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Reporter’s Notebook: Udall wants White House to intervene with SunZia

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Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the White House should intervene in the SunZia project – a 500-mile transmission line that would transport renewable energy from New Mexico to Western markets – to help resolve differences between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bureau of Land Management.

The Army says a 45-mile extension through the northeastern part of White Sands Missile Range could disrupt military exercises, threatening national security. It wants the BLM to consider alternatives that weren’t included in its final environmental impact statement, such as burying the cables underground.

“When we have two agencies that disagree like this, the White House needs to try to crack some heads to find a solution,” Udall said during a meeting Thursday in Albuquerque with Journal editors and writers.

Without transmission initiatives like SunZia, New Mexico will lose out to other states that are developing renewable resources, Udall said.

“The longer we delay, the more likely investors will go elsewhere,” he said.

The famous tax bill: Udall praised Gov. Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Legislature for lowering the corporate income tax as part of the “Breaking Bad” tax compromise this year.

The tax bill was criticized by some Democratic progressives in the Legislature. Udall said, “It’s a big issue how we can move forward in developing business and promoting growth and economic development in New Mexico.

“There’s a sense that we’re lagging surrounding states, so I think the tax reform was a good thing to put us on an equal basis,” the senator said.

Helping small businesses: Policies to support small businesses also are critical, since they account for some 96 percent of jobs in New Mexico, Udall said.

The senator is advocating legislation to make a standard $1,500 annual tax deduction for expenses by small businesses a permanent part of the tax code. It’s now temporary.

In addition, Udall said he plans to introduce a bill this fall to accelerate technology transfer at U.S. Department of Energy laboratories to promote economic development.

The bill would create two new federal funds with public and private financing to help businesses invest in technology commercialization. It would centralize DOE tech-transfer related programs and resources under a new, single office to improve efficiency. And, it would create expert commercialization teams to mentor people involved in the process.

UNM and Sandia: Udall said he supports proposals by the University of New Mexico to forge closer ties between UNM and the next private entity chosen to run Sandia National Laboratories. Lockheed Martin Corp. has operated the lab since 1992, but the contract is up for renewal.

“I think UNM should be a partner,” Udall said. “I’d like to see all of our research universities play a role.”

Contact Kevin Robinson-Avila at krobinson-avila@abqjournal.com.

 

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