States set plans for declining Colorado River flows

This week, Congress passed a bill directing the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior to implement an agreement worked out by states that rely on water from the Colorado River. The Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act easily passed both chambers and now awaits a signature from the president. The plan acknowledges that flows of the Colorado River—which supplies drinking water to 40 million people and irrigates 5.5 million acres—are declining. And it represents efforts by the states, cities, water districts, tribes and farmers to make changes that will keep two important reservoirs from dropping too low. Had they not come to an agreement, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would have imposed restrictions on water use.

NM Environment Review: Rivers, trees, books

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

Springtime is particularly exciting in New Mexico this year! After last year’s dismal flows on the Rio Grande, it’s great to see the river running this spring and to watch some of the restoration areas in the Albuquerque area filling with water.

Tracking the methane boom

On a late March weekend, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard headed out to the Permian Basin, to visit oil wells on state trust lands. These are wells that churn out profits for corporations, build up the state’s general fund from taxes and royalties and send money to schools and hospitals. Looking through a special camera that detects emissions of volatile organic compounds, Garcia Richard also saw that the wells are sending methane and other pollutants into the air. “There are seemingly innocuous pieces of equipment, tanks, pipes, and then you look at it with the FLIR camera and you can see these clouds of emissions,” the commissioner said. “We went to some older operations, some newer operations, some [wells operated] by some smaller companies, some by larger companies.”

2019 a big year for environmental legislation

After eight years of ignoring most environmental issues, the New Mexico Legislature got busy on water, energy and climate change this year. According to the nonprofit Conservation Voters New Mexico, legislators took up more than 100 bills this session related to the environment. Some didn’t pass, including Sen. Mimi Stewart’s solar tax credit bill (Senate Bill 518). That bill would have allowed New Mexicans a personal income tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of installing a solar thermal system or solar photovoltaic systems on homes, businesses or farms. Other bills that might get a second (or third, or fourth…) chance in later years include the Healthy Soil Act (House Bill 204/Senate Bill 218), the Environmental Review Act (House Bill 206), the Strategic Water Reserve (House Bill 281/Senate Bill 277), the Wildlife Protection and Public Safety Act (House Bill 366) and a number of bills related to water planning. For some of the bills passed into law, the devil will be in the details of implementation.

NM Environment Review: Defender of the Gila passes on, Abq developer digs in + NM students get ready to protest

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

This week, New Mexico lost one of its most enthusiastic, and fierce, outdoorsmen. Dutch Salmon passed away earlier this week, and many of us will miss the former New Mexico Game Commissioner and former Interstate Stream Commissioner.

Decades after it was discovered, pollution continues migrating beneath Socorro

SOCORRO, NEW MEXICO—Just north of Socorro, a squat, square building sits on the west side of Interstate-25. There’s a gate across the driveway, but it’s wide open. And it’s easy enough to drive right onto the Eagle Picher Carefree Battery Superfund site. There are signs of other visitors, too: Fresh graffiti graces the walls, inside and out, and a wooden pulpit poses more questions than it can answer. Rain has poured through holes in the ceiling, pooling on the concrete slab.

NM Environment Review: Gold King Mine and PFAS lawsuits, oil & coal + the news

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

• A federal judge denied the federal government’s request to dismiss claims by the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation over the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. The Farmington Daily Times, The Denver Post, and Reuters all covered that news.

‘Intolerant’ of groundwater contamination, NM sues Air Force over PFAS pollution

In a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force, New Mexico alleges the military isn’t doing enough to contain or clean up dangerous chemicals that have seeped into the groundwater below two Air Force bases in the state. On Tuesday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) filed a complaint in federal district court, asking a judge to compel the Air Force to act on, and fund, cleanup at the two bases near Clovis and Alamogordo. “We have significant amounts of PFAS in the groundwater, under both Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases,” NMED Secretary James Kenney told NM Political Report. PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are toxic, human-manufactured chemicals that move through groundwater and biological systems. Even in small amounts, exposure to PFAS increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancer and problems like ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension. NMED Secretary James Kenney

“We want the groundwater cleaned up in the shortest amount of time possible, and we think at this point litigation is our best and fastest approach,” Kenney said.

As NM’s water boss, D’Antonio is back on the job

This week, John D’Antonio will take the helm at the Office of the State Engineer, the agency that oversees water rights and applications in New Mexico, for the second time. D’Antonio served as State Engineer beginning in 2003, through the administration of Gov. Bill Richardson, and for almost a year under Gov. Susana Martinez. After leaving the state position in 2011, D’Antonio returned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was named deputy district engineer for the agency’s Albuquerque district. Asked why, at this stage in his career, he’d want to head the state agency again, especially given New Mexico’s water challenges, D’Antonio said he didn’t initially apply for the position. “But as I spoke to the transition team…and noting how much of a challenge we have as a state, I thought it was important to have someone coming back in that could pull a lot of things together,” he said.

Bill would shine a light on state’s water situation

What do ranchers, environmentalists, counties, scientists and state regulators have in common? They all want to know what’s happening with New Mexico’s rivers, springs, aquifers and reservoirs. The Water Data Act, which unanimously passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Thursday morning, would help various agencies organize and share their water data. The bill’s sponsors include Rep. Melanie Stansbury, an Albuquerque Democrat, and Rep. Gail Armstrong, a Republican who lives in Magdalena and represents one of the most rural parts of the state. Rep. Melanie Stansbury

Environment-related bills have been moving through the Roundhouse this year, addressing issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy.