PASO ROBLES — A proposed power transmission line in Paso Robles has sparked strong opposition from residents in North County. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is seeking approval to construct a new 70 kV transmission line and substation, but local residents are voicing concerns about its potential impact on the community.

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. According to Transformers Magazine, the project would also involve upgrading a portion of the San Miguel-Paso Robles 70 kV transmission line and making reliability upgrades to the Templeton, San Miguel, and Paso Robles substations.

2023 PGE Transmittion Lines Map
Contributed Photo

However, many residents are opposing the proposed project due to its potential implications for the community. One of the major concerns is the visual impact of the transmission lines, which would reach heights of up to 90 feet. The prospect of power lines running directly through the city raises worries about the negative effects on the city’s aesthetics, potential harm to businesses and property values, and increased risk of fire hazard.

Residents and business owners have formed an organization, Citizens for a Safe Paso Robles, to voice their concerns. In April, the organization launched a petition that garnered over 100 signatures within the first week. Former State Representative Jordan Cunningham is working as a spokesman for the organization. In speaking to Paso Robles Press Cunningham emphasized the need for decision-makers to consider alternatives that prioritize the environment, economy, and safety. He stated that there is a route identified in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that has been ranked as the most environmentally friendly option and should be given serious consideration.

“There’s a sense that the level and depth of opposition to this hasn’t been fully taken into account by the people that will be making the decision,” said Cunningham.

In 2021, the city strongly opposed the proposed project’s pathway.

City manager Ty Lewis told Paso Robles Press, “The council has not changed, and they do not support the route running through the city along Wysteria. However, there [are] a few other routes identified and likely would support the preferred route identified within the recent iteration of the environmental documents. That route is mostly run outside the city, with power line upgrades mostly running along the existing path.” 

The current path proposed for the new transmission lines, named the Union Route Option, is ranked fourth in the EIR. It is the shortest distance between the existing San Miguel-Paso Robles transmission line and the Morro Bay/Diablo gates. The route crosses over the Riboli Wine Estates, Cava Luxury RV Resort and Homes near Golden Hill Road. 

“Everybody gets that we need more electricity transmission infrastructure in our state,” said Cunningham. “Our ask to the decision makers, the powers that be on this, is just choose the one that’s already been scored the most environmentally friendly route.”

The alternative route proposed and favored by residents is the Estrella Route, following the outskirts of town on the east side.

The decision-making process lies with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC has not yet made a decision on whether to issue a permit for the proposed project or explore alternative options. The community has the opportunity to provide input and comment on the proceeding through the CPUC’s website.

Cunningham notes that while CPUC has the final vote, the city and residents have a voice.

“We want to be unified and strong in making our voice heard,” said Cunningham.

Paso Robles Press reached out to PG&E, who declined to comment, and CPUC for a statement. CPUC spokesman Terrie Prosper provided the following information:

The Estrella Substation and Paso Robles Reinforcement Project (Proceeding Number A1701023) is a joint application from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Horizon West Transmission (HWT) for a Permit to Construct from the CPUC. The CPUC has not yet made a decision whether it will issue a permit authorizing the proposed project, an alternative, or deny the permit. The proceeding is in progress. There are several steps remaining in the proceeding prior to the CPUC considering and voting upon a Proposed Decision. 

A website containing information on the California Environmental Quality Act analysis for the application is available here ia.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/horizonh2o/estrella/index.html

The public can comment on the proceeding and see documents at https://apps.cpuc.ca.gov/apex/f?p=401:56::::RP,57,RIR:P5_PROCEEDING_SELECT:A1701023

This is a developing story that Paso Robles Press is following and will update as more information becomes available. Anyone with a business or residence in the proposed pathway of the transmission lines and who would like to share their position on them, please email editor@13stars.media.