Citizens in Southern Arizona demand public hearing for proposed SunZia power line

Tucson, Arizona – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public meeting Tuesday evening at Palo Verde High School regarding the Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

Following a 45-minute presentation by the BLM and its consultant about the project timeline and the basic facts of the project, citizens at the meeting held a spontaneous public comment session, despite objections made by the BLM. The BLM refused to respond to questions in front of the audience as a whole and failed to record the comments voiced by the public during the ad hoc hearing.

This peaceful demonstration was spurred on by Peter Else, a resident of Mammoth, and member of the Winkelman Natural Resources Conservation District. His request to allow the public to speak following the BLM presentation was denied. He then proceeded to outline his concerns about the SunZia project to the 100 people who quietly remained in their seats.

Mr. Else raised issues regarding the reported purpose and need of this project. The DEIS and other published materials from the BLM repeatedly tout the renewable energy development that will be fostered as a result of the construction of the line. Mr. Else pointed out that the line cannot be restricted to any one type of energy development over another and that one of the significant new power generation sources already approved along the line is a natural gas plant in Bowie, Arizona.

Following Mr. Else, others took the opportunity to speak up as well. Several speakers raised concerns about impacts to viewsheds throughout the proposed routes, especially routes traversing the San Pedro River Valley and the Aravaipa watershed. One landowner pondered whether the preferred route through the San Pedro River Valley would be compatible with the multitude of conservation investments in the valley, including a voluntary conservation easement he placed on his own land.

Others brought up concerns regarding the lush riparian areas found along the proposed routes, and the globally significant migratory bird pathways they support. Speakers encouraged one another to not let the BLM preferred route pit regional interest groups against each other as the No Action Alternative is a viable selection and must be considered in the process. Many others spoke out about the one-of-a-kind ecosystems present along the proposed routes and how no sacrifice is acceptable.

During the meeting, a petition was circulated among the attendees, which asked the BLM to hold a full public hearing on the DEIS in Tucson and to extend the comment period beyond August 22nd. This petition was hand-delivered by the audience at the end of the meeting to Adrian Garcia, the BLM Project Lead.

The BLM will hold two more public meetings on the project: Wednesday, July 18th in San Manuel at San Manuel High School, 711 South McNab Parkway and Thursday, July 19th in Eloy at Eloy Junior High School, 404 East Phoenix Avenue.