The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

ECO-BEAT


Global warming workshop

Workshop participants vote on proposals to address the threat of a drastic reduction of water supplies for the Albuquerque region with the acceleration of global warming.

Fiddling while New Mexico burns

—KEIKO OHNUMA

It’s no secret to anyone in New Mexico that global warming will strain water resources already stretched thin. What to do about it, however, is just starting to occupy state agencies, public utilities, developers, and water users.

After a half century of allowing housing developments to suck unknown amounts of groundwater out of the Rio Grande basin, the state has finally begun to face its hot, dry future with its first State Water Plan, completed in 2003 and up for revision next year. The governor had the Office of the State Engineer report on the impact of climate change on the water supply, and “town hall”-style meetings were held last month in Las Cruces, Roswell, Farmington, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas to solicit public input on a revised 2008 State Water Plan that will include the likely effects of climate change.

About fifty people who signed up for the one-day workshop in Albuquerque—primarily water resource managers, city planners, consultants, academics, and environmental activists—were first treated to a slide show, Al Gore style, that laid out the likely scenario in New Mexico circa 2030: higher temperatures, especially in summer; greater evaporation from the rivers and soil; shorter winters, with less snow and earlier melt; greater extremes in climate; and less dependable rainfall. Beyond that, little is known for certain.

Researcher Brad Udall of Colorado (of the Udall political dynasty) noted further that the 20th century has actually been mild in terms of drought, based on tree-ring data from the last thousand years, and natural cycles will likely produce worse droughts in the future.

The question put to participants to hash out in about four hours was how to manage Albuquerque’s future, given that the state will have either less water or a lot less water in 2030. Facilitated by New Mexico First, the agenda hewed to the nonprofit group’s highly structured consensus-building format: divide into groups, brainstorm visions, refine them into goals, and then turn them into recommended actions. The results are to be synthesized in a report sent to lawmakers, planners, and the public.

Given the urban makeup of the Albuquerque session, the brainstormed visions for an ideal future could be easily guessed. City dwellers want “smarter” urban and regional planning that integrates public transportation, land use and water use in a way that protects open space, acequias, and local farms. Nearly universal in their support for “compact” development that encourages walking and cycling, the participants also promoted xeriscaping, renewable energy resources, recycling of graywater, and decision-making that includes the state’s Indian and Hispanic communities.

When it came time to refine this utopian vision, however, the difficulties that emerged were instructive. Consensus-building requires compromise, condensation, and overlooking obstacles to meet deadlines—just like legislation. Debate flared over whether and how certain goals could be achieved, given practical limitations known to any who work with government. Different interests found it impossible to agree on how to prioritize goals or adjudicate relationships—a difficulty that got resolved in each case by voting, rather than consensus.

As a microcosm of the democratic process, the climate change workshop succeeded best at bringing to light systemic conflicts that prevent widespread agreement on community goals. Since global warming challenges the very foundations of the American lifestyle—cheap, plentiful energy and water for unbridled consumption—the changes required will be fundamental and profound, the kind that governments and individuals love to talk about and find it hard to actually begin.

Cutbacks or restrictions are bound to pit interest groups against each other, while managing resources as large as the Rio Grande or arable land raises a host of thorny contests over the jurisdiction of dozens of different government agencies. That’s why the Office of the State Engineer, which sponsored the workshops, emphasizes a “no regrets” strategy of implementing changes that are advisable even without global warming, and which are already part of the State Water Plan.

Indeed, there is no want of consensus on ideals, as scripted in the State Water Policy and echoed by workshop participants: more integrated regional planning; managing watershed ecosystems; protecting farming; “livable” communities; finding new sources and ways to reuse water; linking water and energy use; measuring and monitoring the use of groundwater; and increased collaboration among planners, scientists, government, and all stakeholders.

Finding ways to implement these ideas, however—solving the state’s water problems—can hardly be done in a day, and it would take a starry-eyed optimist to leave one of the Climate Change and Water workshops without a taste of cynicism or defeat, given the task put to participants at the start: Suggest ways to “adapt” to a set of unknown, unprecedented circumstances, given that (as Udall noted) any changes undertaken today will not have a beneficial impact for forty or fifty years.

The takeaway message from the forum was that public input is going to make a difference; yet the obvious, unspoken end was to build public support for a “no regrets” approach that does not fundamentally challenge any major economic interest.

