Only a few days remain for the Bureau of Land Management to take public comment as it prepares an environmental impact statement on the construction of the proposed 33-mile, overhead high-voltage power line through portions of northern Santa Fe County and southern Rio Arriba County. The deadline to submit remarks is Jan. 5.
At issue is whether the region needs the 345-kilovolt Verde Transmission Line, which Hunt Power of Texas wants to build. It claims the line will increase capacity, make power more reliable and fill in holes in the current regional transmission system. The line would run from a Public Service Company of New Mexico substation near Chili, in Rio Arriba County, to another substation some 12 miles west of Tesuque, in Santa Fe County. The estimated cost is between $60 million and $80 million. The company would pay for upfront construction costs, and PNM and other companies would pay a fee to use the line.
Neighbors of the proposed line have been vocal in opposition — most, that is. The governments of three of the region’s pueblos, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara and Pojoaque, are in favor of the project. A third of the route is on federal BLM land, with much of the remainder going through the three pueblos. A fourth pueblo, San Ildefonso, has expressed concern that the line will be too near to sacred sites at Black Mesa and would adversely affect neighbors in El Rancho.
A more direct route for the line would run through San Ildefonso, in fact, but the pueblo has not agreed to consider such a path. This project, evidently, is not just dividing Native and non-Native neighbors, but even the pueblos themselves.
That’s unfortunate, just another reason the BLM should not give the green light to the Verde line. The height of the power transmission poles and the lines themselves would be an unnecessary blight on the landscape of Northern New Mexico, destroying the views that draw both tourists and filmmakers to our region. It’s unclear, too, whether the transmission line would benefit residents or be more of a conduit to carry power elsewhere. The company has not clearly established just why the project is needed.
For many reasons, the BLM should reject this application. That decision will be made easier if the weight of public comments against — with facts and solid arguments and not just emotional responses — are introduced into the public record. Submit comments online at www.blm.gov/nm/verde, via email at BLM_NM_Verde@blm.gov or by mail at Bureau of Land Management, Verde Transmission Line Project, P.O. Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115.
By Thursday, Jan. 5, it will be too late to weigh in.
The stolen court seat
The New York Times
Soon after his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump will nominate someone to the Supreme Court, which has been hamstrung by a vacancy since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. There will be public debates about the nominee’s credentials, past record, judicial philosophy and temperament. There will be Senate hearings and a vote.
No matter how it plays out, Americans must remember one thing above all: The person who gets confirmed will sit in a stolen seat.
It was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge. It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with long-standing tradition and refused to consider any nominee Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. The main perpetrators of the theft were Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But virtually all Republican senators were accomplices; only two supported holding hearings.
The Republican party line — that it was an election year, so the American people should have a “voice” in the selection of the next justice — was a patent lie. The people spoke when they re-elected Obama in 2012, entrusting him to choose new members for the court. And the Senate has had no problem considering, and usually confirming, election-year nominees in the past.
The shameful, infuriating actions of the Senate Republicans won’t be ignored in the history books. In a desperate effort to keep a conservative majority on the court, they rejected their own professed values of preserving American institutions. There’s little hope that they will come to their senses now, but they and Trump have the power, and the obligation, to fix the mess they created.