For Immediate Release, March 17, 2009
John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Gene Frick, Sierra Club Santa Ana Mountains Task Force/ Friends of the Forest (Trabuco District) and the Santa Rosa Plateau, (951) 689-2283
Public Utilities Commission Set to Issue Third Strike
Against Transmission Line for LEAPS Project
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif.— A California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge yesterday issued a draft decision that would send a controversial power line proposed to run through the Cleveland National Forest back to the starting point.
The draft decision dismisses the Nevada Hydro Company’s application for the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano (TE/VS) 500-Kilovolt Interconnect Project. In addition to linking portions of the electrical power grid in Southern California, the TE/VS project would connect the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) project to the grid through an approximately 30-mile route, mostly within the Trabuco District of the Cleveland National Forest. This route covers sensitive and fire-prone portions of the forest and would preclude the expansion of an existing wilderness area to protect near-pristine oak woodland and riparian areas.
The LEAPS project, proposed by Nevada Hydro and the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, would operate by pumping water during off-peak times from Lake Elsinore to a new reservoir that would be constructed in the Cleveland National Forest, then releasing the water to generate power during times of peak demand. Earlier this month, a Riverside County grand jury report found that the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District ignored its own consultants’ conclusion that the LEAPS project is not economically viable.
Nevada Hydro originally submitted an application to the Public Utilities Commission for the TE/VS project in October 2007. Between the original application and February 2009, Nevada Hydro submitted no fewer than four environmental assessments for the project. The Commission rejected each of these as incomplete and inadequate. The Commission’s March 16 proposed decision dismisses the TE/VS application because the project’s environmental assessment is still incomplete and inadequate.
“Nevada Hydro has repeatedly failed to deliver the information about this project’s environmental effects that we, and the Public Utilities Commission, have asked for,” said John Buse, senior staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center, the Santa Ana Mountains Task Force of the Sierra Club, and the Friends of the Forest (Trabuco District) and the Santa Rosa Plateau filed a protest of Nevada Hydro’s application and are parties to the Public Utilities Commission proceeding.
The Public Utilities Commission will be asked to affirm the proposed ruling during an upcoming meeting. If the ruling is affirmed, Nevada Hydro could re-apply for the project, but it would need to start the application and environmental review process over.
“If Nevada Hydro wants to press on before the Public Utilities Commission, they would be back at square zero,” said Gene Frick of the Friends of the Forest. “We hope the Public Utilities Commission will affirm this ruling and put an end to Nevada Hydro’s boondoggle, which has done little but waste the Commission’s time and the taxpayers’ money.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.