Not a few participants likely came away with an unintended, alternative message: Think and act on what is already known about global warming, and don’t wait for certainty or consensus. Working toward coordinated, comprehensive adaptation to unprecedented events may be tantamount to fiddling while New Mexico burns.

'Green' Excellence Award to Intel questioned

—JEFF RADFORD, Corrales Comment

Intel’s worthiness to have received an award for environmental excellence has come under fire recently in a running e-mail dialog for the Intel-sponsored Community Environmental Working Group (CEWG).

Set up by Intel in the aftermath of the 2004 Corrales Air Toxics study, the group has met monthly in Rio Rancho to explore ways that the microchip giant could reduce its pollution. The group has been chaired since it began by clean air advocate John Bartlit of Los Alamos.

Bartlit has been repeatedly condemned by some members of Corrales Residents for Clean Air and Water (CRCAW) for defending Intel and making excuses for its shortcomings. He especially came under attack when it was learned that Bartlit had participated in the selection of Intel for the N.M. Environment Department’s (NMED) Green Zia Award in 2001.

At that time, homeowners near Intel had been reporting serious illnesses associated with Intel’s chemical emissions for nearly a decade.

The microchip manufacturer had also been slapped with notices of violations of its air permit, and was fined $40,000 in 1994. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XII, No. 24, February 5, 1994 “Intel Pays $40,000 Pollution Fine 2 Days After ‘Thank You’ Bash.”)

Intel has violated its air pollution permit numerous times since then. Each time that Intel continues production when its air pollution control equipment is not operating constitutes a technical violation of the permit issued by the N.M. Environment Department. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXV, No. 20, December 9, 2006 “Shutdown of Intel Pollution Control Equipment Investigated.”)

Such downtime for Intel’s incinerators and acid gas scrubbers occurs with some frequency.

Nevertheless, Intel’s Rio Rancho operations won the N.M. Environment Department’s highest award for environmental health and safety improvements at ceremonies October 17, 2001.

Intel was one of 24 New Mexico companies winning “Green Zia” awards presented by the governor, but the microchip maker became the first recipient of an award at the “excellence” level.

The propriety of having Bartlit on the CEWG was questioned in a series of e-mails for the group this fall.

Joining the dialog last month was a former judge and examiner for the Green Zia awards, Lena Hakim, who said the 2001 award to Intel was the most controversial ever handed out.

“I have been an examiner for the Green Zia since its inception, and Intel was the most controversial award, as they had very little physical proof of P2 [pollution prevention],” Hakim wrote on September 10.

“Their application [for the excellence award] was written very well. I have examined Los Alamos National Laboratories, General Electric, McKinley paper and many other applications, but Intel was the most controversial of all because they had few physical examples of P2 efforts.”

Hakim said she had also reported abuses of the Green Zia program to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “but they have taken no action.”

Writing for The Santa Fe Reporter this summer, Hakim explained why she had become disenchanted with the Green Zia program. “Green Zia was supposed to be about assisting companies in becoming more sustainable, and instead the types of corporations which apply do it to clean up their reputations rather than seriously commit to green changes.

“The Excellence level should be reserved only to blatantly obvious green companies who are providing absolute sustainable ways to conduct business.

“It was a mistake, in my humble opinion, to grant Excellence to Intel. It takes away from the worthy Excellence award of the Durango-McKinley paper Company. I believe most people in New Mexico were disgusted when NMED gave Intel an Excellence.”

One of those receiving the e-mailings, Fred Marsh, former spokesman for CRCAW, called for Bartlit to resign. “We have always said Intel’s Green Zia awards were just an unearned and shameless payoff from New Mexico politicians who want continued access to Intel’s deep pockets. Our assertions have now been confirmed by a Green Zia judge and inspector.

“Yet Mr. Bartlit continues to staunchly defend Intel’s sham Green Zia award in his chosen role as an Intel cheerleader. The honorable course of action for Mr. Bartlit would now be to resign his CEWG position, to be replaced by someone who could provide CEWG with the unbiased leadership it deserves.”

In early September, after Intel’s 2001 Green Zia award became a hot topic on the CEWG list serve, Bartlit responded. “The N.M. Green Zia Program for environmental improvement is patterned after the Baldrige National Quality Program for business improvement. The heart of the programs, the core value, is continuous improvement. Good enough is never good enough. Merely meeting rules is never the end-goal.

“Companies in the Green Zia Program pursue continuous environmental improvement. Progress is measured in lower emissions and lower use of natural resources. Needless to say, I am a strong believer in these goals.

