PG&E proposes to construct, operate, and maintain the C3ET Project. According to PG&E, this project would serve four key objectives:
- to enhance transmission reliability in the Fresno and Yosemite areas by increasing transmission capability in the local area;
- to allow for efficient use of renewable, off-peak (nighttime) generation to support pumping at the Helms Pumped Storage Plant, which would allow Helms to use the stored water to generate and provide power during the high demand (daytime) periods to enhance system reliability;
- to facilitate efficient management of renewable resources through increasing capability to transport clean, renewable electricity from planned generating facilities in Southern California;
- to increase reliability of the electric transmission grid by increasing transfer capability and relieving congestion on the existing Path 15.
PG&E's proposed C3ET Project would involve the construction of a single 500 kV transmission tower line with two installed 3-phase circuits. The tower line would begin west of Bakersfield near Buttonwillow and would end at the existing PG&E Gregg Substation or at a new substation in the foothills to the northeast of Fresno. In order for the C3ET Project to be built, PG&E must first obtain approvals from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and then CPUC. The CAISO is a not-for-profit public benefit corporation that manages the state's electric grid.
An application for the C3ET Project has yet to be submitted to the CPUC. The proposed project is currently in the CAISO transmission planning and review process. If the project is approved by the CAISO, PG&E will then submit an application to the CPUC. At that time, the proposed project will enter into the CPUC siting and environmental review process. An application is anticipated to be submitted to the CPUC in mid-2010.
CAISO Review Update: On October 17, 2008, the CAISO published the C3ET Project Draft Preliminary Study Report, which is currently under review. The next step in the CAISO review process is the publication of the Final Study Report, which will include both a reliability and economic assessment, as described below:
- Reliability Assessment - determines necessary system upgrades to meet reliability criteria, and
- Economic Assessment - quantifies the project's economic benefits in dollar numbers. These economic benefits are evaluated from the perspective of CAISO rate payers. The benefits are weighed with the project costs to determine which alternative is most cost-effective.
Open House - December 2008: The CPUC, in partnership with the CAISO, held an open house on December 9, 2008 from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel at 3737 North Blackstone Avenue, Fresno, CA. The focus of this open house was to provide information on the CPUC's CPCN and environmental review process anticipated for the C3ET Project. Information presented at the open house is included below.
CPUC Review Process
Because the C3ET Project is over 200kV, PG&E must receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the CPUC. Along with the application, PG&E will also file a Proponent's Environmental Assessment (PEA) that describes the project and its potential environmental impacts. The filing of the C3ET Project application and PEA for a CPCN with the CPUC will trigger the start of two concurrent and parallel review processes:
- Review of project need and costs pursuant to Public Utilities Code sections 1001 et seq. and General Order (G.O.) 131-D; (CPCN process), and
- Environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Project Need/Costs Review - CPCN Process
The CPUC's CPCN process analyzes the need for the project and the costs of the project as well as considers environmental impacts of the project analyzed under the CEQA Process (see below).
Environmental Review - CEQA Process
As the state agency with the authority to certify PG&E's C3ET Project, the CPUC will carry out the environmental review/public participation process mandated under CEQA to identify, evaluate, and mitigate the possible impacts of the project on the environment. The review conducted by the CPUC will be an independent and unbiased environmental analysis of the various project alternatives available for implementation, culminating in the identification and recommendation of an "environmentally superior project alternative."
Public Scoping and Workshops - At an early point in the process, the CPUC will hold a series of public scoping meetings in the project area to facilitate public input and solicit the community's comments and recommendations regarding the proposed project. The CPUC will also consult with various local, State, and federal agencies to determine their concerns and encourage their involvement in the project development process.
Draft EIR - Based on the public comments and information collected from the scoping meetings and in-the-field environmental studies, the CPUC will prepare an analysis known as a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The DEIR will identify the "environmentally superior" alternative from the range of project alternatives previously evaluated.
Public Meetings and Comments on Draft EIR - Upon publication, the DEIR will be circulated to the public for 45 days for review and comment. During this period, the CPUC will once again hold several community meetings in the project area to solicit public comments with regard the adequacy of the DEIR.
Final EIR - Comments from the public will then be addressed and incorporated into a document known as a Final EIR (FEIR). The document will then be forwarded to a CPUC Administrative Law Judge, who will incorporate the major findings and mitigation measures identified in the FEIR, into a draft CPUC decision. The draft decision will then be circulated for 30 days to all parties to the proceeding. Commissioners of the CPUC will then vote on the proposed decision in a public meeting. An alternative decision which approves an alternate route evaluated in the EIR may also be prepared by a Commissioner.
To view more detailed information on the CPUC review process, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the roles of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on the Proposed Project?
- The CAISO's role in transmission planning is to determine if the project is needed to improve reliability and/or provide economic benefit. The CAISO does not determine or evaluate routing or siting.
- The CPUC is the lead regulatory agency, conducting the environmental review as well as the ultimate decision-maker for approving the route for the proposed project.
For more information on the CAISO process, click here.
For more information on the CPUC process, click here.
How can I get involved in the CAISO's process?
When are the opportunities to comment during the CPUC review process?
- Check the CAISO calendars for upcoming events, click here
- Participate in stakeholder meetings and conference calls
- Send written comments and/or sign up for the CAISO Market Participation email distribution list at: Regionaltransmission@caiso.com
CPCN Process - The review of project need and costs is administered by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and is subject to compliance with the CPUC's Rules of Practice and Procedure. Participation in the review of the project need and costs is limited to official parties. To become a party, one must submit a formal protest within 30 days after the filing of the CPCN application.
CEQA/Environmental Review Process - The environmental review process is administered by CPUC staff, and invites broad public participation through scoping meeting(s), public comment meeting(s), and written comment periods. A more detailed description of each review process is described above. Participation opportunities include:
- Accept written comments on the application, the scope of the CPUC's EIR, and the Draft EIR once it is complete.
- Conduct public hearings, both during the scoping and review of the CPUC's Draft EIR.
- Present, and accept public comment on, findings and a recommended alternative in a report on the environmental impacts.
- Present, and accept party comment on, a final decision on the route for the project.
These two review processes converge at the conclusion of the environmental review when the CPUC staff submits its final report into the formal proceeding. Based on the information generated during both the environmental review process and the formal process of determining need and costs, the CPUC may approve the utility's proposed project, an alternate project, or no project.
How long does the CPUC's process take?
In general, it takes around 18 months for the CPUC to approve a transmission line, but approval of lines that are particularly contentious can take longer. Because the C3ET Project will require the preparation of an EIR, it will be difficult to approve the project much faster than this while remaining in compliance with CEQA and the other statutory requirements.
For Additional Information
The CPUC, through its Environmental Review Team, is managing the environmental review of the project. To request additional information or to be added to the mailing list, please contact us by email, fax, or phone, as follows:
Mr. Iain Fisher
c/o Environmental Science Associates
225 Bush Street, Suite 1700
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 962-8420
Fax: (415) 896-0332