Citizens for a Safe Paso Robles support EIR-approved route for transmission lines

NORTH COUNTY — Recently, Paso Robles Press reported on a proposed power transmission line that sparked controversy among North County residents. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is seeking approval to construct a new 70 kV transmission line and substation, and residents were speaking out against the original proposed route for the lines. 

This week, Paso Robles Press received an update and statement from PG&E on the proposed project. The original story, “Transmission Line Proposal: What is it and why are residents fighting against it?” published on June 22, can be found here

The project, known as the Estrella Substation and Paso Robles Reinforcement Project, aims to enhance power reliability for residents from Paso Robles to Santa Margarita. It includes upgrades to the existing Estrella Substation and the connection of various transmission lines, creating more reliability between the Templeton, San Miguel, and Paso Robles substations. 

2023 PGE Proposed Alternatives Map
The organization City for a Safe Paso Robles has opposed the original transmission line route proposed by PG&E (marked in light blue), but prefers the less-direct route (in green) recommended by the EIR. Contributed Map

To voice their opposition, the community has formed an organization, “Citizens for a Safe Paso Robles,” with former State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham working as a spokesman for the organization through his CM Public Affairs. 

CM Public Affairs partner Nick Mirman, provided Paso Robles Press the following statement, “Citizens for a Safe Paso Robles is opposed to the original proposed route (the light blue route on the map). PG&E’s original proposal would have put 90-foot-tall transmission lines across Highway 46 at Union Road (where the city already wants to build an overpass over the highway), over an emerging commercial corridor, and adjacent to residential property owners, including those staying at the Cava Robles RV Park.”

The organization has circulated a petition against the originally proposed route, sighting dangers of fire and causing economic damage. However, now PG&E has stated they will be abandoning the originally proposed line for the EIR-approved one. 

“The route in question that opponents state runs directly through town was the route originally proposed by PG&E in the application it filed in January 2017,” PG&E Communications Representative Carina Corral told Paso Robles Press.

The original route proposed in 2017 would have run across Highway 46 and north of Golden Hill Road to connect to the proposed Estrella Substation near Union Road — cutting through residential homes and businesses.

According to the final draft of the EIR report, the preferred route and substation location is “Alternative Combination #2 (which would include Estrella Substation, Alternative PLR-1A, Alternative BS-2, and Alternative BS-3).”

EIR’s explanation for the preferred combination is it provides the best advantages from an environmental standpoint: “Specifically, this combination would route the new 70 kV power line north of the City of Paso Robles through a more rural, agricultural area of San Luis Obispo County. Thus, it would reduce the significant aesthetic impacts of the Proposed Project’s 70 kV power line.”

Instead of crossing Highway 46, the Alternative PLR-1A route would avoid the Golden Hill Road area, Cava Robles RV Resort, San Antonio Winery, and residents at the Circle B Homeowners’ Association. While the route is longer by 6.5 miles, and would increase construction time, it is the preferred route for not only EIR but also for residents and the Citizen’s for a Safe Paso Robles organization.

“Our organization would join the City of Paso Robles and drop our opposition to the project if PG&E and the CPUC decide to adopt the green route, which goes north from the proposed Estrella Substation and then west along Wellsona Road,” said Mirman. “This alternative route is rated by the EIR as the most environmentally-friendly route. It is the EIR’s top ranked alternative because it drastically decreases visual and audible impacts on residents and businesses, wouldn’t require the removal of heritage oak trees and would not pass through Golden Eagle nesting grounds.”

So what is next for the transmission lines? Now, residents and PG&E will play the waiting game until CPUC issues the Permit to Construct (PTC). Corrall estimates this could be issued by June of 2024 but that is just a guesstimate.

In response to the environmental review process, Corrall provided Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News with the following statement, “Over the course of the environmental review process, the CPUC evaluated several alternative routes. On March 30, 2023, the CPUC released its final environmental impact report that identified a route that runs from a site east of the City and north of the city as the environmentally preferred route. Please see the attached map for your reference. The green line is the environmentally preferred route identified by the CPUC that runs beyond the outskirts of the city. It will start at a new substation called Estrella near Union Road and run north, then west, to the existing transmission line near Wellsona, where it will then connect into the existing Paso Robles Substation. The section of existing transmission line is within the city, and it connects the Paso Robles Substation to the San Miguel Substation.”

Corrall adds that because PG&E is a state regulated utility, it will have to follow the CPUC’s decision on the preferred route and abandon the originally proposed one.

“This project has been approximately 15 years in the making, and once the CPUC finalizes its decision and issues permits for the project, PG&E will get to work to improve reliability due to increased demand for our customers in the northern portion of San Luis Obispo County, including San Miguel, Templeton, and areas east of Paso Robles,” Corrall told Paso Robles Press.

You can find the entire EIR report here:

This is a developing story that Paso Robles Press is following and will update as more information becomes available.