The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

ECO-BEAT


Placitas Recycling Center gets ready for summer

Summertime presents its own challenges for the Placitas Recycling Center. Heat in combination with food residues can create an undesirable nuisance. That is why the center’s managers are asking Placitas residents to be especially conscientious at this time of year about rinsing plastic containers before recycling them and not bringing in boxes with food remains (e.g., pizza boxes).

“We’ve wrestled with vermin problems in the past,” comments Placitas Recycling Association President John Richardson, “but we’ve gotten the problem under control and want to make sure it stays under control.” Food residues can attract rats and other pests any time of year, but unsanitary conditions are a particular concern in the summer. In order to manage the risk, volunteers may reject items brought in for recycling if they haven’t been adequately cleaned. In most cases, a quick rinse is all that is needed.

Patrons of the recycling center are also asked to separate their materials before bringing them in so they can be quickly placed in the correct containers. The center has separate receptacles for corrugated cardboard, mixed paper, white office paper, chipboard, aluminum, No. 1 plastic (PETE), and No. 2 plastic (HDPE). Separating these items before bringing them in saves volunteers from having to spend extra time separating them in the heat at the center. “These are small ways residents can help us provide the community a valuable service in a safe and healthy way,” notes Richardson.

Located on Highway 165 just east of I-25, the all-volunteer Placitas Recycling Center is open Saturdays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Additional volunteers are always needed and can sign up at the center or call Carmen Ketchum at 771-1311. More information about the center can be found at www.placitasrecycling.com.


Summer Solstice celebration and picnic supper in ancient Placitas

—JOHN ORNE GREEN

A celebration of the Summer Solstice, when the longest day and shortest night of the year occur, will be held at a special site on Las Huertas Creek in Placitas on Saturday, June 21 starting at 6:00 p.m. The site is part of a large-scale, ongoing restoration of the creek (in former times, a river flowing all the way to the Rio Grande) sponsored by The Las Placitas Association.

The Solstice celebration will include a short walk along the creek and viewing of the extensive restoration activities to date. A ceremony at the “meditation grove” by the creek will feature music with local singers and musicians, readings, and short periods of silence. Three trees will be planted to honor the restoration. Attendees are then invited to stay and enjoy a picnic in the grove and learn a bit about ancient Placitas.

The site is near the historic Placitas Indian Pueblo, as well as the old San Jose de las Huertas Land Grant Village, now an archaeological site.

The Summer Solstice celebration is a regular joint offering of The Earth Care Fellowship of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church and The Partnership for Earth Spirituality of Albuquerque as part of the Earth Vespers series.

The event is free to the public; donations are welcomed. All are invited. The supper is potluck, so please bring a dish to share and a beverage.

Attendees can meet at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church (map at www.lasplacitaschurch.org) at 5:30 p.m. to carpool to the site (a few minutes away off of Tecolote). You may also email John Green at jogreenalb@aol.com for detailed directions to the site.


Domenici’s New Mexico Water Planning Bill becomes law

Last month, President Bush signed a law that includes legislation authored by U.S. Senator Pete Domenici that will give New Mexico added federal water planning assistance to more accurately assess its water resources. The New Mexico Water Planning Assistance Act (S.255) was included in S.2739, an amalgamation of sixty-two individual bills cleared by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The New Mexico water legislation, which was co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman, authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide specific technical assistance to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE) for assessing water resources in New Mexico and their future use.

“With this new law, we’ve authorized federal water agencies to more effectively coordinate and assist New Mexico with planning, assessing, and studying its water resources. As our state grows, it is imperative that we have a more accurate understanding of our water resources. This knowledge will be critical to planning for the state’s long-term future,” Domenici said.

“This new law will help New Mexico water managers plan for and meet the water needs of residents throughout the state,” said Bingaman, Senate Energy Committee chairman.

The new law authorizes BOR and USGS to provide technical assistance to the state of New Mexico, and authorizes an annual $3 million for five years to the OSE to perform hydrologic models of New Mexico’s most important water systems, basins, and tributaries.

The technical and financial assistance will help the OSE acquire hydrologic data, assess existing water resources, coordinate efforts with federal water management initiatives, and assist with numerical analysis and modeling to provide an integrated understanding of water management options.

Still pending before the Senate is a separate committee-passed Domenici bill, the New Mexico Aquifer Assessment Act (S.324). It would authorize the USGS to assess groundwater aquifer resources in the Estancia Basin, Salt Basin, Tularosa Basin, Hueco Basin, and Middle Rio Grande Basin in New Mexico. Bingaman also co-sponsored this measure.


Rio Rancho offers erosion control community workshop

An Erosion Control Community Workshop will take place on Saturday, June 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at Rio Rancho City Hall. This event is sponsored by District 4 City Councilor Steve Shaw, District 6 City Councilor Kathy Colley, the City of Rio Rancho, Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), Chamiza Estates Neighborhood Association, and the Los Rios neighborhood.

Residents who attend this workshop will hear presentations by professionals in the fields of erosion control, capturing rain water, and much more. There will also be rain barrels given away as door prizes. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will be invited to view homes in Rio Rancho that have already implemented many of the techniques that will be discussed.

