About the projectThe public was recently informed that there is currently a project to build a 33-mile, 345-kilovolt (kV) power line in northern New Mexico.

The line would follow the route shown in the map and go through the area around the Black Mesa, through developed areas in Jaconita and Jacona, cross the 502 highway and head south.

click to enlarge

It will be a monstrosity, 110 to 125 feet tall, that will ruin the vistas of the Pojoaque valley, of the Sangre de Cristo and of the Jemez mountains from everywhere, not to mention its devastating consequences on the developed areas that it will cross (the proposed route runs close to residential buildings, posing a severe hazard to the health of their residents), the historical areas and on the wildlife.

The line is being proposed by a company based in Texas named Verde-and a subsidiary of the Hunt owned enterprises. It appears that the Verde Company neither produces nor sells power. It is not a public utility. Among other things, it is involved in energy related projects which it builds, owns, and then “rents” to energy producers and suppliers, PNM for example.

The line itself has been named “Verde” in an attempt to ruse the public, since no clean energy production plant exists (most of the energy production plants owned my PNM in northern NM are coal plants), and should a clean energy production plant be constructed in the future it would surely be more efficient to build it where the energy is consumed rather than transporting the energy for 33 miles.

Apparently the project has been silently carried on for some years and we have only been informed now.

The BLM needs to analyze the impacts of the proposed line and is currently seeking public input on the project

The BLM has the authority to stop this project!

HISTORY OF THE PROJECT

The Public Service Company of New Mexico, PNM, provides power to Albuquerque, Central NM and NE NM from the San Juan Generating Plant located near the north-west corner of New Mexico, Four Corners. Two parallel 345 kV lines run from Four Corners west and south of the Jemez Mountains to service Albuquerque. From there a 345 kV line runs north to a station named Norton which is about 15 miles west of Santa Fe. Santa Fe and Los Alamos are served from Norton. A third 345 kV line originates at Four Corners; it runs east, passes north of the Jemez Mountains and terminates at Ojo which is a few miles north of Espanola near the highway to Abiquiu. This line serves Taos and North East New Mexico.

Norton and Ojo are about 30 miles apart. They are connected with a 115 kV line that makes a loop with the set of 345 kV lines from Four Corners. Its purpose is to improve system reliability, reduce the effect of outages, and provide a path to market for renewable power (Wind Generation in this case).

A company based in Texas (named "Verde"-- a subsidiary of the Hunt owned enterprises) is proposing to construct a 345 kV line between Ojo and Norton.

It appears that the "Verde" Company neither produces nor sells power. It is not a public utility; thus it cannot condemn property. Among other things, it is involved in energy related projects which it builds, owns, and then “rents” to energy producers and suppliers, PNM for example. Why isn’t PNM pursuing this project? What effect will introduction of a third party have on the rate paying public?

The effort to close this loop has a long history dating back to the late 1970s. The route initially proposed by PNM was for a 345 kV line that essentially followed the route of an existing 115 kV line south from Ojo to Norton.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, BIA, did an environmental study, the FEIS, which was published August 1986;

FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT:

Proposed Ojo Line Extension

345 kV Overhead Transmission and Substation Project.

This statement along with its appendices fills a binder with a stack of pages nearly 2.5 inches thick. Three route areas are studied. They are, from West to East:

a) through the Jemez mountains originating near Canones and terminating at Norton.

b) centered on the PNM proposed route based on the current 115kV line, and

c) About a line running directly east from Ojo north of San Juan’s northern boundary. It then goes south on Pojoaque land next to that Pueblo’s west border passing through Jacona/Jaconita and finally SW across the Jacona Grant and BLM lands to reach Norton.

The conclusion of the study is that a route through the Jemez Mountains produces the least impact on the environment. This conclusion was strongly, and rightfully, opposed by Save the Jemez and other environmental organizations. PNM preferred option b) and was given permission to arrange for survey privileges across the lands of San Ildefonso Pueblo. When the residents of the Pueblo were fully informed of the project their Council rejected it because of its proximity to the Black Mesa which is sacred to them.

Now, 30 years later, "Verde" is proposing to close the loop essentially along route area c) as described above. They have provided a preliminary document which is reproduced here. It appears that the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, is now the lead US Government agency which will study the project and will collaborate with the BIA to write an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS prepared by the BIA took two years to complete.

Of course there have been changes since the 1990s; conversion of agricultural property to residential and commercial, tracts have been subdivided and there has been an increase in population along the proposed route. There is now a better understanding of the health issues regarding exposure to electro-magnetic fields, Etc.; but there is much that has not changed—history, scenery, and traditional villages.

