Final EIS Released for SunZia Southwest Transmission Project
Proposal not viable as environmental impacts outweigh touted benefits
TUCSON, AZ (June 14, 2013) – The Bureau of Land Management released a final Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the effects of the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. SunZia Transmission, LLC, a private company, proposes to construct two 500-kV electric transmission lines across 500 miles from Lincoln County, NM to Pinal County, AZ.
The following is a statement from Matt Clark, Southwest Representative, Defenders of Wildlife:
“We believe the environmental costs of SunZia far outweigh its touted benefits. The preferred route chosen by BLM would harm a wide range of sensitive wildlife habitats, including major public and private investments in conservation easements and other conservation measures in the San Pedro River Valley – one of the most biologically rich and fragile river ecosystems in North America. We urge the Bureau of Land Management not to approve the rights of way across our public lands that would enable this poorly conceived project to move forward.
“In addition to its damaging location, we are concerned with an inadequate analysis of cumulative impacts, and with the BLM’s Purpose and Need statement for the project.
“We recognize that new transmission lines will be required to improve reliability, increase capacity and enable responsible renewable energy development in the Southwest. To meet these objectives, however, we want to see existing transmission infrastructure upgraded where possible, and where new transmission lines are needed, they should be routed along existing disturbance corridors to avoid and minimize impacts to sensitive environmental and cultural resources.
“Most importantly, by focusing on upfront planning to identify areas appropriate for development as the BLM did with the Solar Energy Program, we can help ensure that unacceptable impacts to our natural resources are avoided and that new transmission aligns with renewable energy development. Defenders is committed to a renewable energy future and recognizes that new development will be necessary to meet our clean energy goals, but a “smart from the start” approach that assesses impacts as well as measures to effectively mitigate any unavoidable impacts early in the planning process needs to be adopted.”
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org  and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.