SunZia transmission line works halted after ‘urgent request’ from indigenous group

The US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has ordered work to stop on part of PatternEnergy’s 550-mile 3.5GW SunZia wind energy transmission line, after an urgent request from an indigenous group.

The SunZia transmission line will run between central New Mexico and south-central Arizona (Image credit: apollob66, via Getty Images)

The “immediate suspension” order concerns a 50-mile part of the line located on non-federal land in the San Pedro River Valley and is in response to “an urgent request” made to Deb Haaland, DOI secretary, on 31 October from Verlon Jose, Tohono O’Odham tribal chairman.

According to local media reports, Haaland has asked Jose to meet and discuss his objections and find a way forward.

Sacred sites

Jose is concerned the SunZia project will disturb ancient burial sites, archeological sites, ceremonial sites, and other areas considered sacred to the Tohono Nation and other tribes, including the San Carlos Apache, Zuni and Hopi. He said BLM gave the go ahead to Pattern Energy to proceed on 26 September before all historic properties along the route were identified and before a treatment plan for the properties was finished.

Jose is reported to be concerned that Pattern Energy is still working on the SunZia route north and west of the San Pedro area. That “sends a message that they are going to do it anyway”, he told the Arizona Daily Star.

Pattern Energy said the pause is a “good faith effort step” and that it will work to fully support the BLM consultation process. It also stressed that it fully respects the heritage, history and rights of Indigenous people and has “actively worked” to address tribal concerns.