CHINO HILLS – The city lost another court fight this week over the construction of a high-voltage power transmission line through Chino Hills neighborhoods.
A panel of three 4th District Court of Appeals judges in Riverside ruled Monday the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison. It confirmed a similar decision last year by a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge.
The city’s lawsuit had argued that Southern California’s easements in the city are too narrow for the power corridor. City officials wanted the case to be heard in court.
“We filed a property-rights case where it was our position that Tehachapi project overburdened the easements over city property,” city spokeswoman Denise Cattern said. “The judge ruled we don’t have jurisdiction over that issue.”
Despite the city’s four-year, $2.4 million fight against the line’s path through town, “monster towers” now loom large over Chino Hills after construction began in October.
Energy from wind farms in Tehachapi is projected to flow through the lines when the project is complete in 2015 – time enough, opponents say, to continue to fight.
Despite construction going full steam ahead, opponents continue to suggest an alternate route through Chino Hills State Park or even underground along the easement.
Residents fear the 200-foot towers could fall on or near homes during windy weather or an earthquake. Residents also worry about increased cancer risk from nearby electromagnetic fields and the reduction of property values because of the nearby lines.
“The fight is not over,” Mayor Ed Graham said. “On behalf of the City Council, the fight is not over. We will do what we can. It’s our goal to represent your interests because this is certainly an outrage.”
The PUC earlier rejected the state park route because of environmental impact.
“We’re not going to sit back and take this,” said Bob Goodwin, the president of Hope for the Hills, an advocacy group formed in July from the remnants of an earlier opposition group. “What happened out here by all accounts is unjust and unfair. By some way or another, we are striving to get the right person’s attention.”
The 5-mile transmission line through Chino Hills is part of the longer $2 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project that would bring wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles basin as part of a state mandate to expand the use of green energy.
Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, and state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, joined dozens of unhappy residents in the shadow of a newly constructed tower on a town hillside on Tuesday to protest continued construction of the route.
Hagman said he will continue legislative efforts to introduce a bill that would prevent such large projects from being built along narrow easements.
“The Legislature gave unilateral authority to the CPUC, and all the power to build with no oversight,” Hagman said. “That’s where we need to start attacking it.”
Huff said all avenues will continue to be explored to fight the route, but he and Graham agree the chance for success is “slim.”
“I would say it’s very remote,” Huff said. “The only way these would come down is through a legal decision that said the law was not followed completely to put them up there.”
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