Democrats mull corridor plan
—PATRICK REIS, E&E DAILY REPORTER
Reprinted from E&E
Daily with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing,
LLC. www.eenews.net. 202/628-6500.
House Democrats called on the federal government to revise their
proposal for Western energy corridors yesterday, saying the current
plans benefit coal at the expense of renewable energy sources, disregard
environmentally sensitive areas, and were compiled without sufficient
input from state, local, and tribal governments.
While they acknowledged that the corridors are necessary to pursue
energy independence and to meet increasing demand, National Parks,
Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva
(D-Arizona) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) asked administration
officials for more time at a joint hearing with the Energy and Mineral
“The current map looks like a giant extension cord to existing
coal sources,” Grijalva said. “Transmission is key to
the development and sustainability of renewable energy. If that
wasn’t taken into account, that’s a huge step backward.”
The 2005 Energy Policy Act required the Energy Department, Bureau
of Land Management, and other federal agencies to designate corridors
for energy infrastructure, including pipelines and power lines.
The proposed energy corridors would traverse federal lands in eleven
Western states, including crossings on national parks, wildlife
refuges, and other protected areas. Within the corridors, the permitting
process would be streamlined by allowing federal regulators to site
power lines. The agencies produced a draft environmental impact
statement (EIS) last November and expect a final EIS this summer.
“The EIS spent too much time alleging there would be no damage
[from the corridors] and not enough evaluating its potential effects,”
Grijalva said. “If it takes another six months to yield a
better product, I think it’s worth it.”
Republicans said the plans strike a good balance and that a delay
would go against the public interest. “There will always be
those who say you valued one fuel over another,” Parks Subcommittee
ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) told BLM Deputy Director Luke
Johnson argued that the corridors passed through established coal
plants in order to take full advantage of existing corridors for
power transmission but said the plans “made every effort to
incorporate renewable resources.”
DeFazio countered that the routes connect with proposed coal plants
that are yet to be built.
He also charged the North American Electric Reliability Corporation,
whose study predicted future need for power transmission and made
recommendations to the agencies, failed to analyze the merits of
funding energy efficiency initiatives instead of new transmission
lines. “You relied on the utilities for their estimates on
how much power was needed, and asserted like Mr. Bishop did that
efficiency efforts won’t matter without any data to back that
up,” DeFazio said. “The smartest corridor is one we
don’t need to build.”
Echoing the complaints of state and local government officials,
Hualapai Nation Chairman Charles Vaughn complained that his organization
was not given sufficient input into the process, even while the
corridors ran through lands of historical and cultural importance
to the nation. “For an agency to decide on a route before
consulting with tribes to identify such properties is an invitation
to failure,” he said. “The present approach… conveys
the message that [the agencies] will define the consultation process
and they really don’t much care about tribes’ concerns.”
New Mexico Secretary of Energy and Minerals Joanna Prukop warned
that by failing to consult with local entities in siting the corridors
on federal land, it may be increasingly difficult to connect the
corridors on state or private lands.
Johnson defended the process, saying the agency did “very
well” in coordinating with the state and other agencies. When
asked if his agency could have taken more time to conduct the study
without hurting the final results, Johnson responded, “Yes,
but the public wants it done sooner rather than later.”
Representative Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico), the ranking member
of Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, implored the committee
to allow the process to keep moving. “We might ask what is
more important—ensuring one more power line doesn’t
parallel a freeway across federal lands, or providing reliable energy
transmission to individual homes, apartments, hospitals, government
offices, and business and industry—the driving forces of our
economy.” he said.
West-wide energy corridor update
Governor Richardson’s Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Minerals,
and Natural Resources, Joanna Prukop, traveled to Washington to
testify at the Congressional Hearings on the proposed West-wide
energy corridor project. Her comments reflect the concerns of many
Placitans and those submitted by the Las Placitas Association. These
concerns include conducting a Programmatic Environmental Impact
Statement (PEIS) that is out of compliance with key federal laws,
ignoring of community concerns in the placement of the corridors
(especially in areas where corridors are likely to be placed beyond
boundaries of the proposed federal lands corridor segments), and
failure to align corridor routes to efficiently access new alternative
energy sources such as solar and wind energy. Many of the latter
could follow already existing utility easements in areas away from
the proposed new corridors.
