Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SunZia Transmission-Line Update

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM

In early March, we wrote about SB 1547, sponsored by state Sen. Al Melvin. (See "No Power to the People," March 3.)

This is a bill that would make it easier for an energy company to put up transmission lines throughout Arizona, including sensitive areas near the San Pedro River, by getting rid of a state oversight process through the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee, before heading to the Arizona Corporation Commission.

One community that could see those transmission lines go through their neighborhoods is Picture Rocks, west of the Tucson Mountains in Avra Valley. In "No Power to the People," we talked to Albert Vetere Lannon and his neighbors about their concerns.

Lannon sent out an update today on a vote that took place in the Arizona House and Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

The Arizona House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 5-3 yesterday (March 21) to send the SunZia Power Line legislation to the full House with a "Do Pass" recommendation. The bill is now SB 1517 and Rep. Frank Pratt (R-Pinal County) is the sponsor.

Ironically, Pratt's website lists as one of his goals, "Rebuild confidence in local solutions." Right — by giving away Arizona's authority to the Bureau of Land Management and New Mexican power companies....

Two amendments were made:

—Changing the mandatory "The (Arizona Corporation Commission) SHALL approve a route..."etc. to the permissive "MAY approve a route...."

—Changing the permissive "The (ACC) MAY" hold public hearings, to the mandatory, if limited, the ACC "SHALL hold a minimum of one public hearing...."

That was enough to change District 25 Representative Peggy Judd's vote to "yes," although she said that more than one public hearing was needed.

While the amendments provide for at least some public and expert input and does give the ACC final authority, if it chooses to use it, SB 1517 still remains SunZia special interest legislation which seeks to short-circuit Arizona public and expert opinion. At best, the revised legislation simply extends the process and shifts the struggle to the Corporation Commission at some point in the future. It would still allow a Bureau of Land Management Environmental Impact Report to replace Arizona due process if the ACC so chooses.

I should note that while most of the environmental community opposes SB 1517, and the Sierra Club and Cascabel Working Group have led the fight in the legislature, the Nature Conservancy has lined up with SunZia and the BLM.

Of course, nothing in this legislative struggle actually deals with the real issues — the negative impact of 500 kilovolt power lines and their rights-of-way and access roads, and possible noise and health hazards — on communities, wildlife, and their habitat.

Please let your state representatives know how you feel. You can access their email and phone numbers at azleg.gov, click on House or Senate, and then on Members.

For those who might be interested, a video of the House Committee's proceedings should be available soon at http://azleg.granicos.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=13.

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