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.

Feeling the heat: Scientists and policymakers launch new climate network

As communities worldwide experience the impacts of rising global temperatures, and scientists forecast future scenarios with more and more certainty, many policies in the United States—related to everything from building codes and economic opportunities to social welfare and water conservation—aren’t up to the coming challenges. Now, a group of American scientists and policymakers is trying to bridge the disconnect between science and policy—and help states, cities, tribes and small communities plan for future conditions and also cut their greenhouse gas emissions. “My experience is that decision-makers are very challenged by both the magnitude of climate issues and the complexity,” said Kathy Jacobs, director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona. “One of the things we’re trying to accomplish with this new network is more readily connecting people with information that is useful to them.”

The network can help people integrate science and community values into decision-making and understand how to manage climate threats, like wildfires and floods, while navigating legal realities or “preexisting burdens such as histories of restrictive zone, siting of industrial facilities and inadequate public health infrastructure.” Or, help local officials think about how to take advantage of new economic opportunities, such as renewable energy technologies. This effort builds on the scientific work looking at the impacts of human-caused climate change on the environment, economy and infrastructure.

NM officials await word from Air Force on PFAS contamination

New Mexico officials find themselves stonewalled by the United States military over water contamination from two U.S. Air Force bases in the state. In early May, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary James Kenney sent a letter to the U.S. Air Force over contamination, this time at Holloman Lake. Previously, groundwater tests at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis and Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo showed high concentrations of PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Even in small amounts, exposure to these toxic, human-manufactured chemicals increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancer and problems like ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension. PFAS include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

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.

Irrigation district, state issue head’s up on high waters

If you’re out and about in the Middle Rio Grande’s bosque right now, there are some things you should know, as runoff continues ripping through the watershed. This morning, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission notified local governments and the public that high flows on the Rio Grande and the Chama River are expected to last through June. “Most of the bosque will be flooded during this time, and water will be against the levees,” the two agencies wrote in a joint press release. The irrigation district actively monitors its levees, especially older “spoil bank” levees and works with other state and federal agencies to address any seepage or erosion. MRGCD also closed public access to levee roads, drains and the bosque between the southern boundary of the Pueblo of Isleta and Reinken Road in Belen, where construction crews are working on levees.

NM Environment Review: Watching water, PFAS investigation + the militarization of climate change

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:

• Writing for Searchlight New Mexico, April Reese took a look at health concerns from expanded drilling in the northwestern part of the state. • MyHighPlains.com investigates PFAS contamination from Cannon Air Force Base.

Slowing the waters

Earlier this spring, or perhaps during a summer monsoon storm, you’ve probably seen floodwaters ripping down the North Diversion Channel in Albuquerque. That’s the huge concrete channel that runs alongside Interstate 40 and then turns north toward the Pueblo of Sandia. It’s probably the most visible sign of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority, or AMAFCA. Other than the tumbleweed snowman, of course. “That’s kind of the embarrassing thing, when you say ‘I’m the AMAFCA guy,’ and they’re saying ‘Who is AMAFCA?’” says Jerry Lovato, AMAFCA’s executive engineer.

NM Environment Review: What do the Rio Grande, Mike Pompeo & student climate activists have in common?

What do they all have in common? Well, they’re smashed into a really full NM Environment Review. So grab a snack and strap on your reading glasses. There is a ton of environmental news this week. Usually, only email subscribers get to read the entire review, but we’re feeling generous this week.

Feds release Copper Flat Mine analysis

Outside the town of Hillsboro, N.M., remains of the Copper Flat Mine are visible down a graded gravel road off Highway 152. A white pickup truck moves along in the distance. And there are a couple of buildings and a small electric line. The mine operated for just a few months before closing in July 1982. But a new company hopes to reopen it on 2,190 acres of federal and private land, and put to use water rights it says date back decades.

Pediatrician who treated immigrant children describes pattern of lapses in medical care in shelters

Inside a weathered green group home in southern New Jersey, Yosary grew weaker and weaker. She felt tired all the time, and when she got out of bed in the morning, she sometimes became so dizzy she needed to lie back down. Bruises started appearing all over her body. She craved ice, chewing cups of it whenever she could. For months, the slender 15-year-old, who’d fled Honduras with her 2-year-old son, had been reporting her symptoms to the shelter’s staff.