Sandoval Signpost

 

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
 
 

$300,000 for Santa Fe Community College clean energy job training

—Marissa Padilla

On March 16, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced that Santa Fe Community College will receive $300,000 for environmental workforce development and job training for the second straight year.

The funds, provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will be used to teach job skills to unemployed or underemployed workers from Santa Fe and nearby areas.

“With many New Mexicans still out of work, job training programs like this are a great way to learn new skills for a competitive economy,” Udall said. “Over the past decade, the number of clean energy jobs grew at nearly double the rate of the overall job market, providing high wage jobs, especially important during tough economic times. Folks coming out of this program will be well-prepared to compete in the clean energy economy.”

The funding will support SFCC’s ongoing programs to recruit, train and place workers in fields like waste management, energy efficiency, and renewable energy preparation and installation. It will also offer trainings on how to safely conduct cleanup work at solid and hazardous waste contaminated sites.

The college has established a Sustainable Technologies Center that integrates twenty-first century trades with advanced technologies and “green” curricula to promote a sustainable economy. The center is located in the college’s new Trades and Advanced Technology Center building. For more information about the center, go to: www.sfcc.edu/sustainable_technologies_center.


USDA publishes final rule to restore forests

—US Forest Service

On March 23, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final Planning Rule for America’s 193-million acre National Forest System that includes stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities.

This final rule, which follows USDA’s February 3 publication of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, replaces the 1982 rule procedures currently in use and provides a new framework to be used for all individual management plans for 155 national forests and grasslands across the country. Over half of Forest Service units are currently operating with plans that are more than fifteen-years-old.

The USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered over a quarter-million comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued in February to develop this final rule, which emphasizes collaboration, sound science, and protections for land, water, wildlife.

The final rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

Land management plans under the final rule will include:

  • Mandatory components to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.
  • Requirements to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. The requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern. 
  • Requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.
  • Requirements for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.
  • Requirements to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.
  • Opportunities for public involvement and collaboration throughout all stages of the planning process. The final rule provides opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies, and includes requirements for outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.
  • Requirements for the use of the best available scientific information to inform the planning process and documentation of how science was used in the plan.

Paging through the past
Signpost article reprints from twenty years ago

Seasons of the canyon: Spring Equinox, 1992

—Marion Davidson

Las Huertas looked slightly winter worn the afternoon that I visited, and the grey day didn’t help. Trees were down beside the road, in the picnic ground, along the trail to Sandia Man Cave, and a huge tree (it may have been a Box Elder) lay fallen across the meadow. Old and new trash was evident, the spring cover not yet hiding the beer bottles, cans, cardboard, and other litter. A huge pile of animal entrails, a belly swollen as big as a basketball, loomed untouched in one of the turn-outs. No coyote had even tugged at it.

Patches of snow started at the Cave Man parking lot and just above was a couple walking their Chow dog and kitty. A lady with a long blonde braid whizzed by me on her mountain bike and, soon after, two large boulders blocked most of the road as though the Canyon was trying to shut itself down, which well it should. I thought about the recently discovered details of the Forest Service’s plan for Las Huertas Canyon, hidden like a vein of silver in the ten volumes of documents that the Forest Service produced in the Federal Court litigation. I had known about the “Scenic Byway” designation for the road to the Crest and the plans for a new and improved Visitors’ Center built to accommodate one million visitors a year (more by a factor by at least ten, than those who visit Grant’s Tomb). What I didn’t know was that the Auto Tour brochure included a stop in Las Huertas Canyon in its guided tour of the “Scenic Byway.” Further, the Las Huertas stop at Balsam Glade would be enhanced by another Visitors’ Center which included (get this) history of the controversy over development here.

As I drove up the narrow road, I wondered how many of the million visitors would turn down the inviting country road and how much more trash would be heaved from car windows. I wondered how much longer the traffic jams would get on Mothers’ Day. A raven on top of a cottonwood didn’t seem to care, being busy at some work only known to it as I stopped and then backed up to get a closer look.

In the lower canyon, the ditch had been cleaned in a big way. I walked part way to the Sandia Man Cave, and I noticed recent mountain bike tracks on the trail. A family passing me warned that the cold front was setting in with its chilly winds. My dog didn’t seem to mind a bit. Further on up the road, a brave family had a fire going in the picnic ground and the table set for a picnic. I cruised the “Closed Until May 1993” picnic ground, walking through snow to the upper area. Wind damage to the trees was everywhere.

