25 March 2013

Towers of Terror: Twists, Tweaks and Turns

The current Hope for the Hills banner at the summit of the S-curve on Carbon Canyon Road in Chino Hills.  The quote is from a stump speech in late October 1964 on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater by Ronald Reagan, soon after elected California governor and, of course, president later.  The quotation concerned the threat of communism and the new war in Vietnam, but how applicable is it now to the TRTP's "towers of terror"?
UPDATE, 29 MARCH 2013Tomorrow's edition of The Champion has an article reporting that the California Public Utilities Commission has requests, within a few days, greater detail from the City of Chino Hills regarding their $76 million contribution towards rerouting the power lines underground.  CPUC administrative judge Jane Vieth asked for a chart denoting the present value of the various elements of the proposal, noting that this would not take much effort beyond what has already been expended.

Meantime, the editorial section of the paper has taken the city to task for putting this proposal out there without having a public meeting at a city council meeting, per the state's Brown Act requirements, or a council vote.  The editorial made sure to express that the question wasn't about the wisdom of the decision to offer the contribution, but the means by which it was done.  Council members and City Manager Fleager argue that the closed-door sessions that generated the proposal were sufficient and that a vote was not necessary.

Related news is that a wind energy association was reported as urging, in a 25 March letter, that the CPUC allow Edison to charge ratepayers for delays caused by the fight over the Chino Hills segment of the TRTP project, noting that wind energy firms affected by the delays have to account for federal tax incentives for projects started in 2013.  The stoppage of segment 8 work affects the ability of these providers to meet the criteria for the incentives, but through no fault of their own, as the argument goes.

Then, a group called The Utility Reform Network (TURN) has asked the CPUC to allow it to be an official party to the proceedings involving the segment 8 dispute.  Its concern is that SCE could raise rates to customers by as much as 36% to cover the costs of redirecting the lines through Chino Hills underground and wants to be able to officially record its views on the matter.  Judge Vieth granted that request.

Also, within a day or two of the above photo being taken and posted, a new banner, considerably less notable and noticeable, appeared on the spot, merely asking for people to support the removal of the massive 198' towers that are the subject of Hope for the Hills' impressive grassroots efforts.

ORIGINAL POST:  This past Saturday's edition of The Champion had an interesting update on the controversy involving the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) and its colossal Segment 8 power poles that were halted mid-construction in much of Chino Hills.

Namely, the City of Chino Hills has announced that it is willing to contribute over $70 million in financial arrangements to have the power lines relocated underground instead of strung along the eighteen massive towers looming (or threatening to so loom) almost 200 feet high along a 3 and 1/2 mile corridor.

After an order from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which approved the project in 2009 and now is reexamining its own decision, which instructed the city to clearly lay out its commitment to help cover the costs associated with burying the lines, City Manager Michael Fleager gave testimony to that effect.

While in other circumstances, Southern California Edison (SCE) would pay for construction costs and then recover them through rate increases, the CPUC order led to Fleager to assert that the city was against having Edison force city ratepayers to directly absorb the costs to relocate the line underground.

In the proposed package, the city would convey land, including any potential revenue in that property, the expense to the city for the loss of the parcels, and the maintenance of the landscape and other aspects in the expanded right-of-way, which includes portions that are city-owned and which would host two proposed transition stations Edison states are required for the buried lines. 

Among the items in the revenue stream lost by the city and picked up by the utility are telecommunications licensing fees on the infrastructure owned by Edison; landscape costs for a 20-foot strip on three miles of the right-of-way on top of the underground cable network to mitigate the emission of electro-magnetic field elements; an estimated $200,000 a year of maintenance costs for this landscape; and abating weeds and the mowing of areas on the right-of-way that are not improved at an estimated cost of over $7,000 per year.  According to city officials, over four decades, these landscape elements would incur costs of over $30,000,000, which would constitute about 45% of the larger $70,000,000 figure given by Fleager.

Council member Ed Graham was quoted as saying that the city would not allow Edison to charge residents of the city for the construction costs directly, "so instead we had to show a long-term commitment on how much the city was willing to invest into the Tehachapi project."  Just how Edison will respond to the package and its 40-year projection, much less the CPUC, which is slated to make a final decision on whether to order the lines relocated underground or to allow Edison to proceed with the towers, will be interesting to observe.

No comments: