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Editorial: National security comes first over SunZia’s plans

The sort-of good news is that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is delaying a decision on an environmental impact statement that calls for routing a private consortium’s high voltage transmission line across the White Sands Missile Range’s Northern Extension.

The delay is to allow yet one more study of the line’s potential impact on the range’s national security mission.

The not-so-good news is that the study may just be one more effort by SunZia proponents to get more ammunition to push the project through at all costs.

As proposed, 45 miles of the 550-mile line from central New Mexico to southeast Arizona would cross the extension, a call-up area the range uses when testing weapons and technology. Range commander Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, has said the Department of Interior’s preferred route would reduce the range’s use of the area by 30 percent and would mean the end of some low-altitude testing missions.

A strong SunZia supporter, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., proposed that Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Lab do the study as a way of resolving the conflict. The Department of Defense has agreed to contract with MIT to review the Army’s concerns and examine potential changes to test protocols that would allow missions even if the line is built.

While that might sound reasonable, at the end of the day there is only one White Sands Missile Range, and anything that could compromise its mission should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism, instead of bowing to a private company’s dream of making piles of money on a speculative green energy project.

This is clearly a time for national security – and New Mexico’s economy – to take precedence.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.