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NM Commissioner Hears SunZia Concerns

New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn addresses an audience of more than 100 March 3 during a public meeting at the Luna County Courthouse to shed more light on the proposed SunZia Transmission Line that is expected to pass through Lincoln, Dona Ana and Luna counties in southern New Mexico and Pinal County, Arizona. The line will cover 515 miles — 60 of them in Luna County. Photo credit: Elena Ruiz/Headlight Deming News

By Elena Ruiz for Headlight Deming News

Hoping to gain a better understanding of the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn met with Luna County residents March 3 to get public input.

Dunn delayed the project moving forward by issuing a 60-day right-of-entry suspension to SunZia shortly after the transmission line project gained approval from the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and the Bureau of Land Management (AZBEX, Feb. 3, 2015, Aug. 18, 2014, Sept. 17, 2013, June 1, 2012).

The transmission line is expected to cover at least 89 miles of state trust land, 30 percent of the route is state trust land. Dunn said he had the authority to prevent the line from using state trust lands, which would essentially shut down the project, if he determines it is not in the best interest of the state.

Dunn welcomed the crowd and introduced himself and the three presenters invited to speak at the meeting, SunZia Project Manager Tom Wray, BLM Coordinator Dave Goodman and Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Executive Director Jeremy Turner.

“We are here to get feedback about this project,” said Deputy Land Commissioner and meeting facilitator Robert Ortega. “This project, if approved, should take between 30 to 36 months to complete.”

The transmission line is expected to pass through southern New Mexico, with the eastern-most substation in Lincoln County and the western-most substation in Pinal County, Arizona.

The project has an estimated cost of $2B and will run 515 miles. A preliminary meeting on the line’s corridor in 2009 estimated that 60 miles of the line would pass through Luna County. Five substations would be built along the corridor, including one in Luna County and another in Hidalgo County.

Residents like Mike Wear, a transplant from Arizona, who said he lives adjacent to the Nutt Grasslands, voiced his concerns on the affect about the impact on the environment but also applauded Dunn for “showing up” and attempting to show a “transparent government”.

The Obama administration has put the SunZia Transmission Line project on a fast track as part of the development of renewable energy across the western states.

Dunn said he would take the input made by the public and make his decision at the appropriate time. He had no designated time line to make his decision, he said.

Read more at Headlight Deming News