Judge allows major Southwest transmission line to proceed

By Niina H. Farah | 04/18/2024 06:37 AM EDT

Arizona tribes and other challengers failed to convince the court to freeze work on the high-voltage SunZia line.

Construction equipment is staged at a yard in Arizona.

Construction equipment is staged at a yard in Arizona near Red Rock Canyon in the San Pedro Valley. Alex Binford-Walsh/Archaeology Southwest

The White House scored a legal victory late Tuesday when a federal judge rejected Arizona tribes’ emergency order to temporarily block construction of a massive transmission line intended to increase access to renewable energy.

Judge Jennifer Zipps of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona said the Tohono O’odham Nation, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and other challengers had waited too long to file a lawsuit opposing the path of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project through southeast Arizona’s San Pedro Valley.

“Plaintiffs had six years to challenge [the Bureau of Land Management’s] 2015 selection of the final project route,” wrote Zipps, an Obama appointee, in an order denying the challengers’ request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. “Plaintiffs’ 2024 challenge to the [record of decision] is therefore untimely.”


The Biden administration has championed the $8 billion SunZia project as a key part of its broader push to expand clean energy access across the United States. The 550-mile-high voltage line is slated to carry mostly wind-derived energy to about 3 million customers in California and Arizona.