Researcher says ancient agricultural fields are threatened by oil and gas near Chaco

When the ancestral Puebloans lived in the Chaco Canyon area, they chose to locate their great houses in areas with high agricultural productivity, according to a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 

Lead author Wetherbee Dorshow said these ancient agricultural fields can be hard to identify. And encroaching oil and gas development in the region could threaten the fields. “There are a lot of areas there that have never been surveyed and we don’t know a ton about,” he said. “There’s also a lot of oil and gas in areas that are highly sensitive.”

He said the fields aren’t lined with stone fences like the masonry walls that have been used in Zuni Pueblo. Dorshow’s team used GIS—or geospatial imaging—to identify areas that the ancestral Puebloans may have farmed during the time period archaeologists refer to as the Great House period, which stretches from 850 A.D. to 1200 A.D.

Dorshow said there are a variety of different ideas about the role that Chaco Canyon played in the ancestral Puebloan society.

Governor touts federal, state efforts to combat climate change at COP 27

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham praised the passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act during a speech she gave at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, or COP 27, on Monday. She said the investments that the Inflation Reduction Act makes, such as incentives for clean energy development, are a game changer. “The issues for other states or regional coalitions have been there’s not enough money to invest, we don’t have the right incentives for the private sector and so it’s really easy to stay on that merry-go-round and never get off,” she said. The Inflation Reduction Act is just one piece of federal legislation that has increased investments in climate. She said last year’s infrastructure package provided New Mexico alone with $700 million largely for climate-related work.

New environmental crimes task force will help leverage resources

The head of the New Mexico Environment Department says a new environmental crimes task force will help the state better leverage resources to go after people who are polluting the environment and placing communities at risk. With agencies like NMED being underfunded, leveraging resources is important, Secretary James Kenney said. Kenney said he was familiar with environmental crimes task forces from his time in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said the EPA partners with several other states on such task forces. After more than a year of working with federal, tribal  and state partners, NMED announced the creation of New Mexico’s first environmental crimes task force on Nov.

Amid international climate conference, EPA announces proposal for cutting methane emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released new draft rules to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas sector on Friday during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27. The draft rule released Friday builds upon a previous draft rule released last year. Environmental advocates say that the proposal is strong, but could be stronger. Many groups said further restrictions or elimination of routine flaring are needed. Full text of the draft rule can be found here. 

“Ozone pollution and climate impacts from methane emissions pose a serious threat to our people.

State’s largest electric utility seeks new generation sources amid energy transition

As New Mexico works to transition to clean energy, the largest electric utility in the state issued a new request for proposals, or RFP. This RFP asks developers to propose projects that could help the Public Service Company of New Mexico meet increasing demands for energy. 

Nicholas Philips, PNM’s director of integrated resource planning, spoke with NM Political Report about the RFP on Monday. PNM will evaluate various factors in the RFP and the utility is looking for projects that can come online in 2026, 2027 or 2028. Philips said PNM’s economic development department is inundated with requests from businesses that have either not operated within PNM’s service territory or have not operated in New Mexico and are now exploring expanding their operations and opening locations within the PNM service territory. Another factor is the possibility that PNM could stop receiving power from the Four Corners Power Plant. 

Last year, state regulators denied PNM’s application to transfer its ownership shares of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

Conservation candidates won elections, now must rise to address challenges like climate change

Following Tuesday’s election, New Mexico will now have a congressional delegation consisting of strong advocates of conservation and public lands. Democrat Gabe Vasquez joins incumbent U.S. Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández representing New Mexicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mark Allison with New Mexico Wild and Greg Peters with Conservation Voters of New Mexico said Vasquez’s election was an important win for public lands. Allison highlighted Vasquez’s resume, including working for New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society.

Governor to travel to Egypt for UN climate conference

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she will be traveling to Egypt on Friday to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27. The governor has made climate change a central issue and this will not be her first time attending the international conference. Last year she spoke at the U.S. Climate Action Center as part of the Cut Methane panel alongside White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy, U.N. Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg and others. Lujan Grisham is a part of the U.S. Climate Alliance and environmental groups are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to model methane rules after the rules developed in New Mexico as a result of an executive order Lujan Grisham issued. 

COP27 began on Sunday. Lujan Grisham plans to attend the second week of the climate conference.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Democrats win state treasurer, auditor and commissioner of public lands

Democrats swept the down-ballot statewide races, with candidates winning treasurer, auditor and commissioner of public lands. The closest race was for state treasurer, with Democratic candidate Laura Montoya thanking supporters and giving a short victory speech shortly after 9:30 p.m.

As of 10 p.m., unofficial results showed her leading with 53 percent of the votes. Montoya was running against Republican Harry Montoya, who is a former Democrat, in the open race for state treasurer. The most distance was in the race for state auditor, which was also an open race without an incumbent. The Republican Party did not nominate a candidate, but that didn’t mean Democratic nominee Joseph Maestas could sail to victory without any opposition.

Stansbury defeats Garcia Holmes in 1st Congressional District race

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, won a full term after defeating Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes. 

The Associated Press called the race for Stansbury shortly before 9:30 p.m. Unofficial results from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website had her leading with 59 percent of the votes as of 9:40 p.m.

Bernalillo County voters handed Stansbury a large lead over Garcia Holmes, who in 2018 ran for lieutenant governor. Garcia Holmes received strong support from conservative parts of the district including Otero, Chaves and De Baca counties. These areas were all added to the district during the most recent round of redistricting. Stansbury won a special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2021 following former Rep. Deb Haaland’s appointment as Secretary of the Interior. Prior to serving as a congresswoman, Stansbury was a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

Leger Fernández said her to-do list includes addressing inflation and increasing manufacturing not only in the United States but also in New Mexico.

In a rematch of the 2020 election, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández once again defeated Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson to represent New Mexico’s Third Congressional District. Leger Fernández took the stage around 9:10 p.m. for her victory speech. The Associated Press called the race at 8:51 p.m.

In 2020, Leger Fernández won 59 percent of the votes compared to Martinez Johnson’s 41 percent. However, redistricting brought more conservative areas into the district, including parts of Eddy, Lea and Chaves counties. At about 9:30 p.m., unofficial results showed Leger Fernández leading with 55 percent of the votes.