Jefferson-Martin Track Record Raises CEC Member?s Ire

By Published On: June 19, 2004

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on Pacific Gas & Electric?s proposed Jefferson-Martin transmission project July 8. Filed with the CPUC nearly two years ago, in September 2002, the project has been widely viewed as a crucial way to bolster San Francisco?s overloaded grid and key to the closure of PG&E?s circa-1929 Hunters Point power plant. Jefferson-Martin?s time line is ?not unusual,? according to Paul Moreno, PG&E spokesperson. He noted that transmission projects face citizen opposition on land use and have state-mandated environmental review. The project is on track, he added, though PG&E has not determined an on-line date for a portion of the draft plan?s selected route. But John Geesman, California Energy Commission member, begged to differ. There?s a need to ?prioritize these projects for much faster but thorough siting and bring them to a final decision within a year after they have been filed,? Geesman said. The ?most painful thing is that [Jefferson-Martin] is not the most egregious example? of faulty prioritizing, he charged. ?The state is littered with much worse examples.? Geesman cited San Diego Gas & Electric?s stalled Miguel-Mission upgrade as another project that has taken years to proceed at the CPUC. The pace of review for Jefferson-Martin underscores the need for the CEC to take over jurisdiction for transmission planning, said Geesman, reiterating a position voiced by his fellow commissioners. Geesman asserts the CEC would offer a ?one-stop permitting process.? This month, Jefferson-Martin assigned commissioner Loretta Lynch ordered a study of routes that proponents say could mitigate health risks caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) surrounding power lines. Lynch held that the project?s environmental impact report did not fully scrutinize these routes because it did not consider EMF exposure. PG&E?s Moreno said he didn?t know whether Lynch?s move for further study could delay approval of the project but stressed that the EIR required ?exhaustive? review of myriad issues. The project entails a new 27-mile, 230 kV line running on a hybrid underground-overground route between the Jefferson and Martin substations from San Mateo County to San Francisco. The plan?s tentative construction cost cap is $207 million.

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