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Gov.'s Proposal Would Give New Group Eminent Domain Power

SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson is proposing to create a quasi-government authority to plan and finance construction of new electric transmission lines in hopes of encouraging more renewable energy production in the state.

A Senate committee endorsed Richardson's proposal on Monday but a critic told lawmakers it could lead to more nuclear power or coal-fired power plants.

"I think it creates a nuclear energy transmission authority,'' said David Bacon, president of the nonprofit Southwest Energy Institute in Santa Fe.

The proposed Renewable Energy Transmission Authority would have the power of eminent domain to acquire property for transmission lines, could issue bonds to help pay for construction of projects and enter into leases with utilities or others for operation of the lines financed by the authority.

Joanna Prukop, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said New Mexico has great potential for solar and wind power generation and that electricity could be sent to growing markets in other states, such as California.

However, she said there currently are no incentives for construction of needed interstate transmission lines.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a 7-3 vote and sent it to the Finance Committee for consideration. The bill will go to the full Senate for debate and a vote if it clears the Finance Committee.

Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, opposed the measure and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

 A Senate committee endorsed Richardson's proposal on Monday but a critic told lawmakers it could lead to more nuclear power or coal-fired power plants.
 
"I think it creates a nuclear energy transmission authority,'' said David Bacon, president of the nonprofit Southwest Energy Institute in Santa Fe.

The proposed Renewable Energy Transmission Authority would have the power of eminent domain to acquire property for transmission lines, could issue bonds to help pay for construction of projects and enter into leases with utilities or others for operation of the lines financed by the authority.

Joanna Prukop, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said New Mexico has great potential for solar and wind power generation and that electricity could be sent to growing markets in other states, such as California.

However, she said there currently are no incentives for construction of needed interstate transmission lines.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a 7-3 vote and sent it to the Finance Committee for consideration. The bill will go to the full Senate for debate and a vote if it clears the Finance Committee.

Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, opposed the measure and questioned why a governmentally created authority should finance transmission lines rather than leaving that to utilities under the current regulatory system. Payne also said the legislation granted too much power to the proposed authority.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the bill's sponsor, said the state needed to promote clean energy production if investor-owned utilities or other companies were unwilling to build necessary transmission lines.

Under the legislation, the authority could become involved in a transmission line project if it's estimated at least 30 percent of the power originated from renewable sources — ranging from solar, geothermal, biomass and wind.

Bacon, a renewable energy proponent who was the Green Party candidate for governor in 2002, said that provision guaranteed that other power sources — fossil-fueled plants using coal or nuclear power plants — would end up using the majority of any of the authority's transmission line projects.

A supporter of the measure, Ben Luce of the Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy, acknowledged that the state can't guarantee a certain percentage of a new interstate transmission line will be set aside exclusively for renewable power. That's because federal regulators — not the state — oversee interstate transmission lines.

However, Luce and other supporters said the proposed authority could bring together renewable energy producers, utilities, groups from other states or the federal government to develop and plan transmission line projects that would benefit the solar- and wind-power industries in New Mexico.

Supporting the legislation were environmental and business groups and utilities such as the Public Service Company of New Mexico.


Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/n...

JAN 31 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1128-gov-s-proposal-would-give-new-group-eminent-domain-power
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