WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) welcomed a key development in reaching common ground on the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project in New Mexico.
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today announcing DoD's approval for the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) preferred route for the transmission line. The resolution reached between DoD and BLM to allow for the project to move forward would require that a total of five miles of the route would be buried to eliminate conflicts with training and weapons testing in the Northern Extension Area of White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).
"Today's resolution means that unparalleled military testing at White Sands Missile Range and a transformational clean energy infrastructure project can exist in harmony, and I commend the tremendous work done by the agencies involved to get to this point.
"White Sands Missile Range is a true national treasure that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else in the United States, and the SunZia transmission line will unlock the state's world class wind resources for clean energy production and export to hungry energy markets in the West. All the while, New Mexico stands to gain thousands of good-paying construction jobs.
"I have followed the evaluation of this project closely and it has been deliberate, transparent, and comprehensive. But this isn't just about SunZia: this is about New Mexico diversifying its economy, lessening our dependence on federal dollars, and charting a course for a more prosperous future. Allowing this project to move forward sends the message that we are willing to stand up for a brighter energy and jobs future that will benefit both our state and our nation."
Senator Heinrich has long supported both the SunZia transmission project and WSMR. Last November, he announced that the DoD agreed to commission a study by M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory to look at concerns raised by WSMR and examine potential changes to test protocols that would allow the DoD to continue its missions in the presence of the new transmission line. That study, which was completed in March, helped provide the scientific data necessary reach to this resolution. Senator Heinrich has encouraged DoD to make the unclassified results of this study available to the public.
SunZia will connect and deliver electricity generated in New Mexico and Arizona to population centers in the southwest. The SunZia Southwest Transmission Project is planned to be approximately 515 miles of two single-circuit 500 kV transmission lines and associated substations that interconnect SunZia with numerous 345 kV lines in both states.