bill aimed at streamlining approvals for new interstate power lines
in Arizona will see some changes before going to the House floor
for a vote, its sponsor said.
bill's sponsor, Casa Grande Republican Rep. Frank Pratt, said he is
working behind the scenes with various interest groups to "try to
make the bill what we want it to be." One likely change would be to
require at least one hearing for a new line under any circumstances
-- which isn't required in the current bill.
Democratic legislators, however, say that
a one-hearing requirement is not enough to fix the bill, and they
are skeptical that enough changes will be made on the floor.
They've been joined by one House Republican who says she's changed
her mind after voting for the bill in committee.
bill is aimed at helping proposals make it through what power line
advocates say is a long, difficult process before state and federal
governments. The bill is opposed by a long list of community groups
and other activists who say it will limit the public's say over
such proposals, which they fear will destroy wildlife habitat,
wreck views and damage neighborhoods. The centerpiece of the debate
has been over the proposed 480-mile-long SunZia line that would
take power from southern New Mexico across Southern Arizona before
ending in Casa Grande.
bill would give the Arizona Corporation Commission the choice of
handling a proposed interstate power line by itself, or also
putting the line through a more thorough and time-consuming review
by the commission's Line Siting Committee, an advisory
Currently, the siting committee must be
involved in all significant power line proposals before the state.
At least one hearing or public meeting is required before both the
commission and the committee before a power line can be cleared for
House Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill by a
5-3, Republican-Democratic, party line vote on March 21st. Pratt
said he hopes to take the bill to the floor in the next few
Pratt said he is talking with the Arizona
Game and Fish Department, SunZia lobbyist Stan Barnes, the Cascabel
Working Group, a volunteer group in the Cascabel area along the San
Pedro River north of Benson, and with representatives of state
natural resource conservation districts about possible changes.
Pratt described the bill as a work in progress. If the House
approves it, the Senate would take it up next.
Pratt said he introduced the bill at the
request of SunZia, although he said he intended that the
streamlined process mainly be used for much less controversial
is such a long process -- anything we can do to try to reform the
process is what we are trying to examine," Pratt said.
Peggy Judd, a Republican committee member
from Cochise County, said she decided to switch from "yes" to "no"
two hours after the committee cleared the bill.
that hearing room, I believed they could fix it. When I went back
to my office and I read the list of things that would have to be
covered in an amendment -- those issues were already covered by the
line sighting committee," said Judd, whose district includes areas
such as Cascabel and Picture Rocks where opposition to the ?SunZia
line is high. "If they have to change the bill that much, they
ought to use the line sighting committee."
Democratic representatives Daniel
Patterson and Bruce Wheeler of Tucson said they've heard promises
in the past that controversial bills would be fixed on the floor --
but they often aren't.
don't think the bill can be amended in a way that protects the
public interest," Patterson said. "I had an amendment in committee
that changed one word in the bill from saying that it may to it
shall require a public hearing. Republicans voted against it in
committee. That's a bad sign."
Wheeler said, "To have just one meeting
is not sufficient. There's traditionally several public hearings
and the bottom line is that this bill diminishes public