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Lake Elsinore transmission line takes another hit from California Public Utilities Commission

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. 5/30/12 (PennWell) -- The California Public Utilities Commission has voted unanimously against a 500-MW transmission line that would have distributed power from a pumped-storage plant in San Juan Creek in Riverside County.

California judge Angela Minkin dismissed developer Nevada Hydro Co.'s application April 18, giving the company 30 days to file comments with the commission.

The commission voted 5-0 against the project at its meeting May 24, however, formally blocking the transmission line from advancing.

After this latest denial by the California Public Utilities Commission, Nevada Hydro would have to file another application should it want to pursue the project.

The transmission line, part of the 600-MW Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped-Storage (LEAPS) project, would have crossed the Cleveland National Forest and has been rejected by other agencies in the 14 years since Nevada Hydro first proposed the project.

As planned, a dam and upper reservoir would be built on San Juan Creek, utilizing the existing Lake Elsinore as its lower reservoir. A 32-mile transmission line would then be built, connecting an existing Southern California Edison transmission line to the north and an existing San Diego Gas & Electric transmission line to the south.

HydroWorld.com reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) backed the project in its final environmental impact statement that was issued in February 2007 after determining that the project qualified as an "advanced transmission technology," per the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

LEAPS seemed to be progressing and Nevada Hydro had gained several investors -- including Morgan Stanly Commodities, which had agreed to serve as principal financier -- before the project was denied certification under California's Clean Water Act in November 2011.

FERC then dismissed the application to license in August 2011, saying that ideological disagreements between Nevada Hydro and co-licensee Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District would make it difficult for the operators to comply with the terms of the license.

"During the course of the proceeding, it has become apparent that Nevada Hydro's primary interest is developing the LEAPS project's transmission line, which it ultimately hopes to use to transport electric power between the systems of major California utilities, rather than building a pumped-storage project and its associated transmission lines," the FERC order said. "Elsinore Valley, on the other hand, wants to develop a pumped-storage project as proposed and improve the water quality of Lake Elsinore through the operation of that project."

Nevada Hydro appealed the decision, but FERC announced in November 2011 that the company would not receive a rehearing, citing an "ill-defined strategy" as the primary cause.

The company then submitted a new preliminary permit application to FERC later that month.


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