This workshop will be held in the first floor Governing Body Chambers of Rio Rancho City Hall, located at 3200 Civic Center Circle NE. For additional information, please visit the city’s website at www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us.


Growing local in a time of global food crisis

—DAN GIPS

The Jubilee Garden, part of the Presbyterian Church of Placitas and located across the street from the church, is coming up green. We have planted sweet corn, over fifty hills of winter squash, pole beans, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, garlic, potatoes, summer squash, flowers, and more. We sowed buckwheat on the entire plot to compete with weeds and to be later pulled as our vegetables grow. The buckwheat growing between the rows and around the edge may provide a bit of breakfast cereal or chicken feed when it matures. As of May 22, we still have about a third of the rows left to plant. Our motto is that of César Chávez and the Farm Workers Union: “Sí, se puede!” (Yes, we can!) And by the way, weeds don’t scare us! Come and join us at any time during the season. Call me, Dan Gips at 867-4801 or email me at dang1@higherspeed.net for more details.

The United Nations reports that hundreds of millions of people worldwide face starvation in the next months due to commodity speculation, globalization of food production, soil depletion, climate change, and increased mouths to feed. Placitas has a history of being a small horn of plenty, nestled beside the Sandia Mountains. Maybe now is the time to pay more attention to Mother Earth, get some of her soil under our fingernails, and enjoy locally grown nutritious food.


Solar energy, New Mexico tax credits, and you

Solar energy systems are good for the environment and good for your wallet. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by solar energy instead of a coal-fired power plant, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by two pounds of carbon dioxide and three-quarters of a gallon of water is saved. An average New Mexico household powered by a solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system would prevent the release at the power plant of thirteen thousand pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and save at least five thousand gallons of water each year. Solar thermal systems—for water heating, space heating, and even space cooling—also benefit the environment by offsetting heating fuel usage, like natural gas and propane.

In New Mexico, the Clean Energy State, citizens get additional tax breaks for solar energy on top of federal tax incentives that are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2008. The financial benefits include:

FOR RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS:
The federal tax credit for a PV system that generates electricity or a solar thermal system is thirty percent of the cost of the system capped at $2,000 for systems purchased between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008. Unless Congress reenacts the federal tax credit, it will expire at the end of 2008.

Depending on the cost of the system and the amount of the federal tax credit, New Mexico provides additional tax credits up to $9,000, for a total of up to $11,000 when combined with the federal tax credit. The state tax credit applies to systems purchased between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2015, continuing after the federal tax credit is scheduled to expire.

If two separate systems are installed, such as PV and solar water heating, state tax credits can be claimed for both systems, up to a total of $18,000 in state tax credits.

The sale of solar equipment to businesses that install systems became exempt from the state Gross Receipts Tax on July 1, 2007, helping to reduce installation costs.

Residential customers with PV systems can also reduce their electricity bill through utility company net metering programs, as the energy their PV system produces offsets their utility usage.

The value of PV power for net metering programs is the same as the utility company’s retail price. In Albuquerque, this is about eight cents per kilowatt-hour.

It is possible for a residence to generate more electricity than is used, causing the meter to run backward, which means the utility provides a credit toward their future electricity use.

Some utility companies, in order to meet state-mandated requirements for electricity from renewable energy sources, will pay a premium, called a Renewable Energy Credit (REC), on top of the going retail rate for electricity. For example, PNM currently pays thirteen cents a kilowatt-hour for PV-generated electricity.

The cost of installing a PV system runs about $10 per watt. An average home would need a four-kilowatt system, at about $40,000, to handle all daily needs. With federal and state tax credits, the net cost of such a system would be reduced to about $29,000.

In new home construction or a home purchase, the cost of installing a PV system could be amortized in the mortgage, so a family could get the mortgage interest deduction through their federal tax return and claim the federal and state tax credits.

The federal tax credit is claimed by filling out a form with the total cost of the system and multiplying by thirty percent. Taxpayers can take up to $2,000 in a tax credit.

Filing for the New Mexico tax credit requires first that the solar system be certified by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The certification process supports quality assurance of solar systems and includes requirements for permitting, licensed contractors, and code-compliant equipment. Many solar system installers will assist with documenting the solar system operation and the certification process.

For more information on solar credits in New Mexico, call (505) 476-3310 or visit www.CleanEnergyNM.org.

FOR BUSINESS CUSTOMERS:
The federal tax credit for a business installing a solar PV system is thirty percent of the cost of the entire system, with no cap, much more than the $2,000 credit for individuals. The thirty percent federal tax credit is available through December 31, 2008.

Taxpayers who own businesses or agricultural enterprises and file an individual New Mexico income tax return are eligible for the New Mexico solar tax credit for their businesses. The state tax credit is available through December 31, 2015. The amount of the tax credit is the same as that for residential taxpayers, thirty percent, up to a cap of $9,000.

As utility company customers, businesses can also take advantage of net metering. Because businesses typically have larger buildings and facilities than homes, they have potential for generating much more solar PV electricity than homes.

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