The old sled tracks were still evident and a cardboard box waited for its next passenger. I looked more closely at the rock walls having recently learned from the materials discovered from the Forest Service that much of that work in the picnic ground had been done by the CCC during the New Deal.

Last time I had been in the canyon, I was on skis with the biggest snow of the season just starting to fall. The critters had left their tracks in the snow, and a Downy Woodpecker hung around to have its picture taken.

Yep, the seasons are changing alright.

Reprinted from the Signpost, April 1992; Vol. 3, No. 4


Court denies attempt by governor and PNM to stall pollution controls for coal-burning plant

—Jeff Cappella

On March 5, a federal court ruled that PNM must comply with a decision last fall requiring the utility to install pollution controls to significantly cut the 16,000 tons a year of harmful haze, ozone, and fine particle-producing nitrogen pollution that pours from the smokestacks each year at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez and PNM had petitioned the court to delay the EPA’s pollution-control requirement from taking effect while they challenged the agency’s decision in court.

The tenth Circuit decision denied the Martinez-PNM delay, at the same time sending a positive signal that EPA’s decision stands on solid legal ground. “Now it’s really time for PNM and Gov. Martinez to stop standing against the health of our communities who breathe this coal plant’s pollution day in and day out,” said Sarah Jane White with the Navajo group Diné CARE. “It’s time they start standing instead where the people of New Mexico stand—on the side of energy from clean sources that create jobs and protect health, land, air, and water.”

The federal court’s decision followed a report released earlier in March that revealed that while PNM has been fighting EPA’s pollution control requirements, the utility has raised average residential rates 41 percent since 2008 and steered the large majority of the money into corporate profits. “PNM is already irresponsibly funneling over a hundred-million dollars of New Mexicans’ hard-earned money into skyrocketing corporate profits during a tough recession,” said New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi. “Now Governor Martinez, and the utility, should immediately stop wasting more ratepayer and taxpayer money, fighting clean air and public health in court, and start investing in clean energy.”

For decades, nitrogen emissions from coal-burning power plants have been a major source of harmful haze in the Four Corners region, clouding the air and views in economically important national parks. Premature deaths, asthma attacks, heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, and hospital visits caused by San Juan Generating Station’s pollution cost an estimated $255 million a year, according to the Clean Air Task Force. Nitrogen oxide reacts with other compounds to form small particles that penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs. It is also a raw ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone, which leads to asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lung damage, and even premature death.

Western Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice represented the following groups contesting the request by PNM and Gov. Martinez to delay implementation of the pollution controls: New Energy Economy, San Juan Citizens Alliance, National Park Conservation Association, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, and Sierra Club.


NMED reminds that open burning of most household waste is illegal

—Jim Winchester

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin is reminding New Mexico residents that open burning of most types of household waste is prohibited by state regulation.

“Residents should be aware there are environmental dangers to most types of open burning,” says Martin. “There are also fire safety concerns, as demonstrated by an illegal open burn that led to a brush fire in Doña Ana County last month.”

Doña Ana County Fire and Emergency Services needed assistance from three nearby fire departments to contain a fire near Highway 478 and Joy Road. This fire was caused by a county resident who stepped away from an illegal open burn during windy conditions. When he returned, the flames had spread across a ditch and damaged some nearby railroad tracks. The resident was cited for three separate open burning violations.

In addition to the threat of igniting larger brush or wildfires, the Open Burning Regulation serves to protect residents from toxic chemicals. Since June 1, 2004, open burning of most types of household waste has been prohibited by state regulation. Scientific studies demonstrate that smoke from the burning of modern waste, such as plastic food packaging, contains many toxins. These toxic chemicals are particularly hazardous to children, the elderly, and persons with respiratory illnesses.

For those persons concerned about the cost of proper and legal household waste disposal by curbside pickup service or at a transfer station, here are some questions to consider:

What are the potential healthcare costs of illness or disability caused by repeated exposure to harmful chemicals in smoke from trash burning?

How much personal income is lost by persons who have respiratory illnesses or medical conditions worsened by smoke exposure?

Can any price be placed on the loss of quality of life for persons with birth defects caused by toxins from waste burning smoke?

Please think about the risks involved in this practice and dispose of your household waste properly. For more information, call 1-800-224-7009 or your local Environment Department office and ask about the Open Burning Regulations.

 
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