On one of the hottest days this summer, Los Alamos County nearly ran out of power.
The coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington unexpectedly went down, leaving the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities scrambling to make up the energy. Several other providers were unable to deliver power to the county for various reasons, including transmission line constraints.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, the people I work with have never seen anything like this,” said Los Alamos Power Network Manager Jordan Garcia during a Board of Public Utilities meeting in August. “We were all on our own to make up that difference.”
All said and done, the county paid over a million dollars over a couple of days to keep the lights—and the air conditioning—on for its customers. The San Juan Generating Station is coal-fired—considered the most “reliable” energy sources because it can deliver the same amount of power all day every day, as long as it has coal to burn. But as states increasingly adopt clean energy mandates, and more renewables come online, utility managers fear more incidents like this one may occur more frequently.
The electricity markets in the west are changing, and that could further strain the county’s access to reliable power.
A Taos-based water conservation group has been waiting for the EPA to make a decision about a stormwater permit for over five years, while pollution coming from urban stormwater runoff in Los Alamos County, the group alleges, continues to threaten water quality standards. Amigos Bravos wants a final determination from the EPA in response to a petition it filed with the agency back in 2014. “It’s been 1,833 days since we petitioned,” Rachel Conn, projects director at Amigos Bravos, said in an interview. “Under the regulations, they are supposed to respond within 180 days. So, we are close to two thousand days overdue.”
In June, the organization filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA over the failure to act.
As early voting enters its final week, roughly 300,000 people have already cast ballots, nearly 260,000 through early voting. These numbers, as of close of polls Saturday, come from the Secretary of State’s office. Early voting was not open Sunday, and the final day of early voting will be Saturday. Absentee ballots must be returned by close of polls on Tuesday to be valid. The new numbers show Democrats maintaining a solid lead over Republicans, but declining.
Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump won New Mexico with 70.7 percent of the Republican vote, but in Los Alamos County he barely cleared half the vote from registered Republicans according to unofficial numbers from the Secretary of State. University of New Mexico political science professor Dr. Lonna Atkeson told NM Political Report there are a number of possible reasons Los Alamos didn’t overwhelmingly vote for Trump as most other counties did—all pointing to demographics. “There’s this thing about Trump being more working-class,” Atkeson said. “Los Alamos is sort of the opposite.”
According 2014 United States census data, 64 percent of residents in the county have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. A large number of residents work at Los Alamos National Labs and the county regularly ranks near the top of lists of areas with the most post-doctorate degrees per capita.
New Mexico has been giving marriage certificates to same-sex couples since 2013, after a state Supreme Court decision said that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage certificates to same-sex couples. New Mexico was the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Nationwide, same-sex marriage only became legal earlier this year after a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The opposition to the same-sex marriage has been signified by a county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail rather than give marriage certificates to same-sex couples. A federal judge ruled Kim Davis in contempt of court for failing to give such certificates despite numerous court rulings that said government workers cannot deny certificates to same-sex couples.