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c. Rudi Klimpert

letters, opinions, editorials

ES-CA report

—Chris Daul

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) is continuing to fight against sand and gravel mining in the Placitas area. As previously noted, ES-CA has joined the Sandoval County lawsuit against Vulcan (formerly LaFarge) in an attempt to enforce the current zoning laws. The County and ES-CA maintain that Vulcan has violated these laws. ES-CA is also monitoring the Fisher Sand and Gravel Company’s proposal to be annexed to the Town of Bernalillo. The hearing has been postponed until January 12. Check the ES-CA Forum at es-ca.org for an update on this matter.

ES-CA has heard that the Bureau of Land Management will be proposing mining as an acceptable use in the Buffalo Tract of land. This land, which is adjacent to Placitas to the north, is under discussion to be transferred, from the BLM, to a private entity. The three groups that have expressed interest in the land, Santa Ana Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, and the San Antonio de las Huertos Land Grant, have all publically stated that they would not allow mining on the property. However, this does not preclude the BLM from including mining as an acceptable use for the property, nor does it preclude the BLM from transferring part of the land to an entity that would permit mining. ES-CA is contacting New Mexico’s Federal representatives to make our opposition to mining known. We have previously expressed this position to the Congressional delegation, but will do so again. Feel free to also contact your representatives directly.

We have seen some changes at the I-25 interchange, including the following: installation of a “double arrow” sign for the I-25 Southbound off-ramp; installation of a vertical “object marker” near the concrete wall barrier located at the beginning of the Southbound on-ramp; “ installation of signs for US 550 Eastbound traffic to alert motorists of which lanes to access Northbound/Southbound I-25; installation of a “FREEWAY ENTRANCE” sign for both I-25 Southbound and Northbound on-ramps from US 550; and, installation of the “Frontage Rd” street sign on top of the stop signs located both north and south of US 550 . We would like to thank NM DOT for this action. NM DOT has also sent letters to Vulcan and Fisher asking them to utilize the Algodones access to I-25 during peak traffic hours. There are still additional items that NM DOT will be addressing. Let ES-CA know how you feel about the interchange through the ES-CA Forum.

ES-CA welcomes new Board member Susan Fullas, who will replace the retiring Orin Safier. Orin was one of the founding members of ES-CA and has served the Placitas community for many years in a variety of civic roles. We will all miss his effort and dedication. Susan has been very active in the Placitas community and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be very helpful to ES-CA and the community.

The next ES-CA board meeting is on January 5, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at La Puerta Realty on Rt. 165. All are welcome to attend.


re: ES-CA—Fisher’s annexation update

The Town of Bernalillo held a Council meeting on December 22 in which an Ordinance to annex the Fisher Sand and Gravel site was the subject. Fisher’s Attorney, Matthew Spangler made his presentation. He noted that the proposed operation would be for seven years and that the hours of operation would be from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  He also stated that Fisher would donate approximately seven acres to ESCAFCA for a detention basin to help control flooding in Bernalillo.

Councilwoman Tina Dominguez noted that Fisher was asking for both annexation and a zone change to M-1, but that the public notice and meeting agenda did not include the zone change request. Based upon this fact, the Council voted to table the hearing until January 12, 2015.

ES-CA will be reviewing the revised ordinance (which was not made available at the meeting) and requesting additional information from Fisher. ES-CA will then make additional recommendation to the Town and to Fisher. Additional information will be on the ES-CA Forum.


re: passage of public lands package

On December 12, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich applauded the passage of a historic public lands package. Several conservation and energy bills championed by the senators were included in the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The end of the year package passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 11 and was sent to the President for his signature.

“This is an exciting day for everyone who enjoys public lands and parks in New Mexico. With today’s vote, we are protecting some of the most beloved landscapes in New Mexico and establishing a program allowing the BLM to improve its operations in Carlsbad and Farmington,” Udall said. “Scores of New Mexicans deserve credit for helping us get these bills across the finish line—from former Senator Bingaman, who first introduced them, to the diverse group of sportsmen, conservationists, local business people, and others who have put years of hard work... Protecting these special and important places will increase tourism and create jobs in the surrounding communities, while ensuring New Mexicans can enjoy them for generations to come.”

