U.S. High Court Denies Sunrise Powerlink Review

By Published On: January 22, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court January 20 refused to hear a case on appeal that upheld California’s first right of approval for transmission projects and conversely denied utilities the ability to move to a federal arena when state regulators deny siting requests. Sunrise Powerlink opponents hope the judiciary will invalidate the proposed 500 kV transmission line. Sunrise challengers are “waiting on the Court of Appeals to rule on our petition” to cancel state approval, Michael Shames, executive director, Utility Consumers’ Action Network, said. “There’s not much we can do until then.” UCAN was one of the plaintiffs. The other was the Center for Biological Diversity. They sued over the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval of San Diego Gas & Electric’s $2 billion transmission project. The plaintiffs claim state regulators failed to consider other options for the proposed line, which is set to bring power from Eastern California to San Diego (Circuit, Aug. 14, 2009). The Supreme Court is the “only body” that can hear complaints with a base in the California Environmental Quality Act, according to Shames. Opponents’ also contend that developer San Diego Gas & Electric didn’t take greenhouse gas emissions into account when considering the proposed 150- mile long project. The original decision was from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia. It denied the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the ability to easily take over transmission siting when state agencies refused to permit new lines. The pending suit in the Court of Appeals in San Diego challenges the CPUC’s process in siting Sunrise Powerlink. “The outstanding appeals cover the CPUC’s decision not to rehear the case,” explained SDG&E spokesperson Jennifer Briscoe. SDG&E was not concerned about the U.S. Supreme Court decision related to Sunrise because it “never exercised the right to go for federal backstop authority,’ said Briscoe. Backstop authority is what FERC planned to speed transmission siting if states do not act within a year of a developer filing for siting. SDG&E remains “on target to begin construction in June,” she added. “We’re only waiting on the U.S. Forest Service’s approval on 19 miles of land through Cleveland National Forest” which the line would cross.

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