June 25--THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- About 60 people attended a state Public Utilities Commission meeting this week on a draft environmental impact report for Southern California Edison's proposed 9-mile transmission line from Moorpark to Newbury Park.
Their mood was largely skeptical and testy.
Most of those who showed up Wednesday night at the Palm Garden Hotel in Thousand Oaks oppose the 66,000-volt project on environmental, fire and health grounds.
They made it clear that they think the commission, which will ultimately approve or reject the project, is biased in favor of Edison. They cited the commission initially exempting the project from California Environmental Quality Act review.
"There is no need for the project," Peggy Ludington, one of the project's leading opponents, said during public comments Wednesday. "And the process has been corrupted by inexplicable collusion between Edison and watchdog agency CPUC."
The commission's project manager, Mike Rosauer, denied the allegation.
"I'm not aware of any collusion, no," he said in an interview. "As a staff person on the project, we work in good faith and we follow a public process to the T and we take our guidance from our legal division."
He denied he is biased in favor of Edison, which says the project would meet customers' power needs in portions of Thousand Oaks and adjacent unincorporated areas.
"I'm biased in favor of a robust CEQA process," he said. "We conduct an unbiased CEQA evaluation."
Edison representatives were not at the meeting. An Edison spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Ludington, a former attorney who lives in the Santa Rosa Valley, called on Rosauer to recuse himself from the CEQA process to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Rosauer said such a move would not be up to him.
"If it's the decision of my management that I should recuse myself, then I will do that," he said.
A few of the approximately 20 speakers at the meeting, including Jill Lederer, president and CEO of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, said they favored the project.
"Power outages cause businesses to lose money," she said. "If the power supply to Thousand Oaks or any other community becomes unreliable, it will be difficult to continue to attract businesses and the jobs they provide."
At times, the meeting became raucous, with audience members interrupting Rosauer and commission environmental consultant Matt Fagundes with sharply worded questions and laughing at some of their statements.
"How many Edison projects of this size have been rejected by the PUC?" a man asked Rosauer.
"Some have," he replied.
Edison proposed the line, to run on power poles from its Moorpark to Newbury Park substations, in 2005, according to the commission. In 2010, at Edison's request, the commission granted the project the CEQA exemption.
Edison then began construction.
In November 2011, at the behest of a petition filed by Ludington and several other residents, the commission ordered Edison to halt construction and file a construction-permit application to complete the project.
By then, about 60 percent of it had been built. The remaining 40 percent is subject to a CEQA review.
The draft report found the project would have significant impacts, even with mitigation, on air quality and noise. It would have less-than-significant impacts in a number of areas, including population, housing, transportation, traffic and water quality, the draft found.
The commission will publish a final EIR around October and issue its decision on the project perhaps early next year.
The draft EIR can be found at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/info/esa/moorpark_newbury/deir_toc.html.
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