NM Environment Review: Holtec’s back in the headlines + news around the state

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:

• The Trump administration finalized the “Affordable Clean Energy” rule, which replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Environmental and public health groups immediately pledged to fight the rule’s implementation. As the New York Times reported, if it’s upheld in court, “it could tie the hands of future presidents on global warming.”

• New Mexicans interested in climate change should check out two additional national stories: Forbes notes that the United States spends ten times more on fossil fuel subsidies than education.  According to an International Monetary Fund report, “fossil fuels account for 85% of all global subsidies.” And, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists republished a story from Grist about the U.S. Department of Defense’s carbon emissions.

NM Environment Review: ‘political connections and tax breaks’ + news from around NM

Holtec International was in the news last month when the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied requests from some groups to hold an additional hearing over the company’s license to build an interim storage site in southeastern New Mexico to hold nuclear waste from commercial power plants. The Camden, N.J.-based company is also hoping the NRC will allow it to buy a closed nuclear power plant in the Garden State so “it can decommission it and gain control over an almost $1 billion decommissioning fund,” according to a May 8 story from the Associated Press.   

ProPublica and WNYC have also been looking into the company’s activities. In a story published today, Nancy Solomon and Jeff Pillets report that the company “gave a false answer about being prohibited from working with a federal agency in sworn statements made to win $260 million in taxpayer assistance for a new plant in Camden.”

Also, according to the story:

Holtec’s new factory in Camden is part of a resurgence for the poverty-stricken city pushed by South Jersey Democratic boss George E. Norcross III, who is an unpaid member of Holtec’s board.Norcross’ brother Philip is managing partner at the law firm that represented the company in its EDA application, Parker McCay.Sheehan worked closely with Philip Norcross on the Holtec matter, according to the emails obtained by WNYC and ProPublica. The law firm’s work on behalf of several Camden projects is now under scrutiny.

NM Environment Review: Holtec hearings, news from the Roundhouse + more

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:

• Susan Montoya Bryan with the Associated Press has a story about U.S. Regulatory Commission hearings on the proposed Holtec site in southeastern New Mexico, where nuclear waste from commercial power plants would be “temporarily” stored until the United States builds a permanent repository. The Albuquerque Journal’s Maddy Hadden is following the story, as well as Adrian Hedden with the Carlsbad Current-Argus and Marisa Demarco atKUNM.

NM Environment Review: Holtec license and hearing news, land grant dispute and more

-The Carlsbad Current Argus reported that one oilfield worker was killed and another injured when a tank battery caught fire Wednesday near Loving. -The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Wednesday that the public can request an adjudicatory hearing on the application a company has filed for a license to temporarily store 8,680 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants, and to eventually store more than 20 times that amount between Hobbs and Carlsbad. According to the NRC, the hearing—if granted—would be held before three administrative judges and could address issues of law or fact with the application filed by the company, Holtec International. The deadline for requests is Sept. 14; requirements and procedures for requesting a hearing and petition to intervene are online at the Federal Register.

With no permanent repository for commercial nuclear waste, NM is in the spotlight

Over the past two decades, southeastern New Mexico has embraced an industry many other communities throughout the country have rejected. Following more than 20 years of proposals, studies and battles, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) opened near Carlsbad in 1999 to store nuclear weapons waste underground. Then, in 2010, a uranium enrichment plant opened in Eunice. And boosters have floated other ideas, including a nuclear waste reprocessing plant. Most recently, a group of local politicians and businessmen invited a private company to store high-level waste from commercial nuclear power plants on a thousand acres between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Around NM: Science education, nuclear waste, mineral royalties and more

As we reported on Friday, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the Next Generation Science Standards Act. In her message, she wrote that “the Public Education Department has already been working diligently to route the standards through the appropriate vetting process.” The governor also argued the standards don’t belong in statute because it would “make it more difficult to update science standards in response to scientific advancement in the future.”

As Matt Grubs wrote in the Santa Fe Reporter, that bill would have required the state to adopt updated, nationally-vetted benchmarks for teaching science in public schools. As Grubs wrote last week:
Supporters, like bill sponsor Rep. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, agree that it’s better to let the PED change standards administratively. But no one from the state’s education agency has explained the delay in putting the NGSS into place. In 18 other states and Washington, DC, the most controversial issues surrounding Next Gen adoption have been human-caused climate change and the theory of evolution.