NM Environment Review: budgets, wells, skittish Pruitt and more

This week, the budget news out of Washington, D.C. has plenty of people worried, including teachers and students who rely on science education funding. But the U.S. Department of Energy appears to be sitting pretty, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. Rebecca Moss of the Santa Fe New Mexican has that story, with more on a $1.1 billion increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Fossil fuel development would also see an $81 million bump over 2017 levels. According to her story:
But prioritizing weapons and fossil fuels would come at the expense of funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, which would take a $1.3 billion hit under the president’s budget from fiscal year 2017 levels.

Comments

comments

Record low snowpack foretells troubling spring, summer

On the last day of January, Kerry Jones points to signs near the Crest Trail in the Sandia Mountains. Nailed to a conifer, the signs guide cross-country skiers along the trail and they’re placed high enough to be visible in the winter snows. Today, the signs are a good three feet above his outstretched arm. Beneath his boots, there are only a couple of inches of snow. It’s not supposed to be this way.

Comments

comments

State moves to update oil and gas permits, while on the federal level, BLM cuts public protest period

The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Air Quality Bureau will host a hearing on Monday about proposed changes to construction permits for oil and gas facilities. The process kicked off in the summer of 2016, and the public comment period closed at the end of January. According to the department, the general construction permit codifies air protection rules for industry to “streamline the application process and to provide consistency in the oversight process.”

The issue is the latest in a line of moves that environmental groups say reverse protections for people and natural resources. Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that if finalized, the changes would make New Mexico’s new oil and gas construction permits among the weakest in the United States. “This is especially egregious when you consider the methane hotspot in the San Juan Basin and the importance of that issue in New Mexico,” Goldstein said.

Comments

comments

NM Environment Review: Fireballs, climate studies and forest thinning

In the Santa Fe New Mexican, Ben Neary wrote about plans by the U.S. Forest Service to thin 1,800 acres of forest just outside Santa Fe near Hyde Park:
Santa Fe National Forest officials say they will make a final decision in coming weeks on plans to start thinning out more than 1,800 acres of trees near Hyde Park this summer. The Hyde Park project is the first phase of a larger thinning program intended to reduce fire danger on 107,000 acres across the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in coming years. Bone-dry forest conditions make it imperative to address areas now choked with stunted and diseased trees, Forest Service officials say. If smaller trees are left in place, officials warn, they will likely fuel huge “crown fires” that destroy the larger, healthier trees around them. Planning documents call for leaving most trees larger than 16 inches in diameter standing.

Comments

comments

EPA’s waters and jobs, plus climate change and Cape Town’s dwindling water supplies

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finalized the “Waters of the United States” applicability date. Last March, President Donald Trump directed the agencies to review the “Clean Water Rule” also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which was finalized in 2015 as a way to clarify confusion over parts of the Clean Water Act. The rule applies to navigable waterways and their tributaries. Under the rule, a tributary doesn’t need to be a continuously flowing body of water. But it must have flowing water—marked by a bed, bank and high water mark—to warrant protection.

Comments

comments

Southwest water bill would shift funding from Gila River diversion

By a tight vote Tuesday morning, the Senate Conservation Committee passed a water bill—one that represents the latest attempt to control spending on a controversial diversion on the Gila River. Introduced by Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, Senate Bill 72, would channel federal money earmarked for the diversion toward other water projects in southwestern New Mexico. It would appropriate $50 million toward fully implementing a regional water project in Grant County, other shovel-ready water projects in the area, a groundwater study of the Mimbres Basin aquifer and water planning for the City of Deming. Morales told NM Political Report that he sees passage of the bill as a way to move tens of millions of dollars in federal money in a “responsible way.”

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) voted in 2014 to build the diversion, ten years after Congress authorized the state to trade 14,000 acre feet of water with a downstream user in Arizona. Already, New Mexico has spent more than $13 million of its federal subsidy on studies, engineering plans, and attorneys fees, although the state and the New Mexico Central Arizona Project (CAP) Entity still lack a firm plan or location for the diversion.

Comments

comments

With 2019 deadline looming, opportunity to rein Gila diversion spending tightens

New Mexico legislators tried to understand what’s happening with plans to divert water from the Gila River during a committee meeting earlier this week. While the Senate Conservation Committee will hear related bills later this session, they first requested an update on the project’s plans and a recently issued engineering contract. At its January meeting, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) approved the New Mexico Central Arizona Project (CAP) Entity’s request to issue a quarter-million dollars in contracts for the diversion project. One of those contracts, for $150,000, is for Occam Consulting Engineers, Inc.

That company is owned by Scott Verhines, who was appointed State Engineer by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2011. As an ISC member, Verhines voted in 2014 to move forward with the diversion rather than use federal money for conservation and efficiency projects in the region.

Comments

comments

NM Environment Review: Copper Flat mine, Dunn’s demand, Los Alamos fee and more

Earlier this month, we wrote about a proposed copper mine near Hillsboro. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a draft Environmental Impact Statement for how the New Mexico Copper Corporation’s  proposed open pit mine, mill, waste rock pile, stockpile and other facilities might affect things like local wildlife, water supplies and vegetation. Many local residents and downstream farmers as well as New Mexico’s two U.S. senators pointed out problems with the analysis. At that time, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission also said that the BLM didn’t adequately consider the project’s impacts on New Mexico’s ability to meet its Rio Grande water delivery requirements to Texas. (A big deal since New Mexico is currently being sued by Texas in the U.S. Supreme Court over those water deliveries.)

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;}
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.

Comments

comments

As Trump delivers blow to solar industry nationally, NM tax credit could ‘zero out’ cost increases

This week, the Trump administration announced it was imposing new tariffs on imported solar panels and modules—a move that will hit installation companies and consumers alike. But in the New Mexico State Legislature a trio of Democratic state representatives wants to give solar development in New Mexico a boost. House Bill 87 would give people who install a solar thermal system or photovoltaic system at their home, business or farm a ten percent credit of the purchase and installation costs, up to $9,000. If passed, the bill would authorize the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to pay out up to $5 million in tax credits for the year. The bill is sponsored by Reps.

Comments

comments

NM Environment Review: Energy and EPA news plus climate change hits television in NM

As the legislative session kicks off, don’t expect many bills related to the environment. (Though we will have stories on those coming up soon.) This year’s 30-day session focuses on the state budget. Any other issues require that Gov. Susana Martinez place them on the call. But there’s plenty happening around the state when it comes to energy, regulations and climate. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;}
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.

Comments

comments