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The San Antonio Express-News reported recently that Texans will pay $5 billion to build 2,400 miles of new transmission lines that “slice through the state and parts of the Hill Country, laced across hundreds of steel towers taller than the Superman: Krypton roller coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. A swath of land as wide as a football field will be cleared to make way for the towers.” The lines are needed to bring power produced by wind turbines in the west to the cities in the central part of the state. Reporter Colin McDonald tells how landowners — mostly ranchers — are trying to minimize the damage the lines will bring.
We haven’t looked recently for news about transmission lines recently. When we checked, we saw any number of stories about meetings, protests and hearings in rural communities. There is still a heated debate going on in Arizona over the SunZia line, for instance. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wrote in a newspaper column she supported renewable power, but we “allow transmission lines to be built in environmentally pristine areas just because the power is from a clean, renewable source.”
Meanwhile, in Congress, there is a continued fight over a pending bill that would give federal regulators new authority over transmission line siting decisions. The bill is being opposed by utilities, who say giving the feds this power may “be inconsistent, or in conflict, with local and regional plans.” The question is who will pay for the billions of dollars in new transmission capacity the country needs.