A Texas energy company has scrapped controversial plans for a power line that would have stretched more than 30 miles from northwest of Española to west of Santa Fe.
Dallas-based Hunt Power says it informed the Bureau of Land Management that plans for what was called the Verde Transmission Line “would not be moving forward” and requested the BLM and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs withdraw the company’s right-of-way application.
“After much consideration, we have decided not to move forward with the Verde Transmission Project,” project spokesman Paul Schulze said in a written statement Thursday. “Circumstances have changed over the past few years that affect the long-term viability of the project.”
Schulze thanked three pueblos — Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara and Pojoaque — that had been working with Hunt on the project where it involved their lands.
“Apart from that, we have no further comment,” he said.
Hunt had proposed a 345-kilovolt transmission line that would have connected Public Service Company of New Mexico’s Ojo Substation in southern Rio Arriba County to PNM’s Norton Substation in Santa Fe County on Old Buckman Road. The company said the line would have added 600 megawatts of capacity to the area’s electrical grid and provide a new means through which to transport energy from renewable sources.
A PNM spokesman said Thursday the cancellation of the Verde Transmission Line would not affect any of the utility’s plans.
The proposed transmission line plans stirred opposition from local environmentalists and other residents. More than 4,600 people signed a petition in an attempt to stop the project, saying the Verde line would harm property values and wildlife as well as low-income and minority communities.
Among the power line’s opponents was actor and filmmaker Robert Redford, a Santa Fe County resident who said in an opinion piece published in The New Mexican in December 2016 that the project could hurt the film industry.
“It’s no secret why the film industry is attracted to New Mexico; its scenic vistas are unparalleled, and I believe the state and its citizens have benefited economically from this symbiotic relationship,” Redford wrote. “If this development is allowed to move forward, it will forever alter one of New Mexico’s scenic and cultural landscapes.”
A website for a group called Stop Hunt Power Line, said: “This power line has nothing to do with our lives. We the local residents, will forever live with the dangerous health effects and costs; massive industrial towers; crippling economic effects; and the permanent eyesore of this high voltage transmission defacing our iconic New Mexican landscape.”
The proposal hit government snags for more than two years.
The line would have been strung on supports measuring 90 feet to 110 feet tall, according to Hunt’s plans at the time. That would have been up to twice the size of the current 164-kV power line to the Norton substation on Old Buckman Road, which is on 55-foot poles.
In December 2016, the Española school board passed a resolution opposing the project, noting the proposed route passed close to one or more schools.
In January 2017, a field manager for the BLM’s Taos office said Hunt’s plan for a 12-mile stretch of federal land would not be permitted under the agency’s management plan.
A month later, the Española City Council passed a resolution opposing the Verde Transmission Line. This was followed the next month by action by the Rio Arriba County commissioners, who unanimously voted for a resolution opposing the proposed route of the Verde line.
Then-Commissioner Alex Naranjo told the New Mexican at the time that he introduced the resolution following community meetings in San Pedro and Hernandez, where hundreds of local residents expressed opposition to the power line.