WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management on Thursday announced it had completed the environmental review of a transmission project that can transport up to 4,500MW of mostly renewable energy across the southwestern U.S.

The step moves the project close to the finish line some 15 years after it was first proposed in 2008.

The BLM said the completed "record of decision" - the conclusion of the federal environmental impact study - for the SunZia project was a milestone in the Biden administration's effort to accelerate the buildout of electric transmission across the U.S., a vital component of broader efforts to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035.

The transmission line, when built, would transport renewable energy from New Mexico to energy-thirsty markets in Arizona and California. The proposal has languished in the complex and bureaucratic permitting process.

"This effort represents an important step in the development of our country’s renewable energy and transmission infrastructure," said BLM New Mexico director Melanie Barnes.

The White House last week called on Congress to pass permitting reform legislation that would help speed up the deployment of clean energy across the country. Democrats are at odds with Republicans who also prioritize permitting reform but primarily to speed up oil and gas projects.

The Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act has encouraged the build out of renewable energy projects across the country with 10-year tax credits, though without transmission expansion those projects are at risk

White House Senior Climate Advisor John Podesta referenced SunZia in a speech last week, saying he was surprised to find out when he returned to the White House last year that the permits for that project still had not been approved.

Now owned by Pattern Energy, SunZia is composed of two planned 500-kilovolt transmission lines across 520 miles of federal, state and private lands between central New Mexico and central Arizona.

The BLM is currently reviewing 74 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects on public lands.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jon Boyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.

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