By Allison Jarrell
City officials announced on Sept. 19 that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is set to consider San Juan Capistrano’s request for a rehearing of San Diego Gas & Electric’s substation expansion during the commission’s closed session meeting on Sept. 28.
The city filed a lawsuit against the CPUC in federal court on June 23 and requested a rehearing in an effort to continue the fight against SDG&E’s substation expansion adjacent to residential neighborhoods. The CPUC unanimously approved the expansion on Dec. 15, despite an “environmentally superior alternative” that was proposed in 2015. The alternative involved expanding SDG&E’s existing Trabuco substation in Laguna Niguel.
The expansion, which is part of SDG&E’s South Orange County Reliability Enhancement (SOCRE) project, involves rebuilding and upgrading a portion of its transmission infrastructure. The project aims to create a redundant electrical system that would rely on two substations rather than just the current facility in Talega.
City Manager Ben Siegel said on Sept. 20 that the city had received notice that the rehearing item is on the CPUC’s Thursday, Sept. 28, closed session agenda.
Siegel said city staff will be providing the community with talking points and information that residents can use to notify the CPUC of their opposition to the project and “hopefully encourage them to reconsider that decision.”
“This will be one opportunity to voice your opinion,” Siegel said.
Duane Cave, SDG&E external relations manager, confirmed that some work has already begun at the project site. Cave said residents who live within 230 feet of the site were notified last month (30 days in advance) that work would begin at the site in order to “start the clock on the construction of the project.”
Even though the city has sued the CPUC over the approval of the project, Cave said the lawsuit currently has no bearing on the project, and there has been no order for the utility company to cease working.
Cave said the work currently being done does not require permits from the city and includes surveying at the site, soil borings and cleanup inside the old substation building. SDG&E does need permits from the city to begin demolition, grading and construction, which have not yet been granted.
Cave said there is currently no timeline or estimate as to when SDG&E will submit project plans to the city, but once that happens, he anticipates continuing to work with city staff on some of the design specifics before going before city commissions and receiving more input from commissioners and the public.
“If we’re able to, we’ll incorporate those changes into the project,” he said.
Cave said residents interested in learning more about the SOCRE project can visit SDG&E’s office in town, located at 31521 Camino Capistrano, Suite B. The office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.