Goodin MacBride Obtains Unprecedented Win for City of Chino Hills, Requiring Undergrounding of 3.5 mile Segment of SCE’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project

July 17, 2013

Goodin Macbride Administrative Law Blog

In a stunning conclusion to six years of litigation, Goodin MacBride secured an unprecedented victory for the City of Chino Hills when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-2 on July 11th to grant Chino Hills’ Petition for Modification and require the undergrounding of a 3.5 mile segment of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP). This decision reverses a 2009 decision by the CPUC that allowed Southern California Edison (SCE) to place 200 foot tall 500 kV transmission towers through the center of the community in a right of way only 150 feet wide.

Lead counsel Michael Day, partner Jeanne Armstrong, and associate Megan Somogyi represented the City of Chino Hills in the complex administrative and environmental proceeding, opposed by a far larger legal team from SCE and its outside counsel, Latham & Watkins. The case centered on extensive expert testimony regarding the engineering, environmental impact, and cost of the competing transmission designs, as well as complex transmission planning and generation dispatch modeling necessary to assure that the proposed underground transmission cable would have sufficient capacity to transmit large quantities of new renewable energy to SCE’s customers.

Goodin MacBride had appealed the 2009 decision authorizing the 500 kV overhead towers, which was still pending when the firm filed an additional Petition for Modification after the commencement of tower construction revealed the full extent of the towers’ oppressive impact on the densely populated residential community. After initial efforts at settlement and mediation, the parties reverted to a litigation schedule that required rapid development of an extensive evidentiary record and an expedited hearing process designed to allow the project to commence construction immediately following the CPUC’s vote on July 11, 2013.

The Decision will require SCE to build the first 500kV underground cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) cable in the United States, and is the first decision to order the removal of already constructed 500 kV towers from a community. The City of Chino Hills and its residents conducted a remarkable fight against the SCE project, funding the development of multiple alternative routes for the transmission line, and keeping the issue alive until a new set of CPUC Commissioners was willing to take a fresh look at the earlier controversial decision.

Mr. Day directed both the administrative litigation, and the advocacy at the Commission on behalf of Chino Hills, eventually securing the votes of a majority of the Commissioners. Mr. Day served as a senior attorney, Deputy General Counsel, and Acting General Counsel at the CPUC prior to returning to private practice in 1991. He became a partner at Goodin MacBride in 1998, joining several former CPUC colleagues to create one of the most respected energy and telecommunications regulatory firms in California.