ROSEMEAD – As their day in court approaches, Chino Hills residents are stepping up their fight against Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.
Concerned about the larger, high-voltage power lines and towers sprouting daily through the five-mile stretch of city’s neighborhoods, residents on Wednesday picketed in front of the company’s main office in Rosemead.
The protest came one week before California’s 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside is set to hear oral arguments in the city’s lawsuit against Edison.
“Put it in your backyard,” yelled Annette Medina at company officials who were observing the protest. “Edison, we say `No’ to you. We are your customers. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
The $2.1 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. The project is expected to be completed by 2015.
The transmission poles and towers are being erected within Edison’s existing right-of-way corridor from Chino Hills’ western border near Tonner Canyon, proceeding northeast to Peyton Drive and then continuing east to the 71 Freeway.
Residents said they are worried the power lines will hurt their property values, safety and health and that the 150-foot existing easement is just not enough buffer space.
City officials have also not remained silent.
“Our community is witnessing the invasion of 198-foot tubular steel poles erected through the heart of our city,” Chino Hills Mayor Ed Graham wrote in a June 17 letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.
“These iron giants are massive beyond our worst expectations and tower over our neighborhoods; permanently and irrevocably impacting 1,000 families’ homes, churches, parks and public facilities. We dread the additional looming impacts when the poles will be strung with six extremely high voltage lines.”
The city also filed a complaint in San Bernardino County Superior Court against SCE in 2009, claiming that the project would “overburden the easement over City property.”
In April 2010, Judge Keith Davis rejected the city’s lawsuit and said the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison.
The city appealed the judge’s ruling in June 2010.
It will get another chance at possible legal relief Wednesday, when oral arguments are set to begin in its appeal.
Edison officials claim residents’ worries have been addressed.
“We really appreciate the concerns of residents of Chino Hills,” Edison spokesman Les Starck said. “Public Utility Commission has also heard their comments, including the alternate route proposals.
“After months of analysis by their engineers, PUC decided that the proposed route through Chino Hills is the environmentally superior route, the safest and most cost-effective.”
Chino Hills residents will not be the first dealing with the 198-foot towers just outside their backyards as they have been installed safely in other cities, Starck said.
“Tubular steel poles are used across the country and have a solid record,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that they are safely built and operated.”
The 150-foot easement will set the towers about 75 feet from the neighboring property lines, said Ray Paz, the project’s general manager.
But that will not be the only barrier.
“(The) towers’ 198-foot vertical distance provides the safety factor,” Paz said.
The reason more residents and officials in other cities have not complained about the project is likely because not every community has the resources to stand up to Edison, said Lynne Hooper, whose house sits one street over from the power lines in Chino Hills.
The city has already spent $2.4 million to identify an alternate route as well as on litigation costs.
“Our city had the money to fight this,” Hooper said. “We just want to be heard. They want us to back down and we can’t.”
The power lines are built “for greater public good,” said Alis Odenthal, SCE’s manager of public involvement.
“We respect their right to express their opinion, and we are happy to speak to them here or in Chino Hills,” Odenthal said.
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