Following the September 24 meeting of the Socorro County Commissioners which included a public hearing on the proposed Western Spirit transmission line project, the Board voted 5-0 to direct District I Commissioner and Board Chair Martha Salas to notify New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) by letter that it is staunchly opposed to the project.

At that meeting the Board was given a presentation from representatives of Pattern Development, and also heard from members of the public who would be affected by the project.

In the letter dated Sept. 26, 2019, Salas summarized objections to the project.

She points out that “RETA is conducting this project as a government entity for the sole purpose of turning it over to a private entity, which violates the New Mexico Constitution” under the anti-donation clause.

In her second point, Salas said the County of Socorro is deeply troubled that the project representatives disclosed that the line is going through the county because it is “the path of least resistance.” Meaning, because the county’s population is rural and low income it will have to bear the burdens of the project without benefit, “so that urban more wealthy persons will not have to bear the burden of the effects of the line.” She makes the point that the 140-mile long path could be shortened to 61 miles and would be cheaper, less damaging to the environment easier to obtain right-of-way (because the state already owns the route) and it would traverse the people who will be end-users.

Salas argues that it is unjust to exercise the State’s power of eminent domain, the taking of property of individuals who will not benefit from the project, so that a private company can benefit from the project.

She also claims that company representatives were disingenuous at the meeting when they told commissioners that the county’s inhabitants could benefit from lower electric rates because of the project. She contends that they knew electric power could not be supplied by PNM, since SEC is in a long-term contract with Tr-State. “Everyone at the meeting would have preferred then to just tell us the truth; that there will be no benefit to Socorro County,” she wrote.

Additional points

Salas also said in the letter that the transmission line … “will arguably bring irreparable and permanent harm by despoiling the natural beauty and vistas of its crossing path; rendering useless or otherwise endangering the flight path of wo private landing strip; create an undetermined hazard to migratory geese, cranes and other birds; imposing economic loss to residents by lessened migratory-related tourism and property values; rendering some unknown level of environmental or safety hazard for residents and their livestock due to right-of-way clearance activity and electro-magnetic field effects; and seriously degrading the preferred rural quality of life enjoyed and preferred by those affected.”

Salas stressed that the Board demands that (the project) be either stopped or re-routed from the end users directly to the source.