Chino Hills wins battle against So Cal Edison

July 12, 2013

By Katy Grimes

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Chino Hills will be waving bye-bye to the 200 foot electrical transmission towers erected near homes, schools and churches in the lovely bedroom community.

Yesterday the Southern California city won a long and arduous battle against utility giant Southern California Edison. A group of dedicated, committed and faithful citizens proved that the voting public still has a voice, but only as long as it is willing to put forth the effort.

After several years of legal challenges, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a final decision in the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which grants the City of Chino Hills its proposal to run new electrical transmission lines underground.

Hope for the Hills, the group of Chino Hills residents created to officially fight SCE on the Tehachapi transmission towers project, demonstrated amazing strength in its battle to win back their rights and their neighborhoods.

The monster towers

A couple of years ago, residents of Chino Hills came home from work one day to find monster 200-foot electrical towers suddenly being erected inside parks and only feet from homes and area churches. Outraged, knowing this would never happen in Malibu, Beverly Hills or San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, a small group made immediate phone calls and did some initial research. They found it was SCE’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which would construct renewable energy generators from Kern County to western San Bernardino County. The project has been funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as President Obama’s “stimulus money” for “shovel-ready” projects.

In October 2010, SCE contractors began removing old, 200-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines which had been idle for several decades, and installing new, beefier, taller, 500 kV transmission lines. By May 2011, new towers were being erected. The old towers had been located on an easement, and had not been used in 40 years. SCE had assured developers that the old electrical towers were only still there as backup electricity in an emergency.

But suddenly the old towers were removed, and new, much larger towers were rapidly being installed — right in the backyards of some Chino Hills residents.

The battle

Today’s big win didn’t happen overnight, or without unbelievable organization, commitment and faith by Chino Hills residents. The Hope for the Hills website has hundreds of photos showing the devastation to the city because of the monster towers already erected.

Together with the City of Chino Hills, the residents proposed various alternate routes that would move the transmission lines away from residential communities and schools into a local state park area.

The city spent $4.6 million on experts, lawyers and specialty engineers to fight SCE to develop an alternate route through the Chino Hills State Park, a plan blessed by environmentalists.

The alternate route plan was initially rebuffed by the CPUC. But in November 2011, Chino Hills received word that the CPUC had ordered SCE to halt work on the project, and to come up with alternate route proposals by January 10, 2012. This came after the Chino Hills City Council voted to file a request with the California Supreme Court to accept review of the Court of Appeal’s ruling against Chino Hills.

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There’s hope in them thar hills

In fall 2011, I traveled to Chino Hills to see the towers for myself. I was shocked at what this residential community was being told they had to live with. That’s when I took the pictures in this story.

I met Hope for the Hills President Bob Goodwin and several of the Hope for the Hills faithful. During a tour of the city to see the towers, Goodwin and the group showed me parks and schools, as well as the residential  areas dwarfed by the monster towers. Goodwin and I walked up to one of the towers and posed for a photo (below).

He told me Chino Hills was a city people wanted to live in. “Homes were still in demand, even under the current economic downturn. Prices in Chino Hills remained fairly stable. But now we have the monster poles adjacent to our schools, churches and in parks.”

Goodwin said that the number of homes for sale in Chino Hills jumped 400 percent once the towers began to sprout up.

The CPUC decision

“The Decision, approved by a 3-2 vote, states that the burden imposed on Chino Hills by the overhead lines is unfair and contrary to community values,” the City of Chino Hills posted on its website today. “Accordingly, the Decision orders removal of the towers already built in the 3.5 mile section of the TRTP right of way in Chino Hills and orders Southern California Edison to complete the project by constructing a single circuit, two cable per phase underground XLPE cable in place of the overhead lines.”

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Back when I first learned of the towers, the more I researched the SCE project, the more it became obvious it was a product of the passage of the California Renewable Portfolio Standard by the state Legislature. It then was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The 2011 CRPS mandated that 33 percent of electricity generated in the state by 2020 must be from renewable energy.

That means sellers of electricity must procure 33 percent of their total energy supplies from certified renewable resources.

This project was one way to capture federal stimulus money while looking like heroes to the environmentalist crowd by promoting renewables. (Although some environmentalists objected to the power lines themselves.)

