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California green energy plan faces opposition over high-voltage power lines

In the summer heat, Rockney Compton's spring-fed koi pond doubles as a swimming hole for his three kids, and in the spring it is a water bowl for his dogs.

The pond is a centerpiece for an almost postcard-worthy vista of green, tree-lined hills near Round Mountain, a quiet stretch of Northern California's Shasta County.

What keeps this landscape shy of perfect are the high-voltage power lines that cut through Compton's property, built in the 1960s to funnel electricity from mountain reservoirs to urban customers far away.

Compton can't do anything about those lines. He believes he can, however, help halt plans to build two more sets of massive transmission towers and power lines through his tiny community, 28 miles northeast of Redding.

The $1.5 billion project envisions stringing 600 miles of new lines from northeast California to Sacramento and the Bay Area with a targeted completion date of 2014. It would be the largest power infrastructure venture undertaken in Northern California in nearly two decades, sponsored by a consortium of 15 Northern California municipal power providers, including Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the city of Roseville.

But it's also a new front in an emerging, nationwide fight over green power that pits environmental concerns against each other.

In Southern California, opposition – including some from Sen. Dianne Feinstein – is mounting against plans to erect a large array of solar panels in the desert, and the miles of transmission towers needed to connect them to customers in Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Northern California project could help bring online new, renewable sources of power such as wind, solar and geothermal. But it negatively impacts residents, wildlife and ecosystems beneath long, wide power line corridors.

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