22 January 2012

Towers of Terror's Twisted Tangled Travels/Travails

Yesterday's Chino Hills Champion continued its coverage of the saga of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project's Section 8 fisaco with the latest reporting by Marianne Napoles on the status of the review of the stalled work on massive transmission towers through Chino Hills and just north of Carbon Canyon.

Napoles noted that the California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge Jean Vieth has now given Southern California Edison two weeks to come up with a feasibility and cost analysis on yet another alternative.  This one, suggested by Edison's own alternative to change the composition of the lines from double to single circuit carrying 400 kV of power, rather than 500 kV, was recommended by a Chino Hills attorney to take these components and include them in an underground system.  Edison did propose the reconfigured schema for above-ground towers, while identifying below-ground alternatives using the old configuration.  While previous underground alternatives were claimed by the company to be of far greater cost and time to install, the city's attorney points out that the new configuration would be less expensive and faster to install.  It remains to be seen what Edison claims and what the CPUC will rule.

Meantime, Napoles also reported that the judge ordered that Edison and the City of Chino Hills are to being mediation in which Edison's alternatives will be discussed and that this process is to start in about three weeks, or about a week after the analysis of the new underground alternative is to be submitted by the utility.

A sidebar article by the same reporter also discussed the intention of the California State Parks Foundation to seek compensation for an estimated $44,000 that the Foundation calculates that it will use in fees and expenses for representation at CPUC hearings on this latest iteration of the Section 8 portion of the TRTP project.  Funds collected from utility ratepayers throughout the state can be used to reimburse non-profit entities who are involved in hearing of this nature, although the CSPF had spent almost $125,000 previously when fighting a City of Chino Hills proposal to get the lines run through Chino Hills State Park in the last go-round.  The Foundation reiterates that the purpose of the park, like most passive-use state parks, is to preserve land and allow recreational opportunities for Californians seeking a respite or escape from the heavily urbanized environment in which most state residents live, and that putting power lines through the park (especially when inactive ones came down just recently thirty years after they were supposed to be removed when the park was created) defies that mission and purpose.

This conflict between continued growth and development and the movement to preserve dwindling open space and recreational areas has been an ongoing battle and it can also be carried over into places like Carbon Canyon, where more housing and other forms of development, whether completed, approved or proposed, threaten the very nature of the place.  Another corollary has to do with wind farms proposed in desert areas that, contrary to common views of these areas as "wastelands", are, actually, highly diversified, vulnerable and sensitive environments for animal and plant habitates.

These questions are also enormously complex and not easily simplified into categorical "either/or" scenarios.  More than likely, Edison will submit that the underground alternative will still be too expensive and time-consuming, but whether the CPUC finds otherwise will be interesting to see.  Meantime, city officials, Assembly representative Curt Hagman, and Hope for the Hills representatives continue to claim important victories and milestones, as the political momentum locally is taken to Sacramento and San Francisco (where the CPUC hearings have taken place.)

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