The plug is officially pulled on a controversial plan to build a multi-billion dollar high-voltage transmission line that would span 600 miles from Lassen County to serve customers in Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Following months of agitated protests from community groups organized across Northern California, including Round Mountain, Glenn County, Capay, Clarksburg, Winters and Davis in Yolo County, Turlock, Modesto and tribal lands of Native Americans, the Transmission Agency of Northern California (TANC) terminated the project. 

The burden of negative impacts and loss of property value affected thousands of people in many communities, yet these communities would not benefit from energy of the line.  Inadequate notification to property owners, cities and counties forced the agency to extend the scoping comment deadline several times.

TANC is a joint powers agency, a consortium of 15 municipal utilities, but only five were participating in the transmission line project (Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Modesto Irrigation District (MID), Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Silicon Valley Power (City of Santa Clara) and Redding Electric).  State mandates to meet renewable energy goals of 20 percent by 2012, and an anticipated boost to 30 percent by 2020, is the primary justification for the project, according to TANC officials.  The scheduled completion was 2014.

Questions of fiscal responsibility arose when a study by the California Energy Commission, called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI), evaluated 30 potential sites for renewable energy and the Lassen County source was ranked virtually at the bottom of the list.  The RETI report also stated it was one of the most costly to build and having the most impact on the environment.  Despite the evidence, TANC steadfastly moved forward with its plans as a frustrated public perceived its comments falling on deaf ears.

Citing uncertainty of plans by the federal government to construct transmission lines, SMUD, with the largest stake in the project at 37 percent, withdrew its support on July 1.  The TID and MID followed suit two weeks later on July 14th.  With financial support severed by three significant partners, the entire project collapsed the following day as TANC general manager Jim Beck announced termination of the project, including engineering and EIR/EIS reports.

And that marked the demise of what many critics called, “The Power Line To Nowhere.”

The reasons behind TANC’s failure:

1.  TANC was not fair, not accepting responsibilities or negative impacts.  It is bad public policy to place lines in communities where there is no access to the energy provided and making these communities bear all of the negative burdens, while the cities that benefit suffer no impacts. 

There are existing rights of way, possibilities of co-location and as much non-densely populated areas in Sacramento where lines could have been placed.  If they truly were alternate routes, why do all 3 run through Yolo County and none through Sacramento?  All of the lines are generally in the same area.

2.  No notification to local governments, or very vague notification, of lines going over city and county owned properties.  No notification to school districts (central 2 was directly across the street from Harper Jr. High in Davis). TANC admitted there was no siting criterion in placing the lines. Such conduct in clouding property owners’ property is outlandish and unnecessary. TANC might have succeeded had it worked with the public and electeds, developed siting criteria and then put out proposed routes.

3.  Lack of integrity with public image of TANC and the TANC/Navigant relationship.  TANC consistently called itself a not-for-profit agency.  But it has just one employee, Jim Beck, and his desk is in the Naviagant offices.  Check the Navigant Web site and you will see that it is a worldwide consulting conglomerate that is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.  It states on its Web site, something to the effect that its foremost goal is “maximizing shareholder interests,” which certainly sounds like a profit-making agenda. 

Maybe there is nothing wrong, as it came to light, but the public perception is that of mistrust. In addition, it is improper for a private business to have eminent domain rights.

Further lack of integrity arose when it came to light that none of TANC’s three main reasons for the lines were borne out by the facts.

A) To obtain renewables – There were none and facts showed that what renewables might be at the beginning of the line, were the most economically costly and most environmentally costly.
B) To relieve congestion – There is none.
C) To improve reliability – The system is already reliable.

The above problems resulted in first SMUD withdrawing, then on Tuesday, Modesto Irrigation and Turlock Irrigation Districts withdrew, and then July 15, TANC voted unanimously to halt the TANC Transmission Project, halt the EIR process and halt all engineering studies.

Written by Nora Shimoda, Journalist, Media Strategist, Davis/Yolo County Ad Hoc Coalition opposing TANC. Stephen N. Cole, President, El Macero Homeowners Association, also contributed to this commentary.