Rep. Ed Royce, R-Brea, and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, joined Mayor Peter Rogers before an audience of about 140 residents on Saturday at City Hall. Many of those who attended the gathering have opposed Edison's plans for the past several years.
"I don't think Edison understood the kind of fight they'd get from a little city like this," Rogers said.
An administrative law judge is scheduled to issue a recommendation on June 11 as to whether Edison should build the towers as planned, or whether the utility should bow to residents' insistence that power lines be built underground instead.
The judge's recommendation would open a 30-day public comment period during which both sides to the controversy will be able to make their final arguments to the California Public Utilities Commission. "The bottom line is, July 11th, we'll make our case for undergrounding it," Royce said.
Hagman encouraged residents to undertake a letter-writing campaign to make their concerns clear to utilities commissioners and Royce recommended that those at the meeting hire a bus to attend the decisive commission meeting in San Francisco.
Edison's plans are to build power lines spanning between nearly 200-foot tall towers through the city. The power lines would be part of the utility's Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which would carry wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin.
Residents and their allies say Edison's power lines would be too close to homes and that proximity would lead to health and safety risks while reducing homeowners' property values. Residents who have organized themselves in a group called Hope for the Hills are instead demanding that Edison build 3.5 miles of stretch of the power lines underground.
Edison has responded that residents' demand for underground power lines would be too expensive. The utility projects a $2.1 billion cost for the entire Tehachapi project. If the Chino Hills portion is built underground, the utility has said that 3.5-mile stretch of the 225-mile project would cost $893 million.
The utility's projected cost to continue with the approved above-ground route is about $170 million.
"I think the protest is interesting, but I think the fact that the issue now is there are 250 households along 3.5-miles that want these towers undergrounded but there are 12 million people in California from Mount Shasta to San Diego who are going to have to split the bill," Edison spokeswoman Kit Cole said earlier this month.
Bob Goodwin, president of Hope for the Hills, said the residents' group has looked at Edison's projections and believes they are so bloated with administrative costs and other extraneous expenses that the real cost could be about half of which the utility has claimed.
The residents' group also asserts that if Edison were ordered to build the lines underground, the added expense would amount to a monthly 15-cent increase on electricity bills for California ratepayers over the next 20 years.