Aspen prepared a fast-track EIR for Segments 2 and 3 of Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) Antelope Transmission Project, which was later incorporated into SCE’s Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. The project included the construction of two new high-voltage transmission lines to serve future wind energy development in the Tehachapi and Mojave areas of Kern County. The project consisted of Segment 2 (the Antelope-Vincent 500-kV transmission line) and Segment 3 (the Antelope-Tehachapi 500-kV and 220-kV transmission lines), resulting in a total 56.8 miles of new transmission lines traversing portions of Kern and Los Angeles Counties in the Antelope Valley. The project also included the construction of two new substations (Windhub and Highwind) in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.
The EIR was prepared on an accelerated schedule in order help meet State-mandated goals for the delivery of renewable energy to meet electrical demand as part of California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). The initial RPS goal was for investor-owned utilities to provide 20 percent of electrical energy from renewable sources by 2010. Development of additional transmission capacity to access wind energy potential in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area became a priority as a means to meet the 2010 RPS goal. Segments 2 and 3 would provide the transmission capacity to integrate 350 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy into the electrical grid. Segment 1, which was initiated shortly before Segments 2 and 3, would provide transmission capacity for another 350 MW (Aspen prepared a separate EIR/EIS for Segment 1, also referred to as the Antelope-Pardee Transmission Project). Due to the priority placed on getting Segments 2 and 3 built, Aspen prepared a full scope Draft EIR only 3½ months after issuing the Notice of Preparation.
The project garnered substantial public interest and was highly controversial in several of the communities traversed by the transmission lines. Issues of public concern included: land needed for ROW acquisition; visual impacts on rural communities; impacts on ongoing development projects along alternative corridors, including schools; impacts on site layouts for planned wind energy projects; and EMF and property value impacts. Aspen organized and conducted an extensive public outreach program for the project, including scoping meetings, Draft EIR workshops, public meetings with local agencies and groups, maintenance of a project website, and mailing of notices to property owners, interested parties, and local jurisdictions along the proposed transmission corridors.
After project approval, Aspen’s monitoring staff monitored construction on behalf of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and assisted the CPUC in addressing and resolving issues associated with mitigation implementation that arose in the field.