Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 26, 2015

Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504,

Obama Administration Approves SunZia Transmission Lines Through Key Wildlife Habitat

Major Utility Corridor Would Tear Apart San Pedro River Valley

TUCSON, Ariz.— Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has given formal federal approval for the construction of high-voltage electrical transmission lines through the biologically rich, unfragmented landscape of the middle San Pedro River Valley in southern Arizona. The massive 500-kv lines of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project will require construction of many miles of support roads and 150-foot-tall towers, creating one of the West’s largest utility corridors directly in one of the most important bird migration pathways in the United States.

“There’s no justification for sacrificing an area as biologically rich and critically important to wildlife as the San Pedro River Valley for such a dubious project,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Millions of birds — hundreds of different species — use the San Pedro corridor for essential migration every year, and this unfragmented landscape provides important habitat and connectivity for terrestrial animals as well.”

The “preferred” route approved by Jewell for SunZia runs from central New Mexico to central Arizona, ostensibly to promote development of wind energy by creating the transmission capacity to deliver it to neighboring states. But both California and Arizona officials have said repeatedly that they’re not interested in purchasing wind power from New Mexico, since they expect to meet all of their renewable energy needs in-state. Also, the only independent analysis done on the SunZia project concluded it was not economically feasible.

A flawed Bureau of Land Management environmental analysis of the project dismissed extensive public comments showing that SunZia is not likely to promote renewable energy production in any significant way.

“SunZia is a classic bait-and-switch, a project that pretends to promote renewable energy but is really more about a natural gas power plant that SunZia’s investors have acquired permits for but have been unable to build owing to lack of transmission capacity,” said Serraglio. “As important as the push for renewable energy has become, it’s a shame when a questionable project like this creates distractions and unnecessary conflicts.”

“Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in conservation of the middle and lower San Pedro River Valley,” said Serraglio. “Compromising that investment for a scam like SunZia is unfair to the communities, agencies and organizations doing that work as well as the wildlife that benefit from it.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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