“Intel is a successful participant in the Green Zia Awards Program. The awards given at all levels require a corporate commitment to continuous improvement. The awards also require continuing evidence of improving. I support Green Zia and its principles. The ideas are vital additions to regulation alone. I look for the principles to yield further improvements at Intel and elsewhere in the state.”

At the September CEWG meeting, Intel officials announced intentions to install a different kind of incinerator (thermal oxidizers) which would reduce equipment downtime when volatile organic compounds pour into the air unabated.

These and other changes to Intel’s operations above Corrales will be presented at a public meeting in the Community Center (next to the Corrales Senior Center) October 15, 6-8 p.m.

Intel’s Teresa Fleming said the company will seek a revision of its air pollution permit by the end of this month. She said it would be a “technical revision” not requiring a public hearing.

Fleming and Sarah Chavez gave a brief update on operational changes going on at Intel. They reported that no production is taking place in Fab 11, and that tools there are being disconnected for removal.

In the newer Fab 11X, however, production is still going strong, and tools using newer technology there will be started in the July-September 2008 time frame.

“With the shutdown of Fab 11, we will no longer run production levels as high as in past years,” Chavez said, adding that production levels are expected to stay relatively low through early 2011.

She reported that emissions of federally regulated Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and State-regulated Toxic Air Pollutants (TAPs) should decrease slightly during 2008-2010, as Intel ceases production of the eight-inch microchip wafers and shifts to the larger units.

This article was reprinted with permission from the October 12, 2007 edition of the Corrales Comment newspaper.

Las Placitas Association

Hikers gathered near spring in Cañon Tejon in October on a fundraiser hike for Las Placitas Association.

Las Placitas Association November trails workshop

REID BANDEEN, LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION

The Las Placitas Association (LPA) will be hosting an outdoor workshop on hiking trail maintenance and construction on Saturday, November 3. We’ll focus on trail re-routing and erosion control structures on the East Entrance Trail of the Placitas Open Space. Our favorite trail specialists from the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division will join us and provide all the necessary tools.

This work is part of LPA’s continuing efforts to assist the City of Albuquerque in implementing the management plan for the Placitas Open Space. Las Placitas will provide drinks and snacks for this morning workshop. Please wear sturdy clothes and bring work gloves, a sun hat, extra water, and some rain gear. We’ll meet at the Placitas Post Office at 8:30 a.m., car pool to the site, and work until about noon. The Open Space is beautiful this time of year, and your participation helps to assure the viability of the Placitas Open Space.

For more information on the workshop and LPA, log on to our website at http://www.lasplacitas.org or call Lolly Jones at 771-8020.

USFS seeks public input on motorized routes and trails

—NANCY ROSE, FOREST SUPERVISOR, CIBOLA NATIONAL FOREST
The Cibola National Forest’s Interdisciplinary Team is currently completing the Environmental Assessment (EA), a document that analyzes the environmental impacts of the alternatives developed for designating motorized routes and trails on the Sandia District. The EA will be released to the public sometime after January 2nd, 2008. Once the EA has been released, a public meeting will be scheduled to discuss the analysis (date, time and location to be determined). The final decision is expected during March, 2008, and the official Motorized Vehicle Use Map is scheduled to be available by late spring.

There will be two options for receiving the EA for review:

1) you can review the EA on the internet, or
2) you can request to have a paper copy or a CD sent in the mail.

We will post the EA—and all associated maps—on the internet when it is released. We will also send a letter to our current mailing list to announce the EA’s availability and to relay information about the comment period. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy or a CD of the EA when it is released in January 2008, please contact us by letter or email by November 9, 2007, to assist us in determining how many documents to print. Be sure to specify whether you want a paper copy or a CD.

Letters should be sent to:

Cibola National Forest
Attn: Sandia Travel Management EA Request
2113 Osuna Rd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113

Or, you may email requests to: cibolatravel@fs.fed.us.

We have posted the issues and alternatives that are being analyzed in the EA on our Travel Management web page:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/travel-management/index.shtml.

The issues and alternatives are preliminary in nature and may change prior to release of the EA. While comments are accepted at any time, it would be most helpful to receive comments after the EA has been released in January. By regulations, any comments received prior to the beginning of the formal comment period in January will not have standing if someone chooses to appeal after a decision has been signed. If you have additional questions about this project, you may contact Nancy Brunswick, Travel Management Project Leader by email (cibolatravel@fs.fed.us) or by phone: (505) 346-3900.