The game is to grab as many federal dollars as possible, regardless of what strings come attached to them. This explained the speed with which the towers went up. It was largely due to having to spend the federal money by a certain deadline, regardless of the pending legal battles.

It was obvious that SCE circumvented many procedures to get the electrical towers project going so quickly. They were even shut down at one point by OSHA for safety violations, and the by Federal Aviation Administration for airspace infringement because of the height of the tall towers.

Today, the Hope for the Hills website message says, “Together we made a difference.”

The Alternate Proposed Decision the CPUC voted on today is available HERE.

Read my main story on Chino Hills HERE, and a full listing of CalWatchdog.com stories HERE.

20 comments

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  1. kevin stenson
    kevin stenson 12 July, 2013, 09:25

    Congratulations. ..I am so proud of all of the hope for the hills team….you are all amazing ..we will celebrate the days that the towers are removed..

    Reply this comment
  2. Valerie Liese
    Valerie Liese 12 July, 2013, 10:26

    Thank you Katy for all that you have done to keep our plight in the limelight.

    We no longer have to fear and worry about exposure from EMF and the what the consequences would be to the health of our families. We had to fight not only for Chino Hills, but all cities where a utility company would risk the health of its rate payers, over corporate profits.

    Again, thank you so much for all your work, taking the time to visit our community, reporting the facts to the public and ensuring the health of our citizens.

    Reply this comment
  3. Valorie Wend
    Valorie Wend 12 July, 2013, 10:43

    Katy, thank you for following our story. It has been a long battle, but in grateful that the CPUC reversed their decision and make our city whole again.

    Reply this comment
  4. Tim Crane
    Tim Crane 12 July, 2013, 11:16

    Congrats, the dedication of the HFTH group has probably recouped $60-100K for my personal property value, as with many other Chino Hills citizens. I would never have believed that a small group of homeowners could have enough impact to reverse a mistake like this once the initial cost was incurred to erect the towers. My deepest appreciation for your hard effort it will never be forgotten, now just tell me where to bring the beer.

    Reply this comment
  5. us citizen
    us citizen 12 July, 2013, 11:43

    Great for you guys!!!! Its about time the little guy won, and you are right……..those polls are AWFUL.

    Reply this comment
  6. Gregg Fresonke
    Gregg Fresonke 12 July, 2013, 12:21

    No one thought it could be done, but the passion, dedication, and relentlessness of Hope For The Hills made the difference. As Michael Peevey said at the conclusion of yesterdays CPUC voting meeting – “This is a victory for the people”. Katy, thank you very much for bringing attention to this issue…. it was people like you that helped us along the way that made this possible. Nice side benefits too…. everyone at Hope For The Hills made many new friends, it really brought a core group of people together in the community. Special thanks also to Joanne Genis, Bob, and Chrisanne Goodwin for their leadership and time devotion to carry us to the end.

    Reply this comment
  7. Al Matta
    Al Matta 12 July, 2013, 12:24

    Thank you Katy and the CalWatchdog for your concern and support.

    Sincerely,
    Al Matta

    Reply this comment
  8. Debbie Dean
    Debbie Dean 12 July, 2013, 17:28

    Katy-
    Thank you for fighting our fight and getting the “word” out there. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us and will never be able to thank you enough.

    Reply this comment
  9. Robbie Joshua
    Robbie Joshua 12 July, 2013, 17:41

    Katy
    Thank you for supporting us and bringing publicity to this fight. We are eternally grateful and cannot thank you enough.
    Robbie Joshua
    Chino Hills Resident and proud member of Hope for the Hills

    Reply this comment
  10. Kristina Weber
    Kristina Weber 12 July, 2013, 18:36

    Congratulations!

    Reply this comment
  11. Hondo
    Hondo 13 July, 2013, 08:01

    These Chino residents should shut up for they voted for the people and the policies that ended up erecting those towers in their yards. If they want the lights to turn on, you have to have electricity.
    Hondo…..

    Reply this comment
  12. John Galt
    John Galt 13 July, 2013, 10:02

    Excellent job showing the CPUC who’s boss. The Tehachapi windmill project is nothing more than an extremely expensive Democrat Party political-crony-funding project. Economics are falsely driven by he state government’s mandate to increase so called “green” power production while the same body terminates natural gas and nuclear power production which is much less expensive. Unfortunate for SCE customers since someone will; have to eat the failed above ground high voltage fiasco. Nice one Jill.

