County officials heard testimony Wednesday about the possible health risks of a power substation proposed for North Tustin, despite Southern California Edison's position that the county has no right to conduct an environmental study of the project.
The utility is challenging the county's involvement in an environmental assessment, saying the project is in the jurisdiction of the state Public Utilities Commission.
A commission attorney said Wednesday that she cannot make any comment because Edison has not submitted a request for the agency to consider the issue. The PUC does not usually consider substations.
"At this point, it's not clear what the Public Utilities Commission's decision will be--to be the lead agency or defer to us," said Timothy S. Neely, manager of the county's environmental planning division. In either case, environmental issues must be considered, he said.
Residents appearing before the county Planning Commission on Wednesday were worried about the possible health risks posed by electromagnetic fields generated by the substation. There were also concerns about jet fuel lines near the proposed site.
While Edison officials maintain the substation would not create a health hazard, some studies have linked electromagnetic fields to cancer.
"I'm raising three kids there," said Del Primrose, who lives next to the 3.8-acre site. "I am not willing to put my family in a guinea pig situation."
County officials said that all issues raised Wednesday will be addressed no matter who ends up with jurisdiction.
"You can rest assured that if it's proven that this is dangerous to your health, the county will not allow it to be built," said Planning Commissioner A. Earl Wooden.
Steve Sullivan, regional affairs manager for Edison, said the company wants the environmental issues to be addressed quickly.
The county's request for an environmental impact report has statewide implications and could drag the approval process out for as long as two years, Sullivan said. Applications for permits were filed more than a year ago and originally company officials anticipated the substation to be operating by April, 1991. That date has been postponed for at least a year.
County officials, residents and Edison officials said they are encouraged by a Public Utilities Commission announcement this week that the agency will soon begin a study on whether electromagnetic fields pose a health risk.