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By Allison Jarrell
The California Public Utilities Commission published its decision on Oct. 3 to deny the city of San Juan Capistrano’s request for a rehearing on the approval of San Diego Gas & Electric’s substation expansion in town.
The announcement came after the CPUC discussed the city’s request during its closed session meeting on Sept. 28.
“We have considered all of the arguments raised in the applications for rehearing, and find that good cause has not been demonstrated to grant rehearing,” the CPUC wrote in its 40-page decision.
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 in San Juan. The project aims to create a redundant electrical system that would rely on two substations rather than just the current facility in Talega.
In addition to denying the rehearing and stay requests, the commission clarified its reasoning for approving the substation expansion back in December. (To view the commission’s point-by-point response to the city’s request, click here.)
The CPUC added that the city’s request for a stay of the construction of the project was also denied as moot, since it was reliant on the commission’s approval of a rehearing.
City officials said Tuesday that the city’s legal team was reviewing the decision and would brief the City Council during its closed session meeting later that day.
Duane Cave, SDG&E external relations manager, confirmed in an interview last month that some work has already begun at the project site. Cave said the work 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.