New Mexico congresswoman leads efforts to support agriculture in arid environments

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-New Mexico, has joined two colleagues in introducing legislation that aims at supporting agricultural practices in arid climates of the western United States. The other sponsors are U.S. Rep. David Valadao, R-California, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine. The Support Water-Efficient Strategies and Technologies Act, or Support the WEST Act, would allow the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the cost shares to 85 percent for practices under the Environmental Quality Incentives Programs that support water conservation and drought resiliency. Additionally, it aims to improve soil health through outreach programs and payments for soil testing. The legislation would also allow perennial production systems to access supplemental payments through the Conservation Stewardship Program.

State agency questions procurement process in energy transition funding requests

Questions about the request for proposals process have delayed the allocation of energy transition funds to projects selected by a state agency, Indian Affairs Department Secretary Designee James Mountain said during an Indian Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday. Mountain said it is prudent and his responsibility to check and see if the process was done correctly. He said his department has questioned whether the awards followed the state procurement code in terms of the request for proposals process. Mountain said the procurement process and codes that the Indian Affairs Department must follow are different from the requirements for the other state agencies that are overseeing energy transition funding. “We’re hoping to get these funds out expeditiously,” he said.

Invenergy official: Planned transmission line will bring economic benefits to New Mexico

The company that hopes to build a transmission line to move wind energy from Union County across the state to San Juan County told state legislators on Monday that it will begin an environmental review process next year and, depending in part on permitting timelines, may be able to begin moving electricity at the end of the decade. Invenergy, which already has developed a wind farm in Roosevelt County, now plans on constructing the North Path transmission line. That transmission line would be able to deliver 4,000 megawatts of clean energy. Officials presented an update on that project to the interim Indian Affairs Committee during its meeting in Santa Fe, which includes plans to begin the National Environmental Policy Act review process. The project will involve two converter stations on either end that will change the electricity from alternating current to direct current and then back to alternating current.

Irrigators in the Lower Rio Grande corridor could be paid not to water their fields

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission is hosting a series of events to provide irrigators with property in the Lower Rio Grande corridor with information about a groundwater conservation program. The program provides grants to compensate irrigators to voluntarily not irrigate previously irrigated land for two years. The application period opens on Monday and goes through Oct. 16. The information meetings will be: 

3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday as well as 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Village of Hatch Community Center, 837 Highway 187 in Hatch

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday as well as 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Doña Ana Community College’s Gadsden Campus, 1700 Ohara Road in Anthony.

Biden announces creation of American Climate Corps

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday the creation of a new climate corps that will train workers in clean energy and climate resilience industries. “The American Climate Corps will mobilize a new, diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans – putting them to work conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy, implementing energy efficient technologies, and advancing environmental justice, all while creating pathways to high-quality, good-paying clean energy and climate resilience jobs in the public and private sectors after they complete their paid training program,” a White House fact sheet states. The climate corps includes an environmental justice focus and will prioritize communities that are traditionally disadvantaged, including those that have traditionally relied on fossil fuel extraction as an economic base. People interested in joining the American Climate Corps or supporting the new program can learn more about it here. The climate corps workers will be paid and must adhere to program standards.

NM advocates join NYC march calling for the end of fossil fuels

Environmental advocates from New Mexico attended a march in New York City this weekend to demand the end of fossil fuel extraction and use. The march in Manhattan brought an estimated 75,000 participants from across the country, including about 50 New Mexicans from a variety of advocacy groups. The demonstration came in advance of this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, which will be taking place in New York. The group of New Mexicans who participated in the march were led by Indigenous and youth advocates who carried an 18-foot long banner addressing President Joe Biden and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that said, “New Mexico is Burning, Biden and MLG: Climate Action Now!”

“A collective of grassroots movements across the state of New Mexico is joining other frontline movements who mobilize around a No False Solutions narrative to bring light to the financialization and continued commodification of our natural and cultural resources,” Julia Bernal, executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, said in a press release about the demonstration. “We’re bringing a unified grassroots message to the international platform to demand our elected leaders take bold climate action that doesn’t continue the legacy of harm and extraction that has negatively impacted our ancestral territories for generations.”

The advocates also delivered what they called the New Mexico Declaration for Climate Justice to federal and state officials as well as the United Nations.

DOI announces plans to withdraw lands near Placitas from mineral leasing, including gravel mining

The U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed withdrawing more than 4,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management near Placitas from mineral leasing for up to 50 years. The area includes about 3,000 acres known as Buffalo Tract. According to a press release, this move will help “safeguard sacred Tribal lands, boost important local recreation opportunities, and support wildlife habitat connectivity” by preventing new mining claims or oil and gas leasing. The land in question is considered sacred to the Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana and is also a popular destination for hiking, camping, sightseeing and hunting near Albuquerque. It has drawn the interest of gravel mining companies, which prompted calls to protect it.

Report examines economic impact of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Since President Barack Obama created the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014, visitation has tripled and the national monument has spurred economic growth in the Las Cruces area as well as other communities near the national monument, according to a new report. Carrie Hamblen, the president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and a state senator, said that prior to the designation the organization contracted a report looking at potential economic benefits if a national monument was designated. The study was conducted by BBC Research and Consulting. The consultants revisited it this year to determine exactly how the national monument designation has impacted the local communities in Doña Ana and Luna counties. Michael Verdone, the director of BBC Research and Consulting, said the economic impacts exceed what was previously estimated by about 50 percent.

NM Supreme Court hears arguments in the Avangrid/PNM merger case

The New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments Friday in the appeal of a decision by state regulators to reject a proposed merger between the Public Service Company of New Mexico and utility giant Avangrid. While the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission acknowledges that the proposed merger could bring benefits to New Mexicans, the commission argues in court filings that, unlike other approved merger cases, there was evidence that the merger could also harm ratepayers. In addition to the Avangrid, PNM and PRC attorneys, New Energy Economy also participated in the oral arguments. During the oral arguments, the PRC attorney argued that the decision was made based on balancing the potential benefits and potential harms to customers based on substantial evidence. Furthermore, the attorney argued that past merger cases cannot be looked to as templates because each merger case is unique and the facts and circumstances of the particular case are different.

Pueblo leaders travel to Washington D.C. to defend Chaco buffer zone

Pueblo leaders traveled to Washington D.C. this week to meet with federal officials in an effort to prevent the federal government from overturning a buffer zone preventing new oil and gas, or uranium, leases within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Following the announcement of a 20-year moratorium on mineral leasing on federal lands near Chaco, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that would essentially end that moratorium. Pueblo of Acoma Gov. Randall Vicente said that it is “hard to accept somebody just coming in for the purpose of money to try to take it away and do away with it.”

He asked how long the energy resources will last. “It’s going to deplete and it’s going to go,” he said. “One of these days, there won’t be anything.  And then what are you going to stand on?”

The Pueblo leaders say the buffer zone is important to protecting their ancestral lands.