Taxpayers must be considered in SunZia deal
The Department of Defense is offering up a reasonable compromise that could allow the SunZia electricity transmission line project to proceed while protecting the national security mission at White Sands Missile Range.
It’s important that in the end taxpayers are protected, too.
The proposed $1.2 billion privately owned 515-mile electricity transmission line would take renewable energy from wind and solar farms in central New Mexico to southeastern Arizona to be sold to Western markets.
On Tuesday, the DOD offered to drop its opposition to SunZia’s proposed route if its developers agree to several mitigations, including burying five miles of high voltage lines on the northern edge of the range.
The project has been entangled in years of controversy over its route. Its developers want it to cross 45 miles of the range’s northern extension, a call-up area the military uses for low-flight testing. The DOD preferred that the line skirt the extension’s northern boundary to protect military exercises.
SunZia has signed on to the DOD’s offer with details to be worked out. But burying the line won’t be cheap. One estimate puts the cost at more than $300 million, compared to about $10 million for overhead lines. SunZia says burying the line could cost 10 to 20 times more than installing above-ground line.
Now, with White Sands’ mission protected, the government must ensure U.S. taxpayers don’t end up picking up this tab for a private consortium’s dream project.
— Albuquerque Journal