February 3, 2016

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Ryley Carlock & Applewhite Congratulates Client SunZia for Receiving Certificate of Environmental Compatibility from Arizona Corporation Commission to Build Transmission Line in Arizona

Ryley Carlock & Applewhite congratulates our client SunZia Transmission LLC for receiving a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility (CEC) on February 3, 2016, from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). The SunZia Project is the first merchant transmission line to pursue and obtain a CEC in Arizona. Bert Acken and Sam Lofland led the team of Ryley Carlock & Applewhite lawyers who served as SunZia’s counsel in pursuing and receiving the CEC.

This approval comes after an Open Meeting on February 2 and 3 where ACC Commissioners were faced with making the policy decision about whether Arizona would allow merchant transmission lines or whether it would limit infrastructure projects to incumbent utilities. In voting to approve SunZia’s CEC, Commissioners Burns, Stump, and Tobin all reflected that having a merchant transmission line, developed in an environmentally responsible way, facilitates growth in the state by promoting the free market without imposing costs to ratepayers. During the meeting, there were numerous public comments, which included several elected officials providing comments in support of the SunZia Project.

Ultimately, the ACC voted to approve the CEC in the form previously approved by the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee (LSC) in November 2015. The LSC approval process involved 13 days of hearings, during which SunZia presented several witnesses and exhibits. Ultimately, the LSC voted unanimously to issue a CEC for the SunZia Project.

In January 2015, SunZia received approval from the Department of Interior to use federal lands to build the 515-mile transmission line stretching from New Mexico to Arizona. That approval concluded a 6.5-year environmental review process, which explored complicated issues involving endangered species, migratory birds, land use, major river crossings, historic and cultural resources, and potential impacts to the White Sands Missile Range. Jim Sanderson and Sam Lofland led the team of Ryley Carlock lawyers who served as SunZia’s counsel in working through these environmental and public lands issues.

“Throughout the almost seven-year NEPA process leading to a Record of Decision, and the recent successful transmission line siting effort in Arizona to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility, the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project relied on the experienced, expert counsel at Ryley Carlock & Applewhite to guide our team through the complicated and, at times, intimidating maze of transmission line siting approvals at both federal and state levels,” said Tom Wray, SunZia's Project Manager.

“SunZia Southwest Transmission Project applauds the Arizona Corporation Commission decision today to affirm SunZia’s Certificate of Environmental Compatibility as issued in November 2015 by the Arizona Siting Committee,” said Ian Calkins, a spokesman for SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, in a statement issued on Feb. 3 immediately following the ACC’s decision. “Today’s action by the ACC represents a significant milestone in the development of critical electric infrastructure in the southwest United States. Securing this important state permit is another major accomplishment for the project, having already secured federal approval. Once the few remaining approvals are secured, SunZia will proceed with financing, design and engineering activities.”