Time to pull TANC’s plug

Inept management fails to inspire confidence in controversial scheme

The controversial TANC Transmission Project, or TTP, isn’t dead yet, but as we reported last week (“Power line deal shorting out?” Downstroke), it’s on life support. That’s because its biggest backer, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, announced it was pulling out of the deal to build 600 miles of new electricity lines down the Sacramento Valley.

TANC (the Transmission Agency of Northern California) is the creation of a consortium of 15 public-utility districts, from Redding to Santa Clara, that seeks to transmit renewable energy from as-yet-unbuilt solar, wind and geothermal generators in Lassen County to the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley.

SMUD was in for 35 percent of the $1.5 billion cost, so its pullout has left the project with a $525 million hole to fill. Unless TANC can rope in some other utility company (or companies) willing to spend that much money, the project will probably short out.

The reason a SMUD spokeswoman gave for the utility’s withdrawal was that the “overall project,” which was still in the scoping and planning phase, wasn’t “strong enough” to warrant continuing to spend money on it. That seems disingenuous. Surely SMUD knew what the project entailed going in.

What SMUD couldn’t have anticipated was TANC’s ineptness.

To say the agency muffed it is an understatement. It failed to notify local officials of its plans and couldn’t seem to find the addresses of most landowners along its proposed routes. Others received glossy fliers that looked like junk mail and were treated as such. It failed to look closely at its routes and so ended up proposing to build over homes, schools, airports and wetlands. And, because its efforts seemed designed to hide the project from public view, it raised both hackles and suspicion among the public.

No wonder SMUD pulled out. Such shoddy performance doesn’t bode well. Combine that with the fact that the Lassen County energy sites are among the least promising in California, and SMUD had every reason to pull the plug. Other utilities would be wise to do likewise.