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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

PRC deals blow to New Mexico, renewable energy

—Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club

On November 20, three members of the Public Utility Commission adopted amendments to its renewable energy rule that will essentially cut in half the amount of solar energy that New Mexico utilities are required to produce. It also reduced the amount of renewable energy they are required to add in the future.

More than one hundred citizens and small businesses participated in public hearings in which all but three people called on the PRC to protect our renewables law and allow the current rules passed in December to work. More than 1,300 people submitted written comments supporting the current rule. Sadly, three commissioners voted to essentially cut in half solar requirements by doubling the value of solar. Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar, Lyons, and Hall voted to allow utilities to receive two Renewable Energy Credits (RECS) per kilowatt-hour for solar and three RECs for energy such as biomass and geothermal. Commissioners Espinoza and Montoya voted no, citing concerns about lack of public comment on this proposal and overall reduction of renewable energy production.

On December 11, Albuquerque city councilors, solar companies, business, and environmental groups called on the City, UNM, and Intel to withdraw from New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers (NMIEC), an industry lobbying group that filed a request on November 27 that the Public Regulation Commission reject 23 megawatts of the solar facilities that PNM plans to build in New Mexico in 2014. The facilities would create about three hundred construction jobs.

NMIEC was a driving force behind the PRC’s November 20 decision to reduce New Mexico’s renewable-energy requirements, and it is using that ruling to claim that PNM should provide less renewable energy.

 “We are already seeing climate disruption—droughts, floods, and extreme weather that impact New Mexicans across the state. UNM scientists tell us that New Mexico will suffer even worse consequences, including increasingly severe droughts and wildfires,” said Sanders Moore, Director of Environment New Mexico. “We must act quickly, and the best way to do that is to transition to clean energy. That’s why the Legislature passed the Renewable Energy Act.

To see NMIEC’s petition to the PRC visit: and search for Case 13-00183, PNM’s 2014 Procurement Plan.

Commissioner Powell improves recreational and educational access to State Trust Lands

—Karin Stangl

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell has implemented improvements to Rule 19, which governs recreational and educational access permits on state trust lands.

Permits now are valid for a full year from the time they are purchased, rather than expiring at the end of the calendar year. Educational access permits have increased in time from one to three days and allow class sizes up to fifty people.

“These rule revisions will make some of our state trust lands more readily available to the public for hiking, photographing, and doing other recreational activities, as well as for outdoor education,” said State Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “We encourage people to take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy and learn in New Mexico’s great outdoors.”

Annual recreation permits cost $25 dollars, and educational permits are five dollars for each visit. Further details and applications are available online at, or call 827-5724. A copy of the new Rule 19 is available at

The New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands is an elected state official responsible for administering the state’s land grant trust. Thirteen million acres of land were granted to New Mexico in 1898 and 1910. Each tract is held in trust for the public schools, universities, and hospitals that serve children with physical, visual, and auditory disabilities. In fiscal year 2013, the trust lands produced a record amount of more than $577 million dollars in income for the beneficiaries, which saves the average household about eight hundred dollars a year in taxes.

Udall, Heinrich introduce Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Bill

—Jennifer Talhelm

On December 12, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation to preserve some of Doña Ana County’s most iconic landscapes, while boosting the region’s tourism and outdoor economy, creating jobs, and improving hunting and hiking opportunities. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act would designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to conserve, protect, and enhance scenic, recreational, and culturally significant land.

The new monument would be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and would include eight new wilderness areas. Studies show that designating the area a national monument would bring new visitors and business opportunities, generating $7.4 million dollars in new economic activity annually.

“Designating a national monument would put the Organ Mountains and other spectacular areas of Doña Ana County on recreation maps around the world, attracting tourists to Southern New Mexico, creating jobs, and bringing in millions of dollars in tourism revenue, Udall said. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding area form a beautiful and iconic backdrop for Las Cruces and are beloved by New Mexicans. Our bill would help ensure local families and visitors will continue to be able to hike, hunt, and learn from the thousands of significant historic sites throughout the hills for generations to come.”

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region offers outstanding cultural resources, tourism and recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and camping, and links us strongly to our past. For years, diverse coalitions in New Mexico have worked tirelessly for its permanent protection. By designating this natural treasure a national monument, a critical piece of our shared outdoor heritage will be protected for us now and for future generations of Americans to enjoy,” Heinrich said. “I look forward to working with Senator Tom Udall and communities across New Mexico to get this done.”

The bill conserves land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo, and Uvas mountains, home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, including the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus. It encompasses Broad Canyon, Sleeping Lady Hills, Rough and Ready Hills, Picacho Peak, Mount Riley, Peña Blanca and Bishop’s Cap. And it contains over five thousand archeologically and culturally significant sites, including Geronimo’s Cave, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Spanish settlement sites, and numerous petroglyphs and pictographs.

The national monument proposal is the result of many years of research and conversations with the surrounding communities, as well as White Sands Missile Range, Fort Bliss, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Importantly, the bill preserves existing grazing rights and vehicular access to one hundred percent of roads leading to currently used water wells, troughs, and corrals, and it enhances hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. It also strengthens border security in the region by releasing wilderness study areas within five miles of the international border, creating a buffer area for Border Patrol activities, and adding an additional road for border security purposes.

Tree-cycling available

—Peter L. Wells

Residents of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County will be able to have cut Christmas trees recycled for free—courtesy of PNM, the city of Rio Rancho’s Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful Division (KRRB), and Sandoval County.

From January 2 through 17, cut trees that have had all decorations, tinsel, tree spikes, and stands removed can be brought to the following locations:

  • Rio Rancho Sports Complex, 3501 High Resort Blvd. (can be dropped off at any time)
  • Sandoval County Landfill, 2708 Iris Road (can be dropped off between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday)

Commercial quantities of Christmas trees will not be accepted, and residents are responsible for unloading their trees.

Free mulch will be available at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last; mulching will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and residents are responsible for loading their mulch.

Residents are urged to return Christmas trees back to the environment by recycling. Mulch generated from Christmas trees can be used to provide a better growing environment for plants, city parks, and home landscapes. Mulch helps retain moisture in soil, acts as an insulating blanket to protect soil against temperature extremes, and reduces weed growth. Recycling Christmas trees allows the tree to complete its natural life cycle by nurturing soil so other living things can grow.

KRRB is a division of city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. For more information, call 891-5015.

Introduction to the seed library at Esther Bone

—Tracie Antonuk

The seed exchange library is coming to Esther Bone. Soon, you will be able to “borrow” free seeds from the library, plant them in your gardens at home, harvest them in the summer and fall, and exchange your seeds back to the library. Join us for this introductory program and learn how it’s all going to work.

The workshop will take place on January 18, at 11:00 a.m. This program and the seed exchange are brought to you by the Sandoval County Master Gardeners. The library is located at 950 Pinetree Rd. SE in Rio Rancho. Call 891-5012, option 3, for more information.

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