Thursday, January 29, 2015

SunZia Heat: Heinrich Targeted For Supporting, Pearce Blasted For Opposing, Plus: More On PNM, Coal And The Enviros 

We joked recently about Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich sending out a fund-raising email for his 2018 re-election in which he said, "It's never too early." Well, it looks as though he had it right. Believe it or not, the newspaper is already calling for Heinrich's ouster--nearly four years before the election. And why? In another believe it or not moment, it's over federal approval of the SunZia transmission line--an important but not exactly a do or die issue, or is it? Take a look:

Heinrich, a Democrat, has been equally adamant in his support for SunZia – opting to side with its eco-friendly potential over tangible concerns over national security and current economic reality. Heinrich, of course, is a darling of environmental groups and collects big campaign dollars from them. . .If New Mexico voters don’t share Heinrich’s rather utopian view, they should take note that they can and should express their displeasure at the voting booth in 2018.

We touched upon the paper's sharp swerve to the right this week in discussing the naming of the new publisher at the Journal. That it's now telling voters to dump Heinrich so far ahead of his re-election campaign and without even knowing who is running against him tells the tale. At this juncture Mark Twain's comments on the matter seem apt:

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. 

Of course, if the paper and its GOP allies wage an all-out campaign against Heinrich,  it might be a good thing for the Dems. Remember, the Governor's political machine avoided targeting Senator Udall last year because a competitive Senate race would drive up Democratic turnout and perhaps hurt Gov. Martinez's re-election prospects. '18 is the next gubernatorial contest. But we'll stop there. Anyone talking this early about Campaign '18 should be fined.

UPDATE: GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is getting in on the SunZia act:

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has put the brakes on a $2 billion transmission project that would carry electricity generated by renewable resources in New Mexico and Arizona to markets across the West. Dunn announced that he was issuing a 60-day suspension after meeting with the developers. That time period will give his office more time to review the project before any further development affects state trust lands, he said.


Readers continue to right in about the SunZia project on White Sands Missile Range. This is from environmental engineer Bruce Thomson:

I can't decide if it's irony or hypocrisy that has led Rep. Steve Pearce, one of the most ardent supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, to so vehemently oppose the SunZia transmission line. This project has a construction budget of around $2 billion much of which will be spent in Pearce's district. Once completed it will allow transmission of 3,000 MW of power from wind and solar projects, virtually all of which will be located in his district. The economic impact to New Mexico is projected to be $275 million in wages and salaries, and $65 million  in state local taxes during construction of the project and $2 million a year in wages and salaries during operation

As for impacts on landowners along the route, I'm sure they are all looking forward to nice licensing fees for the transmission line easements and their property used for wind and solar power generation. In contrast to the XL pipeline, these are benefits that will last forever. Near as I can tell, impacts to White Sands Missile Range's operations will be totally mitigated by burying the line across its property, hence I cannot for the life of me figure out why Rep. Pearce is opposed to this project.

Good points, Bruce. We also wonder why the opposition of Pearce and the newspaper to SunZia is so vehement when both the Secretary of Defense and White Sands say the project is no threat to national security.


We've been getting some momentum in tourism visits, says the state, but this won't help:

The state tourism department had planned to seek an additional $3.5 million for marketing next fiscal year--money that would extend the New Mexico True advertising campaign to San Francisco--but budget realities have tempered expectations. Rebecca Latham, recently appointed to head the state tourism department, said the request laid out in Gov. Martinez’s budget is for an additional $1.5 million instead. The extra $1.5 million, if approved by the Legislature, would boost the department’s overall marketing budget to $10.1 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

When it comes to tourism there is no better truism than "it takes money to make money." But even with the smaller increase, the administration and the legislature have done a pretty good job in recent years of getting that ad budget increased. A lot of small biz owners have benefited.


Mariel Nanasi
Back on the energy beat, Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the New Energy Economy, has comments on our blog this week on PNM:

Joe, you are absolutely right that PNM needs to come up with a better plan that replaces coal with more coal. However it's not quite right to say that enviro's are split on PNM's coal power replacement plan before the PRC. In the plan PNM submitted to the PRC they have now admitted to errors and omissions that total more than a billion dollars - and that's money ratepayers could be largely expected to cover.

In light of those financial risks, instability in the ownership partners of the San Juan Generating Station and coal supply and coal price uncertainty, three conservation and trade groups have pulled their support from PNM's plan: Western Resource Advocates, New Mexico Independent Power Producers, and Renewable Energy Industries Association. There are 8 parties in opposition to PNM's plan and only 3 remaining parties that have agreed with PNM: PRC Staff, the Attorney General (it was Gary King who originally signed on) and the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers. 

PNM has lost its "broad" support, and all enviros are opposing PNM's plan, and even the remaining utilities at San Juan voted against investing in further capital upgrades at San Juan coal. The San Juan plant isn't reliable and a Wall St. analyst just downgraded PNM stock because their economic analysis shows that PNM will be stuck with unwanted coal shares.

PNM's side of the story is here.

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