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Gov. Proposes Energy Authority

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
    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.
    The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the measure on a 7-3 vote 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.
    Supporting the legislation were environmental and business groups, and utilities such as the Public Service Company of New Mexico.
    Joanna Prukop, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said New Mexico has great potential for solar and wind power, which could be sent to growing markets in California and other states.
    She said there are currently no incentives for construction of needed interstate transmission lines.
    Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, opposed the measure and questioned why a governmentally created authority should finance transmission lines rather than leaving the job to utilities. Payne also said the legislation grants too much power to the proposed authority.
    Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the bill's sponsor, said the state needs to promote clean energy production if private companies are unwilling to build needed transmission lines.
    Under the legislation, the authority could get involved in a transmission line project if 30 percent of the power came from renewable sources.

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