Two Republican lawmakers who may face each other next year for re-election to the House of Representatives are sidling up to Chino Hills activists and joining the fight against the installation of new electrical towers in the city.
Reps. Ed Royce, R-Orange, and Gary Miller, R-Brea, recently joined Chino Hills officials and residents in their fight against the 200-foot high towers that are being built through the city’s neighborhoods.
Miller currently represents Chino Hills in Congress. But after this year’s redistricting, he and Royce both live in the new 39th Congressional District that will include the city.
Royce on Monday called for a congressional hearing on the impact on neighborhood home values and the ability of homeowners and buyers to obtain loans in the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project area.
“I disagree with the California Public Utilities Commission in allowing the construction of 200-foot high, 60-foot wide monster towers so close to homes,” he said.
“Because of the impact on home values, this is equivalent to a government taking of private property. It is just plain common sense that these power lines should have been routed through uninhabited Chino Hills State Park, or underground.”
Royce’s comments come on the heals of the state Public Utilities Commission ordering SCE to stop construction on its expanded Tehachapi power project and ordering it to present “feasibility, cost and timing” for five alternative routes in two months.
Edison is expected to “serve testimony, with supporting data” on the alternative routes by Jan. 10, according to the PUC.
In addition, in October the commission ordered SCE to temporarily stop construction of the towers because they do not have the appropriate aircraft warning lights, a violation of Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
Last month, Miller, in addressing the installation of the towers in Chino Hills, said Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento were being short-sighted in their decision-making and not taking into account the full ramifications of their actions.
“Unfortunately, this time the residents of Chino Hills are made to suffer,” he said.
Miller also noted that in 2002 the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis mandated that power companies in California begin generating a greater percent of green energy.
“This required the power companies to find generally low-yielding, niche-energy producers all over the state – such as wind farms, solar power plants and biodiesel facilities – and to build a web of transmission lines that crisscrossed the state,” Miller said.
“So instead of a few conventional power plants and a few power lines, Democrats required that communities be divided, hillsides scarred and vistas disrupted all in the name of `clean’ energy – and so a few liberal elitists can feel good about themselves.
“It’s a crime that the residents of Chino Hills are suffering as a direct result of Democratic lawmakers’ shortsightedness and ineptitude.”
Miller added that Chino Hills residents should receive financial compensation for any loss of equity in their homes.
The transmission poles and towers are being installed within SCE’s right-of-way from Chino Hills’ western border near Tonner Canyon, through the city and eventually going into Riverside County.
Fifteen towers already installed
Construction of the towers started in October 2010. Fifteen of the larger towers have been installed in Chino Hills, replacing smaller existing structures on the right-of-way.
The $2.1 billion Tehachapi project is part of a state mandate to generate more sustainable energy. It is slated to be completed in 2015.
Chino Hills Mayor Ed Graham said Royce’s asking for a congressional hearing ratchets up the concern for Edison to do “the right thing.”
“And I would be happy to travel to Washington to testify on our behalf,” Graham said.
Royce said he has written to the chairman of the Financial Services Committee to request a hearing for, among other things, the impact of neighborhood property values given that power lines with half the voltage are not allowed within 900 feet of schools.
Royce has friends who live in Chino Hills and showed him the situation.
One concern Royce points out is once the wires are strung across the neighborhood, there is a potential of dust or haze obstructing a pilot’s view, creating the potential for crashing into those lines and into residents’ homes.
“It is clear that the vetting process done before the Public Utilities Commission, somebody gave short-shift to a lot of these federal and local issues,” he said.
Royce, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, said there is a question of this project approval being a taking of private property.
“That is an issue as well because you’re going to see a plummeting certainly of the homes in the immediate vicinity of the values of property as a result of the inability to get refinancing or FHA loans…,” he said, adding the homes then will be unsalable.
That’s because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s requirements prohibit FHA from lending on residential property located near high-voltage transmission lines and towers, Royce said.
“This was never vetted when the CPUC issued the original approval for the project,” he said.
Royce said in consulting with other cities that also have power lines and towers going through the area, a project like this has gone as far as it’s gone because it was rushed.
Four-year battle by the city
For four years, the city fought Edison regarding the route with a lawsuit, arguing that the easements in the city are too narrow for the expanded power corridor. The city’s battle with Edison has cost it $2.4 million.
Last month the city approved an additional $100,000 to continue the fight against Edison’s route.
Recently PUC President Michael Peevey and Commissioner Timothy Simon visited the city to inspect the construction of the high-voltage power lines.
State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, and representatives from the offices of Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, and state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, also toured the area.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt has sent a letter to each commissioner as well as to Gov. Jerry Brown, urging the PUC to reverse its prior decision.
Graham said work by Hope for the Hills – a grassroots group of city residents – is a reason he had hope the towers will get pulled out.
“I think that since Hope for the Hills have put a human face to the problem and once the towers gave gone in where everyone can now experience them, I think that the decision makers can clearly see now that this was the wrong thing to do,” Graham.
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