Southern California Edison made an initial filing to federal regulators Friday seeking permission to build a controversial power line from Arizona to California that was rejected by Arizona utility regulators last year.
The California utility filed the request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the terms of a federal law that allows FERC to override decisions of state regulators in specially designated “national interest corridors.”
The U.S. Department of Energy decided to create such a corridor across a large swath of western Arizona and Southern California in October over the objections of environmentalists and the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities here.
The department cited the need for more transmission lines to reduce electricity bottlenecks in California.
The project has raised issues of state’s rights as well as questions about whether Arizona could become a “farm” to supply energy to more populous California if more power lines were built between the two states.
SCE is proposing to build a $680 million, 230-mile high-voltage line from the Palo Verde hub of nuclear and natural gas power plants west of Phoenix to the Devers substation near Palm Springs, Calif. It would parallel an existing power line.
SCE also plans to pursue a new application with the ACC to build the Arizona portion of the line, said Pedro J. Pizarro, the utility’s executive vice president for power operations.
“SCE’s first priority and preference is to gain regulatory approval for the proposed transmission project from the ACC,” Pizarro said in a statement. “To support a new ACC filing, SCE is working with stakeholders, regional utilities and planning groups in Arizona to develop a mutually acceptable alternative plan to present to the ACC.”
The Arizona commission rejected the line in June, saying it would raise electricity prices in Arizona by $250 million and create air pollution in Arizona for the benefit of California consumers.
SCE officials said it would benefit Arizona by providing additional income to the state from electric-generating capacity that currently is greater than Arizona needs.
Earlier this week SCE also filed a petition with the California Public Utilities Commission to allow construction of the California portion of the project.
The California section would transport electricity produced at solar and conventional power plants planned in southeastern California, said SCE spokesman Paul Klein. If the Arizona portion were built, it theoretically could supply Arizona from those plants, too, he said.
Arizona Commissioner Kris Mayes was unimpressed with that prospect, saying it would take more than the availability of renewable energy from California to reverse the Arizona commission’s decision.
“We will look at any proposal they would make, but the bar is high,” she said. “We have plenty of renewable energy in Arizona, too.”