The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

ECO-BEAT


Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert


New Mexico Biodiesel Policy Summit scheduled for March 27-28

Top New Mexico public officials, as well as educational, environmental, and biodiesel industry leaders, will discuss challenges and strategies for public policy and the development of environmentally-beneficial biodiesel fuel in the state at the first annual New Mexico Biodiesel Policy Summit, March 27-28, 2008, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque.

Typically blended with petroleum diesel for use in diesel vehicles, biodiesel is the fastest-growing alternative fuel in America. As a renewable, clean-burning alternative fuel derived from select natural plant oils, animal fats, or algae, biodiesel represents a closed “carbon cycle,” meaning that after biodiesel is burned, it is recycled by growing feedstock plants, which are later processed into more biodiesel fuel.

“While our region’s climate is too arid for the production of many agricultural products, some of the most important biodiesel crops are well-suited to New Mexico’s high altitude, low moisture levels, and high summer heat—making the potential for biodiesel feedstock production enormous,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Dr. I. Miley Gonzalez, a keynote speaker at the summit. “Less than four percent of the 121,412 square miles that make up our state are currently cultivated for biodiesel production. Although we are geographically poised to capture this development opportunity, New Mexico needs appropriate public policy to support it. This summit will bring industry leaders and government partners together to outline the path for New Mexico’s role in this emerging green energy source.”

Invited keynote speakers include Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and New Mexico Secretary Designate of Economic Development Fred Mondragon.

For more information and registration, contact Maria Zannes at (505) 400-9747.


Conservation Voters group unveils legislative tracking website

Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) has created www.ProtectNM.org, a public legislative tracking website which will empower citizens and voters of New Mexico to make a difference in legislative measures that have an environmental impact in the state.

ProtectNM.org allows users to track and act upon environmental legislation affecting New Mexico’s air, land, water, wildlife, and quality of life. Users are not only able to track legislation and view analysis on each bill, but are also able to use the site to contact their elected legislators, committees, and media outlets. The site also allows users to be notified by email when new information is posted about their targeted legislation, or to be notified by email when their bills are scheduled for a hearing or acted upon by the legislature. Other helpful features of the website include a glossary explaining the inner workings of the New Mexico state legislative process, detailed information about each legislator and the media outlets specific to their legislative district, and information about legislators’ “conservation score” as calculated each year by Conservation Voters New Mexico.

“Many important decisions that affect our air, land, and water are made at the New Mexico state legislature in a way that makes it difficult for the average citizen to find out what is going on,” says Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of CVNM. “Our hope is that this website will become a critical instrument empowering New Mexicans to be a part of the environmental action going on at the Roundhouse.”

Users can register to use the website at www.ProtectNM.org. The site is a joint project of CVNM and the CVNM Education Fund. CVNM works to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and make sensible conservation policies a top priority for elected officials, political candidates, and voters across the state. For more information, contact Sandy Buffett at 270-5743.


Corporate profits don’t trickle down

—NEW MEXICO VOICES FOR CHILDREN

Corporate profits in New Mexico comprise a larger share of the state’s economy than they do in most other states, yet wages comprise a lower share. While the reasons behind this are unclear, the result isn’t: lower wages can allow for higher profits that go to what are mostly out-of-state shareholders.

That’s according to the “State of Working New Mexico: 2007” report, released in January 2008 by the nonprofit child advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. The annual report is released in conjunction with the nationwide Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN).

“What this means is that we need a redistribution of income in New Mexico,” said NM Voices’ Research Director and report author Gerry Bradley. “More of these profits should be shifted into salaries so fewer working New Mexicans live in poverty.”

In New Mexico, fifty percent of the gross domestic product goes to compensate employees. The national average is fifty-seven percent. If New Mexico’s distribution of income followed the national average, employee compensation would be about $4.3 billion or twelve percent higher.

The study also pointed to the lack of job opportunities, particularly in the rural parts of our state, New Mexico’s prevalence of low-paying jobs, and the unemployment rate among adults without a high school diploma. These indicators are sure to worsen as the country slides into the impending recession.

The complete report is available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/fiscalpolicyproject.htm.


Clovis community stops ethanol plant

—NM ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER

In a victory for communities everywhere, three Clovis groups have forced the giant ConAgra Trade Group to withdraw its application for an air-quality permit for a proposed 110-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant that would have been sited near their residential neighborhood.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Concerned Citizens of Curry County represented the concerns of the predominately Hispanic, African-American, and low-income residents of the neighborhoods nearest the site of the proposed plant.

The groups were represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center in an administrative appeal from a 2007 decision by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to issue an air permit for the facility. The appeal was filed with the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board.

Clovis residents were concerned about the possible respiratory illnesses that could result from the plant’s air emissions and the diesel exhaust from thousands of delivery trucks and trains annually, as well as other adverse impacts to their quality of life, including noise, odor, traffic, and dust.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center successfully argued that ConAgra’s notice to the community about the actual location of the plant had been substantially flawed, and therefore, the permit was invalid. Based on the Law Center’s arguments, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board reversed the NMED’s decision to issue the permit and required NMED to conduct another public hearing following proper notice.

