Priority Campaign Update
Keep powerlines out of our parks
The Transmission Authority of Northern California (TANC) has proposed a system of new high-power, large-tower transmission lines stretching from Santa Clara to northern Lassen County. The proposed route alternatives slice indiscriminately through wetlands, forests, agricultural lands, and regional parks, and over people's homes and through rural communities.
TANC is a joint-powers agency made up of 15 municipal power companies. Four are currently participating in this project: the cities of Santa Clara and Redding and the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Their federal partner is the Western Area Power Administration. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District was a participant, but on July 1 it announced its withdrawal.
The municipal entities and TANC are governmental energy providers, but TANC's office is actually a room in the offices of Navigant Consulting Inc., and all but one of TANC's staff are Navigant employees. Navigant is very much a for-profit business. That is not necessarily bad, but it needs to be clearly disclosed - since TANC and Navigant initiate the environmental process, certify the Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S), build the project - with eminent-domain powers when needed - and then operate it. The California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission have no regulatory authority over this project. (Navigant is deeply involved in the energy business, and is a consultant for the Community Choice Aggregation efforts in Marin, San Francisco, and the East Bay.)
The stated reasons for the TANC project are to increase transmission capacity between the northwest and southwest portions of the country, to increase system reliability, and to provide transmission capacity from new renewable-energy sources in Lassen County.
The California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, however, which has worked to evaluate opportunities for generating and transmitting renewable energy throughout the state and in the Lassen Renewable Energy Zone in particular, has given TANC's project a low rating and warned that it has potentially high environmental impacts.
Despite the serious shortcomings of the TANC project and the rather callous manner in which it has been rolled out, the environmental community must seriously and fairly evaluate it as a potential renewable-energy project.
Global warming is an overriding consideration. We need more local solar on roof tops, more distributed wind- and solar-power facilities close to urban areas, and more transmission capacity to bring energy from other locations where renewable energy is most viable. That need, however, must not be an excuse to raze our environment, agricultural lands, homes, and rural communities. The EIR/S for this project must therefore be prepared with special care.
Several key environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, have adopted Key Principals: Balancing Renewable Energy Development and Land Conservation in a Warming World. They provide excellent guidance for evaluating energy projects and transmission.
On June 29 Sen. Lois Wolk amended Senate Bill 460 to address transmission lines. SB 460 would now require local publicly owned electric utilities to coordinate with the California Independent System Operator when planning to build new electric transmission lines.
The scoping period for the EIR/S ends on July 30. During this period the public is invited to send in comments about what should be studied in the EIR/S. Write to:
David Young, NEPA Document Manager
Western Area Power Administration, Sierra Nevada Region
114 Parkshore Drive
Folsom, CA 95630
TTPEIS -at- wapa.gov
Send a copy of your comments to:
Mayor Patricia M. Mahan and City Council
City of Santa Clara
1500 Warburton Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Urge TANC to fully study and to give preference to routes that use existing rights-of-way and that avoid parks.
To learn more about the TANC powerline project, visit www.tuleyome.org
Tuleyome is a conservation organization based in Woodland, and its web site includes a list of other sites with more information.