Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Eco-Beat

PNM’s integrated resource plan—expect more large electricity rate increases

—Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy

In April 2011, PNM requested the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) approve a historic $156M rate increase, or 20% above existing bills. When added to the prior 25% rate increases, PNM will have raised rates by 50%. Most of this rate increase has resulted from investments in their aging infrastructure, especially coal plants that are over 30 years old now, and in natural gas-fired plants that expose customers to increases in gas prices in the future. They have under invested in energy efficiency and clean energy.

The PNM Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that has just been filed with the PRC continues the same business strategies that have caused rates to increase rapidly in recent years.

In the PNM IRP, energy savings due to energy efficiency would unnecessarily decline after 2020. The PNM IRP also calls for too small of an investment in clean energy. The Renewable Energy Act requires that 20% of PNM’s energy will be renewable by 2020. The PNM IRP achieves only 13% of its energy as renewable, even by 2030. It is hard to understand what PNM was thinking when you consider the vast amounts of inexpensive wind resources in eastern New Mexico.

The PNM IRP process continues the same business strategy that invests in old dirty coal plants and new gas plants that have the significant risk. These coal plants, which adversely impact the health of New Mexicans, will likely need to make major investments to improve air quality.

“Investments in energy efficiency save rate payers money,” Tom Singer of Natural Resources Defense Council said. “It is well known in the utility industry that investments in energy efficiency are at least 50% cheaper than building new energy sources, such as power plants and transmission lines. The PNM Integrated Resource Plan actually reduces energy efficiency in the later years of the plan. We encourage PNM and the PRC to adopt more aggressive energy-efficiency measures to stop this upward spiral of rate increases.”

David Van Winkle of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club said “To meet the requirements of the Renewable Energy Act, PNM should plan to take advantage of inexpensive wind energy in eastern New Mexico and abundant solar energy. Both technologies would stimulate job growth for New Mexicans.”

For more information, contact Chuck Noble at c-m-k@MSN.com


Water resources event

Forum attendees meet at the Placitas Community Center to discuss emergency preparedness.

Las Placitas Association hosts Community Emergency Preparedness Forum

—Cosmos Dohner, member, Las Placitas Association

 If you were not at our first Forum at Placitas Community Center on May 7, you still can find out:

  • How much food and water to have on hand as a precaution in the event of a disaster of some kind.
  • Who to call when you find your own or your neighbor's house on fire.
  • Which communication network will still work when the Internet and telephone and electricity are down.
  • If a fire starts on Sandia Mountain, upslope of the Village, will a fire break stop the downward movement of a major forest fire.
  • If NM 165 is the only route available for getting into and out of Placitas.
  • If there are designated shelters for you and your animals in case you have to leave your home in an emergency.

Bring your questions to Las Placitas Association's Community Emergency Preparedness Forum on Saturday morning, August 13, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., at the Placitas Volunteer Fire Department on NM Highway 165 near the Placitas Community Library. A $5 donation is suggested.

Invited presenters include the American Red Cross, Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service, Sandia Vista Amateur Radio Club, Sandoval County Amateur Radio Evergency Services, U.S. Forest Service-Sandia and Jemez Districts, New Mexico State Forestry Division, Sandoval County Fire Department, Sandoval County Emergency Management Communications, Sandoval County Sheriff, and the Placitas Volunteer Fire Department.

If you plan to attend on August 13, RSVP Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 or zhdohner@yahoo.com.

Las Placitas Association promotes educational activities to ensure that Placitas retains its quality of life.

This announcement is for information only and not an endorsement of a particular good or service.


Las Placitas Association hosts water resources events

Las Placitas Association begins a Water Series with a presentation about the Springs and Streams of the North End of Sandia Mountain by Dr. Laura Crossey of UNM on August 20 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Las Placitas Community Center, 41 Camino de Las Huertas.

Dr. Crossey comments, "I have been working with Livia Crowley (USFS) on springs in the Cibola National Forest, including several from the Sandia Mountains. The USFS have asked if I could come and present on some of our work in the northern Sandias to your group. My particular interest is in travertine-depositing systems, so I have quite a bit to say about the Las Huertas system if you are interested. And yes, lots of pictures!"

Laura J. Crossey, Ph.D, is Associate Professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where she began her academic career in 1986. 

Her research interests include low-temperature geochemistry, hydrochemistry, geomicrobiology, diagenesis (process in which sediment is converted to rock), organic-mineral interactions, nutrient recycling in aquatic systems, surface manifestations of mantle degassing (including travertines (form of limestone formed by mineral springs), microbial diversity in spring systems, sandstone cementation processes during sediment burial, the role of organic acids in water-rock interaction, and planetary impact events.

Contact for the August 20 event is Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 and zhdohner@yahoo.com. A $5 donation is suggested. RSVP appreciated.


Gno Gnukes

Is another devastating fire enough to make them rethink the chemical and metallurgy research replacement facility?

