Trapped underground in the sandstone of northeastern New Mexico sits one of the largest naturally occurring carbon dioxide reservoirs in the nation called the Bravo Dome.
The 1,400 square mile gas field in rural Harding and Union counties is one of a handful of its kind in the United States. They make up a small but critical piece of the nation’s oil drilling operations — one that has bipartisan support and could increase under the Biden administration.
Most of the carbon dioxide extracted from places like the Bravo Dome is piped to oil fields where it’s injected into wells to force out the last dregs of oil in a process called enhanced oil recovery. However, carbon dioxide extraction raises scores of environmental and climate issues — including the potential for massive releases of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. And the companies that drill for the gas in New Mexico have questionable records when it comes to dealing with landowners.
Why drill for CO2? Democrats and Republicans alike have supported enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, in which carbon dioxide and water are pumped into wells to help extract remaining oil to the surface.
SANTA FE — Up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Medio Fire is burning over four square miles of forest land. Its smoke has been combining with that from wildfires across the West and spilling down the mountains into Santa Fe and nearby communities. When Carrie Wood found out that elders in the Nambé, Tesuque and Pojoaque pueblos had been contending with that smoke for days, she decided to step in and help. Wood and other organizers of the Three Sisters Collective first tried looking for air purifiers in stores, but everywhere they looked from Española to Santa Fe to Albuquerque had low stock.
They bought what they could and took donations, but wound up making purifiers themselves. Three Sisters members set up shop in Wood’s patio on Monday and, using box fans, 20-inch Filtrete air filters and duct tape, they made over 30 filters to bring to the elders and others with respiratory issues exacerbated by the smoke.
“We’re only doing what Indigenous women have been doing forever — helping the community,” Christina M. Castro, a Three Sisters member of the Taos and Jemez pueblos, said.
Santa Fe — Before the federal Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended his short-lived and highly controversial policy changes, the slowdowns it caused had already trickled into rural New Mexico.
Fernando Rodriguez, a window clerk at the Roswell post office, said mail that was usually processed in a day or two would take most of the workweek. Earlier this week, he said federal authorities were already trying to make cuts at his facility.
“They’re trying to shut down some of the machines,” said Rodriguez, president of the statewide union for rural and small-city postal workers. “Those machines cost millions of dollars, why not use them to the best of their abilities?’’
However, the Trump administration’s latest attacks on the Postal Service are just part of the issue in New Mexico. Rural post offices have faced cutbacks for years that have led to inadequate staffing and slow mail turnaround times. “It’s really an attack on rural America,” said Roxanne Heckman, a maintenance worker and vice president for the New Mexico postal worker union.