SCE To Ontario: No TRTP Undergrounding

Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (Photo Courtesy:  City of Ontario)

Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (Photo Courtesy: City of Ontario)

By K.P. Sander

Ontario – The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) has been under construction since September of 2013.  The Project’s objective is to deliver electricity from new wind farms in the Tehachapi area to Southern California Edison (SCE) customers in an effort to meet the State’s renewable energy goal of 33 percent by the year 2020.


There have been some ups and downs for SCE along the construction way.  The City of Chino Hills was granted a tower undergrounding proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July of 2013.  The decision for this approval stated that the burden imposed on the City by the overhead power lines was unfair and contrary to community values.  Chino Hills was granted the removal of a 3.5 mile tower section, and an underground cabling replacement.  This approval cost TRTP an additional $224 million, on top of the over $2 billion budget that will ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.


In a déjà vu-like attempt, the City of Ontario has stated that their situation is as bad, if not worse, than Chino Hills’.  When TRTP erected Ontario’s towers in April, the impact suddenly became very apparent.


Ontario reportedly asked for a stay of constructionto sort things out, and the CPUC allowed legal proceedings to be reopened in October.


According to the City of Ontario, they filed an amended petition with the CPUC on Nov. 21 in order to modify the 500kV lines from tower construction to undergrounding – specifically Segment 8 of the Project.


With TRTP employing multiple public proceedings prior to construction, SCE is reportedly questioning why the City of Ontario did not come forward at that time, rather than after the fact. If the community is somewhat shocked as to the appearance of the towers and the proximity to new housing developments, more due diligence should have been completed up front. In essence, SCE’s answer to Ontario is, “No.”


Most recently, in a document submitted to the CPUC on Dec. 5, SCE attorney Angela Whatley stated, “A party that has not engaged in the proceedings should not be able to derail this crucial project at such a late stage in development.”


In October and November, legal staff at the City of Ontario consulted with the City of Chino Hills, and on Dec. 9, the Ontario City Council approved the hiring of an Environmental Engineer to review and analyze California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Mitigation Measures Compliance by SCE.  Council also approved the hiring of a Utilities Consultant to review and analyze easements for compliance and any title issues.


SCE filed requests on Dec. 5 that CPUC deny the City’s petition to underground, and to deny the construction stay.  On Dec. 15, Ontario filed documents to the contrary.


As it stands now, the CPUC will consider the documents filed by all parties in accordance with this case.  TRTP states that the CPUC is expected to rule on the requests within the next few months, with further hearings, as well as an absolute decision, a possibility.


TRTP is scheduled to be completed in 2016.