The Permitting Council Office of the Executive Director recently returned from a trip to New Mexico, where we toured FAST-41 project sites, visited with congressional offices and state leaders, engaged with broadband project leaders in Tribal communities, and presented at the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority conference. As we kick off our new blog, The Infrastructure Insider, check out some highlights from our trip as we worked to bring once-in-a-generation infrastructure to the Land of Enchantment.
Congressional Office Visits
We kicked off our trip with a visit to the Congressional offices of Senator Martin Heinrich, Senator Ben Ray Lujan, and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury, to brief staff on the work of the Permitting Council and opportunities for New Mexico projects to leverage FAST-41. Projects that require Federal permits are often in regular contact with congressional offices, and this visit was an excellent opportunity to make sure that congressional staff have an awareness of the opportunities and support FAST-41 can offer to project sponsors who approach congressional offices for Federal permitting assistance.
SunZia Site Visit
A visit to New Mexico was the perfect opportunity to visit SunZia, a FAST-41 covered project. The $1 billion 550 mile transmission line project consists of two aerial transmission lines running from Central New Mexico to Central Arizona. The area surrounding the line includes two national wildlife refuge systems (NWR), the National Sevilleta and the Bosque del Apache. The team participated in a tour led by Department of the Interior (DOI) experts of the NWRs, learning first-hand about the possible impacts to wildlife associated with infrastructure construction.
Briefings with Governor Lujan Grisham’s Office and Cabinet Secretaries
Next up was a visit to the Office of the Governor for briefings with Governor Lujan Grisham’s advisors and cabinet secretaries. This was an opportunity to brief state officials on the benefits of FAST-41 and how the Permitting Council can support the state in achieving its infrastructure goals. New Mexico has received over $3.5 billion in Federal infrastructure funds over the past two years, making it a prime location for future FAST-41 projects. The state also passed the Energy Transition Act in 2019, setting bold renewable energy standards to chart a path to a low-carbon energy future. The Energy Transition Act sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030.
New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) Workshop
New Mexico has historically been a major player in the Southwest as it relates to energy production. With its abundance of sun, wind, and vast Federal land, New Mexico is a state perfectly suited for projects covered under FAST-41, especially those in the renewable energy sector. That is why our team made it a priority to attend the RETA Energy Storage Workshop while in Santa Fe. The theme of the workshop was 500 Megawatts for 5 Days, and we spent an exciting two days brainstorming ways to increase utility scale storage with experts in the field. Permitting Council Executive Director Christine Harada presented on bringing transparency and predictability to Federal permitting and highlighted how FAST-41 coverage could be a game changer for renewable energy projects in New Mexico.
Supporting Tribal Broadband Projects through FAST-41
The final stop of our trip was a visit to the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) to discuss FAST-41 coverage for two multi-million dollar Tribal broadband projects that will increase connectivity to Tribal communities in rural areas.
The first project discussed for FAST-41 coverage is coordinated by SFIS. SFIS was awarded over $57 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connecting Program for a 300-mile broadband project. The project installs broadband fiber largely on rural and Tribal land in New Mexico, and will require several permits from Federal agencies before it is complete. The project will connect students in grades 7-12, among other community members and Tribally owned entities.
The second broadband project discussed for FAST-41 coverage was with the Santo Domingo Pueblo. This project also received funds from the NTIA Tribal Broadband Connecting Program (over $12 million) to install fiber and connect towers in order to provide 680 unserved Native American households with broadband access. The Permitting Council looks forward to seeing how we can work with both the Santa Fe Indian School and the Santo Domingo Pueblo to get these projects covered under FAST-41.
We hope you enjoyed getting some insight into the inner workings of the Permitting Council. Keep checking back to see how we are working to make the #InfrastructureDecade a reality.