In and near the Pojoaque Valley the route would:

  • Be in view of Pajarito Village on the west side of the Rio Grande,
  • Turn East on Santa Clara land at that Pueblo’s south boundary to cross the Rio where it will be approximately only 1600 feet north of San Ildefonso’s sacred Black Mesa which has been designated as an “historic site”. Is San Ildefonso Pueblo in accord with this?
  • Cross private lands at the south end of La Mesilla
  • Turn south on the western boundary of Pojoaque Pueblo.
  • Cross private holdings in Jaconita and/or Jacona both of which have been declared to be traditional villages by the Santa Fe County Planning Commission.
  • Continue southwest across the Jacona Grant and BLM land to Norton.

In 1995 a memorial was passed by the NM House of Reprentatives:

"House Memorial 30, 42nd Legislature, First Session 1995: A Memorial---requesting the Public Service Company of New Mexico to consider locating bulk transmission lines away from traditional New Mexican communities, historic sites and recognized scenic landmarks."

It passed the house with no abstentions. At the same time a similar Memorial, Senate No.15, was offered; but the Senate was adjourned before the memorial was sent to committee.

NECESSITY

In the 1970s when the Ojo line was first proposed it was touted as necessary to prevent outages, to facilitate delivery of power to Taos and LANL, and to prevent instabilities in the power system. At the time there was no way to dispute those claims. Now, 40 years later, evidence is in! The system runs quite well with only the 115 kV line closing the loop.

PNM has lied in the past on projected energy loads (see the OLE case In re Public Serv. Co. of New Mexico, Case No. 2382, 166 P.U.R.4th 318 (1995), p. 39.)

Hunt/”Verde” now repeats PNM's reasons: improvement of outage control and system reliability. Experience now allows us to refute these reasons.

Is there a record of the outages that could have been avoided if the loop had been closed? “Verde”/PNM should be required to produce a list of all outages, including location, date and duration. Further those outages that could have been avoided or mitigated by a closed loop should be indicated along with a description of the action that would have been taken.

Where is the energy needed, and how much? Who will benefit from this line? Who will pay for it? What is its role in the context of the energy and distribution needs in the South West?

This information is necessary for "Verde"/PNM to prove that the line is necessary at this time. If it becomes apparent in the future that the line has become necessary it may be that newer technology will lead to a different and better solution.

Furthermore, no alternative analysis has been done, and it must be done.

Under legal precedent (see again the OLE case In re Public Serv. Co. of New Mexico, Case No. 2382, 166 P.U.R.4th 318 (1995), p. 39.), a reasonable utility must consider alternatives before going forward with a project, and a new resource will not be approved if a better alternative is available.

Being built, and approved to be built, are several transmission lines (the Centennial West 500 kV, 3,000 MW DC line and the approved Sun Zia 500 kV, 3,000 MW AC) that are well located to serve the wind and solar farms in Eastern New Mexico.

Each one of these new lines have a much greater capacity to carry power than Hunt/”Verde” and are better positioned both at source and load points.

If Hunt/ “Verde”'s purpose is to carry renewable power out of state; then, its reason for being will rapidly disappear as the new lines come into operation. It would be a crime to despoil this historic country of its beauty with ugly structures that are of fleeting use (and are not needed for the other purposes stated, outage and reliability, as shown above)

Although the line is called "Verde", which in Spanish means "green", no "renewable energy" generation plant is currently proposed that would use the proposed line.

Conclusion: From these considerations alone it is clear that the Hunt/”Verde” proposed line is not needed and should not be built.

SOME COMMENTS ABOUT THE PROPOSED ROUTE

The route proposed is the one with the worst possible environmental impact

  • The proposed line would be in close proximity of residences and schools
  • The line crosses Traditional Communities
  • The line would threaten habitats that are critical for birds and other wildlife in the Southwest
  • The line would run at a distance of 1600 ft from the Black Mesa, both a “historic site” and a place sacred to the Native Americans
  • The proposed line would have 120 ft tall poles every 800 ft or less
  • Our view sheds would be adversely impacted by the project: the visual resource management classification for BLM lands in this area in the RMP appears to be class I or II, a wild area rich with natural and cultural resources and epic vistas. The presence of the "Verde" line would result in a visual resource management class III –o r IV designation: industrial.
  • The project would negatively affect tourism and the film industry
  • The line would drastically devalue the properties in its surroundings
  • Hunt Power is preying upon the low income, poorly organized, older, and rural communities of northern New Mexico
  • An increasing number of papers in the scientific literature show correlation between the proximity to High Voltage Alternated Current lines and the insurgence of cancer and other diseases. Although scientific consensus has not yet been reached on the issue, a reasonable doubt exists and the Precautionary Principle should therefore be used, given that the life of people is at stake.
  • The proposed line has already created division in the community and fostered resentment between its members