Opponents of the project testifying before the House Committee
on Natural Resources on April 15 have urged the Committee to recommend
the West-wide energy corridor PEIS be revised to properly address
the reasonably foreseen environmental impacts from the complete
project (as it would be constructed on both federal and non-federal
land), and conduct proper outreach and consultation with affected
private property owners, county, and tribal governments in placement
of energy corridors.
Secretary Prukop specifically noted the concerns of Placitans in
her testimony, citing Placitas as a prime example of adverse community
impacts due to the proposed corridors.
Complete written testimony from Ms. Prukop and all the witnesses
presenting at the hearings can be accessed at: http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=27&extmode=view&extid=160.
GreenBuilt Tour returns
The U.S. Green Building Council New Mexico Chapter (USGBCNM) will
hold its ninth annual GreenBuilt Tour in New Mexico on May 17 and
18. The GreenBuilt Tour is part of a weeklong event called Sustainability
The GreenBuilt Tour is an excellent opportunity for the public
to learn about the features of a green home and how sustainable
homes are built. The tour also offers inspiration to attendees about
how they can “green” their homes.
A committee will select homes to be represented on the GreenBuilt
Tour, and all qualifying homes will need to fulfill certain green
The GreenBuilt Tour will culminate Sustainability Week events being
planned by USGBCNM.
On Saturday, May 10 in Albuquerque, a series of lectures and workshops
will be held along with a vendors’ show offering information
about green building, including products and materials that are
environmentally friendly. During the week, there will be tours of
green commercial buildings, as well as workshops for building professionals.
In the heart of the bosque in Bernalillo, Autumn Sage Estates,
a 3100+-square-foot home for sale with an unobstructed view of the
Sandia Mountains is loaded with green features, making it energy-efficient
and on the cutting edge of the green build phenomenon. It was recently
filmed by the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Green”
program, and will be featured on this year’s GreenBuilt Tour.
For more information, visit www.greenbuilttour.net.
Las Placitas Association sponsors birding and
Hart Schwarz, a leading New Mexico bird specialist, will lead a
birding hike entitled “Migratory and Nesting Birds of the
Placitas Open Space” on May 3. Participants are encouraged
to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring lots of water and a snack.
Please do not bring pets. Meet at the Open Space East Access at
8:15 a.m. You can see the Placitas Open Space bird list at http://www.lasplacitas.org/lpa_pdfs/bird_list.pdf.
On May 17, Las Placitas Association will present “Plants
of the Placitas Open Space.” William Dunmire will lead us
on a tour of the Placitas Open Space to identify shrubs, grasses,
and flowering plants. The wildflowers should be spectacular this
year! Bill is a retired National Park Service naturalist and writer/photographer
on natural history topics. You can see the Placitas Open Space Plant
List at http://www.lasplacitas.org/lpa_pdfs/plant_list.pdf.
To participate in the tour, meet at the Open Space East Access at
To reach the Placitas Open Space, take I-25 to exit 242, drive
east on Highway 165 for 6.9 miles. Turn left onto Camino de las
Huertas for 2.9 miles. Turn left on Llano del Norte; then go 0.4
miles. As the road bends left, follow it around. Follow the dirt
road west about 0.7 miles. The “main road” bends to
the left at a fence. Keep going straight on the two-track road.
Drive along the fence about 0.1 miles until you bear slightly right
and you’ll come to a gate marked “BLM Property.”
Drive through the gate (please close it) and follow the two-track
road around to the left. Go through the second drop-gate and keep
following the two-track road. You’ll come to an Albuquerque
Open Space sign, where you should park.
For further information, call 867-5477 or email: email@example.com.