ConAgra decided to withdraw its permit application for the ethanol plant as they were facing this additional hearing, which may have been followed by subsequent appeals.

The Law Center may seek to challenge ConAgra’s existing air permit for its grain elevator, which was also obtained following a misleading notice and which inflicts excessive levels of noise, odor, and dust on nearby residents.

The mission of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and communities through legal and policy advocacy, and public education.

For more information, visit www.nmenvirolaw.org


New Mexico solar tax credits deadline extended

— JANE TABOR, ENERGY, MINERALS AND NATURAL RESOURCES DEPARTMENT

New Mexico homeowners and businesses that installed solar energy systems during the year got an additional month to submit applications for 2007 state tax credits. A 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’s operation and the certification process.

New Mexico provides a tax credit of up to $9,000 for a solar energy system installed between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2015, in addition to the federal tax credit of up to $2,000. If two separate systems are installed, such as solar photovoltaic electric and solar thermal heating, state tax credits can be claimed for both systems, up to a total of $18,000.

Thanks to action last year by Governor Richardson and the New Mexico legislature, two additional solar incentives are available to make it easier to utilize solar energy. The Solar Gross Receipts Tax Exemption is now in effect, which can help reduce the upfront cost at the time of purchase.

New Mexico’s long-standing Solar Rights Act, which established the right to use solar energy as a property right, has been strengthened. Retroactive to 1978, it is prohibited for cities and homeowners’ associations to establish covenants, codes, or restrictions that forbid solar installations (with the exception of historic districts). More homeowners can now utilize their right to an unobstructed line-of-sight path to the sun. For more information about New Mexico’s solar energy incentives, visit www.CleanEnergyNM.org.


National Forest Site Steward Program announces spring training class

The Santa Fe National Forest Site Steward Program announced that its spring training class will be held April 26 and 27 at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Museum Hill in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) is responsible for managing one of the largest collections of Heritage Resources in the U.S. These include archaeological sites from many cultures and time periods, plus historical sites remaining from the earliest occupation of the region by Europeans. These resources are a legacy of the history of this area and are treasured by both Native Americans and the current multicultural population residing in the area. These resources are threatened by natural and human actions, including vandalism and exploitation.

The SFNF Site Steward volunteers augment the resources of SFNF staff. Site Stewards monitor cultural heritage resources, and assist in identification and documentation. Site Stewards also serve as spokespersons to the general public in fostering awareness of the importance of preserving these resources. The chief objectives of the Site Steward Program are to promote the preservation of prehistoric, historic, archaeological, and paleontological sites in the SFNF; to uphold all state and federal preservation laws; to support heritage resource preservation activities; and to conduct all activities in accordance with the SFNF Site Steward Manual and Code of Conduct.

Site Stewards are trained to make site visits in accordance with site visitation guidelines. Pairs of stewards are assigned to one of six areas within the SFNF and are expected to make site visits at least monthly, weather permitting. Stewards are also provided access to numerous educational opportunities sponsored by the program. Affiliate Site Steward positions are also available for volunteers who prefer to contribute by fulfilling important administrative and communications roles.

To apply for Site Steward training, obtain an application at www.sfnfsitestewards.org or email sitesteward@sfnfsitestewards.org. Applications are due March 15, 2008, and must be mailed to PO Box 31943, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1943.


Majestic Merriam’s return to pueblo lands

—NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)’s New Mexico state chapter and its partners are celebrating the return of the Merriam’s wild turkey to Pueblo lands in New Mexico.

More than sixty Merriam’s wild turkeys have been released onto Santa Ana Pueblo land since 2004 as part of a trap-and-transfer program between landowners in northeastern New Mexico and the Santa Ana Pueblo.

The project has restored a native population of Merriam’s wild turkeys to suitable habitat along the Middle Rio Grande Bosque, and was funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s Tribal Wildlife Grants Program. The neighboring Sandia Pueblo has also received a grant and is researching the possibility of releasing Merriam’s wild turkeys onto their land in the future.

Although there was some original concern early in this project that the released Merriam’s turkeys might come in contact with domesticated turkeys of unknown origin, Scott Lerich, NWTF’s southwest regional biologist, noted that preventative measures are being taken.

“We are working with the public to educate them about the negative issues associated with wild turkeys coming into contact with domesticated turkeys,” said Lerich.

According to NWTF Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs Dr. James Earl Kennamer, trap-and-transfer programs are necessary because pen-raised turkeys quickly fall prey to predators because they never learned survival skills from a wild hen.

“Simply put, landowners need to pay close attention to their management practices if they want to improve turkey populations,” said Kennamer. “The NWTF showcases these practices step-by-step in Get in the Game magazine and television show and wildlife habitat management workshops.”

“At the dawn of the twentieth century, the wild turkey was at the brink of extinction,” added Kennamer. “Thanks to the work and support of hunters, wildlife agencies, and members of the NWTF, the wild turkey has been restored to healthy populations.”

Joe Peña, a member of the Santa Ana Pueblo, was pleased with the results of the Merriam’s project in the Land of Enchantment.

“The wild turkey plays a very important role in the Pueblo culture,” said Peña. “It’s a great feeling to see these birds roaming our lands once again.”

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