February 9, 2020

Transmission line bill passes House

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The State House passed a proposal over the weekend aimed at expanding electricity transmission lines in the state. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Nathan Small of Las Cruces, passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 48-21 on Saturday after a two-hour debate.

HB 50 would make transmission line projects eligible for Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) issued by counties and municipalities. The bill’s proponents argued during earlier committee meetings it would support more renewable energy development in the state and would help bring wind energy generated in New Mexico to western markets.

“The Industrial Revenue Bond process, which is voluntary, allows our counties and municipalities to construct these local agreements in order to foster economic development,” Small said. “We think this will bring significantly more economic opportunity to our state and especially to our rural areas.”

RELATED: Bill aimed at expanding transmission lines in NM passes House committee

House Republicans echoed many of the concerns brought up in earlier committee discussions, including how the proposal would impact schools that typically receive revenue from transmission line projects. During the floor debate, Republican Rep. James Townsend of Artesia successfully amended the bill with a provision to protect schools from losing out on revenue on transmission line projects.

“Schools can be short-changed [in IRB processes]. Not Republican schools but all of our schools, everywhere across New Mexico,” Townsend said.

His amendment requires that a school district in which an IRB is issued for a transmission line project receive the same amount or more of annual in-lieu tax payments that would have been received in property taxes for the project without an IRB.

Republicans Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell and Minority Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington raised concerns about allowing counties and municipalities to use condemnation and eminent domain in order to facilitate transmission line projects that use IRBs.

“I do forsee eminent domain being used to get these put up,” Ezzell said. She ultimately voted against the bill, as did Montoya. 

Republican Randal Crowder of Clovis said the bill would help residents in his community benefit from wind energy projects. Rural ranchers, farmers and landowners can receive significant annual revenue in the form of leasing agreements from developers building wind farms, he said. 

“I come from a neighborhood that is in wind energy. There’s a strong desire for more,” Crowder said. “Those lease payments can be substantial.”

Crowder voted in favor of the bill.

The legislation garnered support from seven Republicans, with four Democrats voting against it. It heads to the Senate next.