Heinrich added, “This is a historic moment and absolutely critical for jobs across the western United States and particularly in New Mexico. The public lands package will help grow our economy in the energy, tourism, sporting, and recreation sectors. And new wilderness and National Park Service units will continue to make New Mexico a unmatched destination for world travelers, as well as for the local families who have known for centuries that New Mexico really is the Land of Enchantment.”

Udall and Heinrich fought to include provisions in the FY2015 NDAA that would:

  • Designate the Columbine-Hondo area in Taos County as wilderness. Located in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico, the Columbine-Hondo has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area since 1980. The Columbine-Hondo is one of the most treasured places in the state and a key attraction for the local tourism economy. The bill would also expand the Wheeler Peak Wilderness by approximately 650 acres while modifying a boundary in order to create a loop trail accessible by mountain bikes along the Lost Lake trail from Taos Ski Valley to the East Fork trail to Red River.
  • Transition the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico to new management to increase public access. The Valles Caldera National Preserve Management Act (S. 285) would transfer management of the Preserve from the current Board of Trustees to the National Park Service (NPS) under a preserve model. Access for hunting and fishing would be mandated under the legislation. The proposal was developed after extensive input from local residents, sportsmen, veterans organizations, business owners, and elected officials.
  • Establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act (S. 507) would establish three different educational sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington. The park would conserve historic sites and artifacts that played a key role in the dawn of the nuclear era while telling the story of the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb and exploring its consequences for society.
  • Extend a pilot program that has helped the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) streamline the oil and gas drilling permit process while strengthening a review system that helps meet environmental and safety standards. The BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act (S. 2440) would extend a pilot program that has helped BLM balance complex demands, including oil and gas permitting and environmental management in New Mexico and other parts of the West. The pilot program has helped streamline operations in BLM field offices in Farmington and Carlsbad.

—Senator Tom Udall and  Senator Martin Heinrich


New Mexico Environment Department issues orders to protect safety and success of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

—Jim Winchester

On December 6, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) notified the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) of violations of state hazardous waste permits for both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Los Alamos National Laboratory relating to DOE’s handling of transuranic (TRU) waste that contributed to two significant incidents at WIPP earlier this year.

 “New Mexico is proud of our national labs and cutting-edge scientific facilities, and we have important rules in place to protect those facilities, the people who work there, and all New Mexicans,” said Governor Susana Martinez. “The health and safety of New Mexicans will always be our priority and we have to hold federal agencies accountable for safe operations in the state of New Mexico. The federal Department of Energy is a strong partner with us, and we will continue to work with them closely to ensure their success in our state.”

Following a comprehensive and intense investigation through more than nine months, NMED found multiple violations at both WIPP and LANL and has issued two Administrative Compliance Orders (ACO):

  • ACO 14-21 identifies a total of 13 violations at WIPP, resulting in civil penalties of $17,746,250 dollars.
  • ACO 14-20 identifies a total of 24 violations at LANL, resulting in civil penalties of $36,604,649 dollars.

The investigation included both the February 5 underground fire and the February 14 radiological release, both at the WIPP facility. NMED’s findings confirm the existence of major procedural problems that contributed to these events, and also found a less than adequate response.

 “WIPP and LANL are critical assets to our economy and communities, and it’s so important that we work hard to protect their integrity and the safety of the surrounding communities,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary Ryan Flynn. “These civil penalties follow a thorough investigation and are important to ensuring the continued safety and success of these important facilities. We look forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure the safety and success of both LANL and WIPP.”

In addition to the civil penalties, NMED stipulated that federal dollars marked for environmental cleanup or operational needs at LANL and WIPP cannot be used to pay these penalties. NMED has also required that the federal agency update and submit compliance updates over the next sixty days. DOE has an opportunity to demonstrate future compliance, which could trigger penalty reductions if DOE can assure New Mexicans of safe future operations.

 
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