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.
I hope readers had a restful break from work, school and yes, media, too. To help catch you up on environment news around New Mexico, I have a few links to share. In December, PNM closed two units at its San Juan Generating Station. Now, the utility wants legislative approval to address how it will recover the money it spent on the plant. According to an AP story by Susan Montoya Bryan: The utility closed two units at the plant in December as part of an agreement to curb haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region.
Last week, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, an attorney with WildEarth Guardians, asked the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to establish regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state. That board, whose members are appointed by the governor, is responsible for rules related to public health issues like air quality, food safety and hazardous waste. By a four-to-one vote, the EIB denied the petition Ruscavage-Barz brought on behalf of 28 New Mexico children and teens. But she’s hopeful that there’s room for a conversation with the New Mexico Environment Department, the agency that was moving forward with strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change just six years ago. Ruscavage-Barz said the board encouraged the group to work with the state agency and other stakeholders and come up with an enforceable plan.
This weekend, as people across the country marched in support of stronger climate change policy in America, the Trump administration got busy wiping the words “climate change” from more of its websites. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the EPA had altered and redirected pages related to climate change, the Clean Power Plan and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the story: The change was approved by Pruitt, according to an individual familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, to avoid a conflict between the site’s content and the policies the administration is now pursuing. The staffer described the process of reviewing the site as “a work in progress, but we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site. This year NM Political Report has repeatedly linked to the EPA’s own resources when covering changes under Pruitt.
Last week, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined a coalition to oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to delay the U.S. Court of Appeals from making a decision on the Clean Power Plan. That 2015 plan would have helped states reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Utilities, the coal industry and 24 states immediately sued to stop the plan from being implemented. The appeals court unanimously denied a motion to stay the rule, but in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to issue a stay pending the appeals court decision. Then, at the end of March Trump ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wasted no time carrying out President Donald Trump’s executive order to administratively review and revoke the Clean Power Plan. On Thursday, Pruitt told state officials, including those in New Mexico, they have “no obligation” to comply with the rule. Related story: Orders from Trump, Zinke reverse nation’s climate and energy policy
In his letter to state officials, Pruitt wrote that the “days of coercive federalism are over.”
That plan would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its implementation pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the EPA by utilities, the coal industry and 24 states. New Mexico, through Attorney General Hector Balderas, was one of 25 states, cities and counties to file a motion to intervene in support of keeping the plan.
As carbon dioxide levels hit levels unseen in 650,000 years and global temperatures continue to rise, the United States government is rolling back climate change policies. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking and rescinding all Obama-era orders and reports addressing climate and clean energy. He also ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of that plan, pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the EPA by utilities, the coal industry and 24 states. New Mexico, through Attorney General Hector Balderas, was one of 25 states, cities and counties to file a motion to intervene in support of the plan.
Until earlier this year, states across the nation, including New Mexico, had been holding public meetings and planning to cut pollution from power plants. Taken as a whole, those plans were the Obama Administration’s most significant attempt, through the Clean Power Plan (CPP), to cut U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unable to adhere to the original timeline for requiring states to complete their carbon-cutting plans or face implementation of a federal plan, Texas, Utah, and 18 others suspended work. Others like Colorado, California, Oregon, and many northeastern states continued planning.But in February, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the CPP, pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the plan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Then, there’s New Mexico.
New Mexico is the sixth-fastest-warming state in the United States, with average annual temperatures expected to rise 3.5 to 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100, according to a report released by the Cambridge, MA.-based nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. The report lays out many of the impacts New Mexicans may already be familiar with, including temperature rises, decreasing wateravailability, changes in snowpack, wildfire, conifer dieoff from insects and drought, and impacts to tribal communities from post-Los Conchas fire flooding. And it discusses the describes challenges posed to New Mexico culture, communities, and economic sectors–particularly the state’s agricultural sector.
Union of Concerned Scientists report: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/04/Climate-Change-New-Mexico-fact-sheet.pdf Summer temperatures in New Mexico vary from year to year, but a careful analysis shows a consistent warming trend—a trend that is projected to continue into the future. Since 1970, the trend has steepened to an increase of about 0.6°F per decade.
New Mexico’s Attorney General is joining 16 other Attorneys General throughout the country to combat climate change. State Attorney General Hector Balderas made the announcement on Tuesday morning in a press release. “We have been impacted by climate change, and we see its drastic effects in New Mexico—extreme drought, increased risk of severe forest fires, and the ruin of our wildlife and natural habitats,” Balderas said. “Our efforts will ensure that progress is made on climate change and that the public is fully aware of the effects on the health and well-being of New Mexico families.”
The coalition of will work together on investigations; the press release noted specifically investigations into what extractive energy companies knew about the risks of climate change and if they deliberately misled investors and the public. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed records from Exxon over the allegations in November of last year.