These are the West’s good old days
—STEVEN ALBERT, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
When I was younger, I was sure I’d been born into the wrong
century. Everything I read about America in the 1800s made me wish
I’d lived along that expanding Western frontier where people
lived adventurous lives. My life seemed stale and predictable in
comparison, with all the excitement sapped out of the West, buried
under shopping centers and Interstates. As I traveled, I used my
dog-eared copy of “The Journals of Lewis and Clark”
as part road atlas, part travelogue of that earlier West.
I’d squint at the passing scene, dissolving the mini-malls
and subdivisions. I obliterated Phoenix and pictured a vast plain
of saguaros. I wiped Denver off the map and envisioned a people-less
Front Range. It was not only the geography, but the ideals of America
in the mid-19th century that fascinated me, especially as I read
the extravagantly enthusiastic essays of Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman,
and Twain. They knew they were heralding something fresh.
Recently, I’ve begun to question that rose-tinted view. It’s
true that if you were white and male — being rich didn’t
hurt either — it was a great time to be alive with the call
of Manifest Destiny ringing down the canyons. But what if you were
female, black or Native American? You were disenfranchised, a slave,
or the target of a genocidal campaign. After York, the slave owned
by William Clark, confronted every danger endured by the Corps of
Discovery, begged for his freedom, Clark refused. Have you ever
heard of Margaret Fuller, Margaret Wood Emerson, or Elizabeth Palmer
Peabody? They were the Transcendentalist women, writers as gifted
as their male counterparts, but confined by roles that would never
recognize their genius.
Life expectancy at the time was about 36. Tetanus, small pox, polio
and rheumatic fever were common. People died from shaving after
lethally infected nicks. Teeth were pulled, not saved, there was
no anesthesia, and personal hygiene was sketchy. People had rotting
teeth and stank, women spent 120 hours a week cooking, cleaning,
mending and washing, and there were no labor laws to protect anyone.
Most people lived and died within a day’s journey of their
And what of life today, an historical tick of the clock later?
By any American yardstick, I’m hardly rich, though by the
standards of much of the rest of the world I’m a Rockefeller,
though that’s another story. Yet in the past year I’ve
had experiences that a generation ago people would have considered
lifetime events. I’ve traveled widely, including overseas,
and vacationed in some of the most beautiful spots in the West.
I’ve worked largely from home and spent abundant time with
my kids; ate fresh, great tasting and varied food; read any newspaper
in the world I wanted on-line; had my choice of nearly any kind
of music or movie ever recorded; and stayed in instantaneous touch
with friends and family all over the planet via email. Great coffee.
Fantastic beer. None of these luxuries is beyond the reach of most
people with a regular job.
And here's the best part: At the same time I enjoyed modern conveniences,
I also experienced some of the best of those earlier “innocent”
times. I headed for the mountains for camping trips, hiking in un-peopled
wilderness, though with far less wildlife than two centuries ago.
With a lightweight sleeping bag, comfortable pack and great raingear,
I was able to go almost anywhere. These are the good old days.
Perhaps all generations feel this wide-eyed wonder. My father,
a child of the Great Depression, vividly remembers the day they
took away the icebox and brought in a refrigerator. People must
have felt that same wonder when they got their first washing machine
or electric lights.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something
fundamentally different about our times. The changes seem more permanent
and what’s left to protect more precious, even as the amenities
abound. I’m not ignorant of the costs of our high-tech, globe-trotting
existence. If everyone in, say, China enjoyed our standard of living,
which they are on a path to do, the planet’s natural resources
would soon be exhausted.
It’s easy to envision a time when the only open spaces will
be those legally protected as wilderness — small islands in
a sea of subdivisions. But that’s years away, isn’t
it? Until then, I have a million acres of publicly owned land in
my back yard and a film festival up the road. Life is great. Right?
Steven Albert is a contributor to Writers on
the Range, a service of High Country
He is a wildlife biologist and senior scientist in Albuquerque,