Overhead High Voltage Transmission Lines Rejected
On March 13, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rejected Southern California Edison’s (SCE) controversial power line project that would have cut through habitat for endangered species and a rural greenbelt that separates Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley (Ventura Edhat). Strong opposition from environmental groups and the local community and reduced energy demand led the CPUC to instead approve a much-scaled-down proposal to upgrade existing substations.
The $55 million Presidential Substation Project including a new substation and a series of new high voltage lines would have cut across the Tierra Rejada greenbelt and negatively affected community farms, rural communities, and critical habitat for endangered species such as the California gnatcatcher, Riverside fairy shrimp and yellow-flowering Lyon’s pentachaeta (aster family). The greenbelt also serves as an important wildlife linkage that connects the Santa Monica Mountains to the inland ranges and the Santa Clara River.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a national, nonprofit conservation organization, responded to the CPUC decision by saying, “Less costly and less destructive substation upgrades were developed and analyzed during environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires analysis and adoption of environmentally superior alternatives wherever feasible. By choosing the environmentally superior solution, the California Public Utilities Commission avoided the harms protested by the environmental groups and local communities and reduced project costs.”
The CPUC is to be congratulated for rejecting SCE’s initial proposal, and instead approving a much more environmentally-friendly proposal. We certainly do not see such decisions in Alberta, where the Alberta Government, transmission industry and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) consistently ignore environmental impacts of proposed new high voltage power lines. In 2008, the Alberta Government exempted all newly-constructed high voltage transmission lines from having to undergo Environmental Impact Assessments, and the AUC has approved many overhead transmission lines that have been built in environmentally sensitive areas across Alberta (e.g., AltaLink’s Pincher Creek line, AltaLink’s and EPCOR’s Heartland line).