- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez is asking President Barack Obama and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to make sure that a proposed transmission line between Arizona and New Mexico doesn’t hurt the Army’s White Sands Missile Range.

The Republican governor told the top federal officials in an April 22 letter that a Bureau of Land Management proposal to route 45 miles of the SunZia line through the range should be changed.

“I am seriously concerned that the planned route for the project proposed an unacceptable national security risk,” Martinez wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Albuquerque Journal (https://ow.ly/whGRE ).

Martinez said New Mexico supports national efforts to develop alternative energy but that such development “should not negatively impact military missions at any of our installations.”

The SunZia project would carry renewable energy from solar and wind projects in eastern and central New Mexico to Western markets. It’s expected to generate $1.2 billion in private investment, but the Defense Department opposes the proposed route through southern New Mexico.

White Sands officials have said that if the project is approved as is, it could reduce testing operations at the range by up to 30 percent, potentially threatening national security. That also could mean layoffs at White Sands, which employs thousands and has an estimated $834 million annual economic impact in New Mexico.

SunZia project manager Tom Wray has said any alternative route could kill the $1.2 billion project because changes would require environmental studies that could take years to complete.

Martinez asked Jewell to find another route or require the project’s proponents to bury sections of the line.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management, which is overseeing the permitting process, say the project is stalled until the White House and the federal agencies work out their differences.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has also weighed in. In a letter to Jewell and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, he urged the Defense Department to compromise.

Reid’s specific interests in the SunZia project were unclear, but he has been an advocate of the federal government’s efforts to quickly solve permitting and other problems related to renewable energy projects.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study of the potential effects of the transmission line has been done but is not yet declassified. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said the study validates concerns that the project would interfere with White Sands’ mission.



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