Rachel Giron


The SunZia Southwest Transmission Project is a high-voltage transmission line under development in southern New Mexico and Arizona. The project was created to allow the expansion of the renewable energy production economy, and is also part of larger efforts at climate change mitigation. It has the support of federal and state governments, and has been fast-tracked by the Obama Administration. However, in spite of its potential to increase the availability of clean energy, conflicts between local environmental groups and government agencies over siting difficulties have impeded its development. Efforts to streamline the permitting process have been largely unsuccessful, as they often focus on centralizing authority at the expense of local input, and result in increased opposition from citizen groups and local governments who feel their needs and concerns are being ignored. This article examines the current permitting process, potential methods of centralization to increase efficiency, and the procedural protections that will be necessary to ensure that this efficiency does not reduce local input. Easing the development of renewable energy is both necessary to protect the climate, and a concept that lends itself to broad support from environmental groups, government agencies, and the business sector. This article proposes that this potential for support should be encouraged and conflict minimized by ensuring adequate opportunities for meaningful citizen input that can help SunZia and similar projects be embraced rather than rejected by their local communities.



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