—Kay Matthews, La Jicarita News

Sometimes the only thing anti-nuclear activists can do to keep from going crazy is to act crazy. At the series of hearings on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Bechtel Cash Cow (Bechtel is one of the corporate managers of LANL) was on hand in Albuquerque on May 23. At the pseudo hearing in Taos on June 8, the peaceniks gathered at the intersection across from Walmart with puppets and signs to protest the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sponsored meeting that denied Taos a chance for a public hearing.

Since these hearings, almost the entire east side of the Jemez Mountains, from Cochiti to Santa Clara, has gone up in flames in the Las Conchas Fire. Los Alamos was evacuated, and LANL was threatened once again. Of particular concern was Technical Area G, the dumpsite that has been in operation since the late 1950s/early 1960s. There are 20,000 to 30,000 55-gallons drums of plutonium contaminated waste (containing solvents, chemicals, and toxic materials) sitting in fabric tents above ground. These drums are destined for WIPP.

The other elephant in the room, besides all the legacy waste still buried in Los Alamos area canyons and the other contaminated tech areas, is the CMRR-NF. While most of the attention at the hearings on the SEIS was focused on the potential seismic activity at the site, the Las Conchas fire serves to remind folks of how vulnerable the Lab is to other natural forces. The Jemez Mountains were a disaster waiting to happen: dog-haired thickets of small diameter trees at a relatively low elevation in the middle of a drought. The Cerro Grande Fire, 11 years ago, burned a lot of the vegetation surrounding Los Alamos, and during subsequent years, LANL management did mitigation work to reduce fuels on the Lab site. But with the extreme conditions we’re now experiencing, fire could easily jump existing fire lines, roads, and concrete barriers to reach LANL tech areas.

The Los Alamos Study Group sued the NNSA and the Department of Energy (DOE) for an injunction to halt expenditures on the CMRR-NF until a new environmental impact statement could be promulgated, but the suit was dismissed. The judge decided that the SEIS process now underway was sufficient for public participation. This does not allow for a No Action Alternative that would cancel the CMRR-NF altogether. On June 1 the Los Alamos Study Group filed a Notice of Appeal to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in its litigation to block final design and construction of CMRR-NF pending a study of alternatives to the $6 billion project.

The hope of many activists is that the U.S. Congress will be reluctant to appropriate the necessary funds to implement this CMRR project, and lo and behold, on June 15 the House Appropriation Committee cut $100 million, approximately 37 per cent, from the project and called for a delay in the construction of the facility for the duration of the coming fiscal year until at least October 1, 2012. Unfortunately, the committee also cut $175 million for clean-up at LANL, almost half the request. The bill must pass the full House and then go on to the Senate, so it remains to be seen if we will at least get a building delay. The budget slash and burn votes were mainly from Republicans, who have no philosophical opposition to the production of weapons, but then neither do the Democrats, President Obama included. Maybe when the bill from the Las Conchas fire comes in, the proposed $6 billion for the CMRR will be prove to be an anathema to even the most stalwart nuclear supporters.


Wolf recovery threatened by trappers

—Signpost staff

On July 21, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish approved a recommendation from wildlife managers to end a trapping ban in the Gila and Apache National Forests of southwestern New Mexico where federal officials have been working to reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf. The Game Commisssion voted unanimously to end the ban put in place by the Richardson administration last summer.

Prior to the vote, Commissioners met with opponents of the ban, but a report summarizing findings of the commission was not made public. Conservation groups allege that commissioners collaborated with trapping and livestock advocates. Most commissioners were appointed by Governor Susana Martinez, who has not expressed support of the wolf program and has suggested that local economies could be enhanced by ending ban.

The Trapping and Furbearer Rule proposals eliminate bans on trapping within the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area and also decrease the legal distance from roads and trails that traps may be placed. Public comments on proposed changes to the Trapping and Furbearers Rule have been accepted since December 2010. A draft rule is available on the Department of Game and Fish website, www.wildlife.state.nm.us

To no avail, New Mexicans sent more than five thousand messages to Game Commissioners asking to ban trapping on public land. The Sierra Club wriote, “The Game Commission will decide on July 21 the fate of thousands of Bobcats, foxes, and the other “bearers” of fur. In response to our public input, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has posted an alternative for game commissioners to consider. These alternatives would prohibit leg-hold traps, snares, and lethal body crushing traps on public land. [The Game Commission] recommends that the trap ban to protect wolves in the Gila be abandoned and trapping be restored without restriction. The same rules that have resulted in at least two New Mexico wolves losing their legs, will be reinstated.”

Because hidden traps pose a risk to hikers and their dogs, in addition to maiming and injuring non-target and target species alike, the Sierra Club asked New Mexicans to urge the Department of Game and Fish “to act in the broad interest of the public, instead of catering to a narrow and limited constituency that exploits wildlife for profit.”

   

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