VP Kamala Harris highlights clean energy project in Tonopah, skips border

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Tonopah for a groundbreaking ceremony for a clean energy project but explained why she didn't go to the border.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:38 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:23 PM MST
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TONOPAH, AZ (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Vice President Kamala Harris visited Tonopah on Thursday for a special energy infrastructure groundbreaking. Harris was joined by Gov. Katie Hobbs, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. However, some questioned why the vice president didn’t visit the border on her trip to Arizona.

Ten West Link, a transmission line project, is expected to help deliver to millions of customers in central Arizona and southern California. The power line will stretch 125 miles connecting electrical substations in Tonopah and Blythe, California, on the border between the two states.

Harris addressed the administration’s efforts to create a clean energy economy. “Think about it every time you turn on a light or charge your laptop or plug in your air conditioner or put leftovers in the fridge. You rely on the power delivered by our nation’s network of transmission lines and that network is in desperate need of an upgrade,” said Harris. “So America is at the start of a historic transition away from fossil fuel plants that pollute our communities and toward cleaner and safer energy sources. Today on the plains of Kansas, off the shores of New York and in the deserts of Arizona, our nation is building new sources of energy, in particular, new wind and solar farms, which generates clean power for millions of families.”

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Tonopah to highlight clean energy but critics highlighted that she didn't visit the border despite being the border czar.

As for the border, Harris said she didn’t plan on visiting during the Tonopah trip. “I am here to talk about what we’re doing around bringing down the cost to American families and creating jobs. Let me say on the border, it is one of our highest priorities to continue to work on making sure that the border is secure and that we also do what is necessary to have a fair and humane system,” she explained. Harris then moved to call out lawmakers on Capitol Hill on border issues. “Congress needs to act. We put a historic number of agencies on the border and we’re in the process of upgrading technology. But Congress needs to act,” she said.

Harris also highlighted challenges for wind and solar energy. “Those wind and solar farms are often far away from the communities that they power. In many cases, the infrastructure we need to move clean electricity from where it is created to where it is most needed has not yet been built,” she said. However, the vice president said the new project will deliver electricity from the desert to big cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego and even rural communities like Quartzsite.

President Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to move the nation toward more renewable energy requires thousands of miles of new transmission lines to get power from the vacant lands where solar, wind or geothermal energy can be harnessed to cities where it is used. Administration officials say a massive, high-capacity line stretching across a sunny stretch of desert will encourage investors to drop money into large-scale solar fields in Arizona’s sunny desert to produce power for Phoenix and Southern California. More long-distance power lines also allow for the broader use of renewables even when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing in a particular location and help a renewable-heavy grid withstand the vagaries of weather patterns.

Arizona's Family got an exclusive interview with VP Harris and asked why she didn't visit the border on her trip to Tonopah.

Harris said the new clean energy would help Americans save money. “This electricity will be clean electricity. Solar panels and wind turbines do not produce toxic fumes that poison our air or dangerous chemicals that poison our water, and the energy delivered by these lines will not just be cleaner. It will also be cheaper,” she said. “On average, you see clean electricity is less expensive than electricity generated from traditional sources and more transition to transmission lines means more clean energy for our communities. And that means more money in the pockets of the American people.” She added the thousands of new high-voltage transmission lines would help ensure communities have enough power to prevent blackouts caused by storms or wildfires.

Harris was previously in the Valley with President Joe Biden in February of 2021, visiting a COVID-19 vaccination site set up at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Meanwhile, the President was in Phoenix last month to tour a significant microchip plant under construction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.