.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in September denied the city’s request for an injunction to stop the construction.

Chino Hills Mayor Ed Graham said the concern still remains over the possibility of a tower or pole falling near residents.

“You hope it never happens, but if it happens, we did everything we could do to try to stop this,” Graham said. “All the responsibility falls on them.”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2011/01/17/tehachapi-project-begins-clean-energy-plan-still-has-opposition/