Archaeologists look to climate change for answers

How past southwestern peoples have used, managed, and adapted to limited water resources will be the focus of a November 3 public symposium entitled, “Liquid Assets: Using Water in the Arid Southwest.” The one-day event will include talks by nine experts in the fields of archaeology, history, climatology, and water law, as well as public discussion.

Archaeologists R. Gwinn Vivian, Jerry B. Howard, and Eric Blinman will discuss how the ancient Chaco and Hohokam Indians managed water and how southwesterners have adapted to changing water conditions. Sylvia Rodriguez will speak about acequias and who owns northern New Mexico’s water. Verna Williamson-Teller will relate Isleta Pueblo’s fight to protect its water supply from urban pollution. Connie Woodhouse will discuss past precipitation in the Southwest and future projections. Tara Plewa will detail the flow history of the Santa Fe River. Speakers will discuss the history of water use in relation to challenges presently being faced in Santa Fe and other communities.

The symposium will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 3 at the Armory for the Arts, located at 1050 Old Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe. To register in advance, call 992-2715, ext. 8. Admission is $30 per person, with a limited number of student tickets available for $20. Box lunches may be ordered in advance.

Joran Viers, hoop house

Joran Viers, Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service horticultural specialist, helps pull the plastic shell of a hoop house.

NMSU’s Bernalillo County Extension Service hosts hoop house construction

A hoop house is an affordable and practical type of greenhouse for the serious gardener. A day-long building workshop sponsored by New Mexico State University and Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service will be held on Thursday, November 8 at the residence of Tish Reid.

“Participants should come prepared to work, bring tools, and wear clothing appropriate for the weather,” said Joran Viers, horticulturalist with the Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service. The free, hands-on workshop will begin at 9 a.m. Call Viers at (505) 243-1386 to sign up for the workshop and to get directions to the building site.

Under the direction of Del Jimenez, Extension Service agricultural specialist from NMSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, the participants will construct a hoop house with PVC pipe, sheets of plastic, and wood. The project concludes at dusk with a demonstration of a simple watering system.

This event is part of NMSU’s continuing outreach efforts through the College of Agriculture and Home Economics to educate and inform people of issues and best operating practices for crop and livestock production.

Market for recycled plastics has changed

—ROBIN BRANDIN, PLACITAS RECYCLING CENTER

Changes in the buyer’s market for recycled plastic are affecting operations at the Placitas Recycling Center. Until recently, the center has been able to mix No. 1 and No. 2 plastics and sell the bales to a buyer in Albuquerque. “The buyer has informed us that he will only take segregated plastic from now on, due to changes in the national market,” noted John Richardson, President of the Placitas Recycling Association. “That means we have to keep the two types of plastic separated at the center.” As a result, the association is asking recyclers to separate their plastics when they bring them in to the center.

As in the past, the only plastics the center accepts are No. 1 and No. 2. No. 1 (HDPE) plastic is usually clear but can also be colored. Water and soda bottles are generally No.1 plastic. No. 2 (PETE) plastic is opaque. Milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles are generally No. 2. However, not all clear plastics (e.g., bakery and produce containers) are No. 1, and not all opaque plastics (e.g., some ice tea jugs and margarine or yogurt containers) are No. 2. The best way to determine the type of plastic of any item is to look for the recycle sign with a number in the middle, generally stamped on the bottom of the item.

Some plastic shopping bags are No. 2, but those are not accepted by the Placitas Recycling Center. The center also does not take plastics numbered 3 through 7. That includes bottle tops, which need to be removed from the No.1 and No. 2 plastic bottles before they are brought to the center.

Other recyclables that can be dropped off at the center include cardboard, newspaper, white office paper, other paper products, aluminum, polystyrene peanuts (double bagged), and ink jet printer cartridges. The center is unable to accept glass, tin cans, or laser printer cartridges at this time.

In other news, the Placitas Recycling Association announced its new holiday schedule. The Recycling Center will be closed November 24 and December 22. Holiday closures are also planned around Easter and Labor Day next year.

The all-volunteer Placitas Recycling Center is located on Highway 165 just east of I-25 and is open Saturdays between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m. Additional volunteers and board members are needed and can sign up at the center during its operating hours or contact Carmen Ketchum at 771-1311. More information about the center can be found at www.placitasrecycling.com.

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