    Reply this comment
  13. Debra Holgate
    Debra Holgate 13 July, 2013, 13:42

    Thank you Katy and all those involved (the entire HFTH team) that fought so hard for the safety and well being of not only those who live in Chino Hills but also the residents of other cities who may may face similar threats in the future. Hopefully Chino Hills will serve as a precedent. You all have my deepest gratitude.

    Reply this comment
  14. Gayle Reisinger
    Gayle Reisinger 13 July, 2013, 21:35

    I will never forget the Christmas night my daughter & I drove around Chino Hills looking at Christmas lights with houses all decorated for Christmas, and these huge enormous towers butted up right next to homes with families and children. It was overwhelming. I thought to myself, who in the world planned and designed such a horrible path through the beautiful hillsides of our community, with total disregard to the people who live there. I have been a resident of Chino Hills since 1999 and am so proud of the time, effort and passion of the citizens of this city. The rallies, demonstrations, unity and relentless energy of the residents has been amazing. I am so happy for this ruling. Thank goodness that citizens’ voices can still be heard!!! Good one, Chino Hills!

    Reply this comment
  15. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 14 July, 2013, 20:31

    What came first EASEMENTS or houses…eh?

    If utility easements were used by utilities….nowhere would be pretty….check your title plat map….YOUR NEXT!

    Reply this comment
  16. Irene
    Irene 15 July, 2013, 11:38

    Katy,
    You were with us from the moment the towers went up and now you’ll be with us for when they come down. So happy God placed you in our path. You helped & supported when others did not because YOU knew it was wrong. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!

    Reply this comment
  17. Victoria Bartoli
    Victoria Bartoli 17 July, 2013, 18:38

    We have the same exact problem here in the small city of Duarte. We are a much smaller city without the financial resources that Chino Hills had. We attended city meetings we thought Edison to the nail. Edison told all of us residents we had no choice and to live with it. No one out of the entire block is the fax has been compensated, And again we’ve all been told just to live with it. We are about 160 feet away from the 250 foot tower. Two doors that they are a mere 40 feet from the tower. Our cities mayor and city manager had several meetings with Edison, Unfortunately with Edison deep pockets we were no competition. Our small city simply had no money to defend such an empire. And back in 2009 and 2010 the CPUC Did not support the removal of these monsters. Hopefully with the progress Chino Hills made, It will assist us in fighting Edison once again. I am going to make efforts Again to reach out to our city government, And the CPUC regarding our similar situation. If the CPC did this for Chino Hills they no doubt will do this for us.. I would really like for you to contact me and arrange to see our neighborhood disaster!! Thank you for your time! Victoria

    Reply this comment
  18. Victoria Bartoli
    Victoria Bartoli 17 July, 2013, 18:42

    Sorry for the grammar errors… iPhone’!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  19. patrick gregg
    patrick gregg 22 September, 2014, 13:17

    This past Saturday(9/20/14)a group of Duarte’s concerned citizens, me among them, got together to discuss the issue of what to do in order to deal with SCE and its intrusive towers that have been erected in our residential neighborhood.
    Rather than cite any of the specific outrage I heard expressed at that meeting, I can safely say, none of my fellow neighbors are very happy with the notion that they must now coexist with Edison’s monster towers, high voltage wiring and all the other negative aspects those eyesores bring with them.
    On October 11th 2014 another meeting is planned for 9 A.M. at Royal Oak Park in Duarte. If it is possible, it would be of great benefit to our movement to be able to learn first hand how you folks in Chino Hills spit in the eye of the devil and came away victorious.
    Thank you…..Patrick Gregg

    Reply this comment
  20. Liz Ceja
    Liz Ceja 7 October, 2014, 16:12

    This is powerful in that it really demonstrates how community members, everyday parents, children, neighbors, and students, can stimulate change in their own community. Given the success of Chino Hills, I have no doubt that the other surrounding communities that ARE STILL WAGING A BATTLE can succeed in also working out alternative strategies that allow both for respect for public demands, while paving way to collect energy.

    I would love to talk more to the journalist on this issue, and try to find out more about the organization in Chino Hills.

    All the best,

    Liz

    Reply this comment

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