Thanks to the work of the Center and allies, California regulators in March 2014 rejected a controversial power-line project proposed in Southern California and instead approved a scaled-down proposal to upgrade existing substations.
The Presidential Substation Project — named after the neighboring Ronald Reagan Presidential Library — would have been a costly, unnecessary energy development that further fragmented a patchwork of wildlife preserves and open space in Southern California's Tierra Rejada Valley. It proposed a new energy substation and new power lines to cut across an important wildlife corridor, critical habitat for numerous rare and endangered species, and the Tierra Rejada greenbelt. Straddling the area between Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Simi Valley in Ventura County, the greenbelt is now the last remaining open space that prevents these three sprawling cities from merging together and squeezing out wildlife.
Through habitat destruction and industrial development, the Presidential Project threatened a key wildlife linkage that connects the Santa Monica Mountains to the south with inland ranges and the Santa Clara River to the north. Wildlife linkages are an essential part of the web that protects wildlife and connects our open spaces. Without these essential corridors, wildlife would be prevented from finding the room it needs to roam for food, flee from disaster events such as floods or wildfires, and reproduce. The more we fragment open-space protections and wildlife linkages, the more tenuous rare species' existence becomes.
The Presidential Project was designed to cut through federally protected critical habitat for three of the rarest species in Southern California: the diminutive coastal California gnatcatcher, the ephemeral Riverside fairy shrimp and the yellow-flowering Lyon's pentachaeta.
Fortunately there are less environmentally destructive and expensive methods to provide for long-term power in Southern California. Less costly and destructive substation upgrades were developed and analyzed during environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, and ultimately the California Public Utilities Commission rejected the Presidential Substation Project, finding that “projected load growth has declined compared to the prior projections.” Instead the commission approved “System Alternative A,” which upgraded two existing substations with higher-capacity equipment and additional circuits.
By choosing the environmentally superior solution, the California Public Utilities Commission avoided the harms that conservation groups and local communities had flagged and reduced project costs.
Over several years the Center formally protested the Presidential Substation Project, submitted comments and testimony on the deficiencies in the review process for the project, and filed a formal statement with the California Public Utilities Commission urging better review and improved alternatives. We sent in repeated requests for Southern California Edison to release information related to the project to shine light on the public process, and those requests revealed that energy use in the area had actually decreased, contrary to statements by Southern California Edison, meaning expensive and destructive upgrades weren't even needed. Last, but not least, we worked with in partnership with STTOP — the Sub-Transmission Towers Opposition Project — to find better alternatives to the project.
We succeeding in advocating for sustainable energy solutions that don't sacrifice wildlife by assuring the environmental and project review process conformed to the law, and forced the adoption of an environmentally superior alternative to the Presidential Substation Project.