Chino Hills in the news again

April 23, 2012

By Katy Grimes

Following up the many stories I’ve done on the Southern California Edison Tehachapi Transmission Renewable Energy Project is a very important bill in the Utilities and Commerce committee today.

AB 2235 by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino, would  authorize a property owner to seek compensation for any substantial reduction in property value proximately resulting from the building, expansion, or operation of a plant, line, pipeline, or other facility by a public utility.

Why is this bill necessary? Because SCE has run roughshod over the residential communities in Chino Hills and built a string of 200 foot electrical transmission towers close to the homes.  In addition to the housing crash in California, the homes in the lovely residential areas through Chino Hills have dropped in value substantially thanks to the ugly landscape which was not there when the homes were built, sold by developers and purchased by residents.

According to the author, “when public utilities act as bad neighbors in a community, citizens should have the ability to seek redress.”

Previously I wrote:

In October 2010, Southern California Edison (SCE) contractors began removing the old, mostly idle, 200 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines from an easement running through Chino Hills, and immediately began installation of the new, 200 foot towers,with 500 kV transmission lines. Residents immediately contacted SCE worried that the power towers were too close to homes, and concerned about living so closely to beefed-up electro-magnetic frequencies and radiation.

The Chino Hills residents have been persistent in their quest. Despite many setbacks and legal decisions rendered in the utility’s favor, as well as a few wins for the community, the Hope For the Hills crew has functioned entirely as a grassroots operation with no outside funding, no union backup, and no political help. The only help they’ve had has been from the city of Chino Hills, which has spent $2 million on legal fees for its own fight against SCE over the towers. The residents have waged the fight with sheer willpower and determination, and with a love of community rarely seen these days.

This is no whining group of NIMBYs. In October, I traveled to Chino Hills to see for myself just how bad the situation was. I had seen photos of the monster towers. I had written stories of the resident’s plight. I followed the hearings, and read the legal documents. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad.

When I stood at the base of the electrical towers just outside of Joanne’s home, and near the monster tower erected in the middle of the nearby city park where kids were playing soccer, and on top of a hill in a lovely residential development, I was stunned and disgusted.

Members of Hope For The Hills report that they have been told by several SCE insiders that the utility agreed long ago to build the towers, and have no intention of altering the plan. Some say that there was a contract signed with a cellular company for use of the towers. Others says that because the California Renewable Energy Portfolio was passed and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, no California officials are going to help stop it. And others report that the project has been partially funded with federal stimulus money, which SCE doesn’t want to return.

The Tehachapi Transmission Project feels similar to the High-Speed Rail project. Despite the outrageous and increasing costs, lack of ridership, ongoing long-term debt, California officials seem unable to stop it.

Fighting the good fight

The group of residents tirelessly fighting SCE is purely grassroots, and they are a group of contenders. They have taken on the California Public Utilities Commission, and SCE with no resources other than their determination to save their community. And they are not NIMBY’s. Hope For The Hills, together with the City of Chino Hills, worked with attorneys and planners to come up with several alternative plans. So far, there have been a few compromises, but not enough.

However, HFTH has the attention of Congressman Ed Royce, R-40th District, California.

Royce is on the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing. On April 14, the subcommittee held a Congressional hearing in the Chino Hills City Council Chambers on “The impact of overhead high voltage transmission towers and lines on eligibility for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured mortgage programs.”

Approximately 450 – 500 people attended.

For more information, the City of Chino Hills has a fantastic overview of the entire project.  And of course, the many stories I have done provide a history.

I will follow up on the results of today’s hearing.

 

 



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