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SMUD tanks TANC

Power line effort loses biggest backer

POSTED July 3, 2009 5:00 p.m.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, once the largest supporter of the Transmission Agency of Northern California’s $1.5 billion plan to install 600 miles of high-voltage electricity transmission lines stretching from Lassen County to Turlock, announced Wednesday they intend to withdraw from the TANC Transmission Project.


“You enter in these long term big projects and, in the scoping and the planning phases, the purpose is to determine the feasibility and the fit for your utility,” said Elisabeth Brinton, a Sacramento Municipal Utility District spokeswoman. “It came to the point where we felt that proceeding at this time was not in the interest of our customers.”


Brinton cited new information and reports, released since the TTP’s inception, which required SMUD to reexamine the value of the natural resources the project connects to. Additionally, Brinton said SMUD had concerns that pending state and federal legislation on renewable energy requirements could impact the District’s need to participate in the TTP.


SMUD initially became involved with the TTP mainly due to a California state requirement that all utilities must source 33 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Lassen County, the northern terminus of the planned TTP route, has been identified by the state as one of the most productive renewable energy regions in Northern California.


SMUD would have paid 35 percent of the final project cost, an estimated $525 million, the most of any utility involved. The utility has already contributed $2 million toward planning the TTP.


The Turlock Irrigation District is now one of just four utilities backing the development, along with the Modesto Irrigation District and the Cities of Redding and Santa Clara. TID was to be responsible for 12 percent of the final costs prior to SMUD’s withdrawal.


“TID will have to reevaluate our role in the project (and) look at all our options,” said TID Public Information Division Manager Michelle Reimers. “TID was not involved in the line running north to Lassen County which SMUD was the major player. TID is only involved in the project with the proposed line running from Tracy to the TID service area.”


TID does not consider access to the Lassen County renewable resources to be a major factor for its participation in the TTP, according to Reimers. Instead, TID was a partner in the development due to a desire to improve the District’s reliability.


“Currently we have only one way to import power to the TID grid,” Reimers said. “This new route would definitely relieve transmission congestion and allow TID to import power another way.


“It would also be connected on the East side of the District rather than the current West side import capability,” Reimers continued. “It takes a long time to build transmission lines and TID needed to think about the future and all the factors associated with it.”


Farmers and homeowners from across Oakdale, Del Rio, and Riverbank who were concerned about that potential future spoke out against the TTP lines set to cut through their property on Tuesday at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting. As SMUD’s withdrawal from the project is likely not to directly affect the TID portion of the TTP, landowners in Northern Stanislaus County could still find their property marred by 500 kV power lines, whose power poles can be 150 feet tall and 200 feet wide.


TTP planners are being forced to take a step back with this most recent news, as TANC has announced that all remaining public outreach meetings in the month of July will postponed. TANC, partner Western Area Power Administration, and other government agencies will meet throughout the month to evaluate the project’s status.


The public scoping process, through which stakeholders can formally submit comments about the project that will be addressed as a part of the environmental impact report, will continue on despite the recent setback.


“TANC believes it is important to keep the ‘public scoping’ period open during this time,” a TANC press release continues. “Allowing the scoping process to proceed will help determine where to put the transmission lines needed to ensure reliable and affordable electric service for the residents and businesses throughout northern California and to expand access to clean energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind energy.”


Comments about the TTP can be left online at www.wapa.gov/transmission/ttp.htm, e-mailed to TTPEIS@wapa.gov or mailed to Mr. David Young, NEPA Document Manager, Western Area Power Administration, 114 Parkshore Dr., Folsom, CA 95630.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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