Is Desert Rock Dead?

Is the Desert Rock power plant proposal near death? Though the Navajo Nation insists the coal-fired plant proposed for tribal land is still on track, a number of recent developments indicate otherwise.

Today, High Country News published an excerpt of Albuquerque-based environmental writer Laura Paskus’ in-depth look at the rise and fall of Desert Rock.

The link below is just a taste – the site will publish her full report in the coming days.

SHOCKED JOCK: KKOB Radio’s Jim Villanucci and his wingnut demographic

Jim Villanucci, KKOB-AM’s afternoon talk show host, outdid himself yesterday.  His topic for the show was the recent Harris Poll that says 24% of Republicans believe that President Obama may be the Antichrist.

The fact that throughout the show Villanucci kept stating incorrectly that 24% of “Americans” believe the Antichrist thing is not of concern here. (Although, come to think of it, perhaps his understanding is that only Republicans are Americans? Whatever.)

No, what was interesting was the listener reaction Villanucci unleashed. It was truly amazing – in the way that disconcerting and deeply disturbing can be amazing.  It was so over the top, even by KKOB standards, that the jaded talk jock himself seemed a bit shocked.

Based on the crush of callers who declared they would have answered the Obama=Antichrist question in the affirmative, it does seem that a good 85% of KKOB’s listener demographic would qualify as sufferers of ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome).

One of the few callers to dissent from the overwhelming Obama-is-Antichrist consensus took great pains to demonstrate serious expertise on the subject.  “No, Obama simply could not be the Antichrist.” According to the relevant texts, he explained, the evil one will be a European male with a mark on his head and have only one eye. Plus Obama isn’t popular enough. (Apparently a 51% job approval is a disqualifier for the Antichrist sweepstakes.)

So there! Slam dunk!

Any researcher hunting for a good focus group sample that is representative of wingnut nation should look no further.

Here in the Duke City, KKOB is their magnet. It’s home base for birthers and the whole healthcare-reform-is Armageddon demo.

Of course, that’s why KKOB devotes most of its schedule to filling New Mexico’s airwaves with political venom and incitement. After all, it’s the self-proclaimed “talk monster”, proudly featuring a lineup of the superstars of hate radio — Rush, Sean, Bill Cunningham and Michael Savage of “die you gay pig” infamy.

Egging on the crazies for a living

The funny thing is that from time to time Villanucci slips.

Continue reading

Health Care Reform Act A Welcome Step Toward Worthy Goal

It’s not universal healthcare, but it is in fact a pretty big fucking deal.

With the health care reform bill that President Obama signed yesterday, 32 million of this country’s poorest people will now receive health care coverage for the first time and millions more will get help with paying for the health care they have. The practical effects of the bill go beyond health care – The New York Times called the bill “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”

In New Mexico – one of the nation’s poorest states with one of the highest rate of uninsured people – at least 100,000 people will likely become eligible for Medicaid, and many more with moderate incomes will get help buying insurance.

Far from being a step toward socialism, as its hysterical detractors claim, what happened yesterday was historic and hard-fought and every bit as American as baseball and apple pie.

Students of history know that the health care act has echoes in the human rights campaign of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When he was murdered, King was in act of transitioning the civil rights movement against segregation into the broader “Poor People’s Campaign.” That movement called for an “economic bill of rights” for the poor that included governmental commitments to employment, housing and health care.

Movement marcher John Lewis was central to MLK’s movement then as an organizer and he was central again 40 years later, as a senior congressman from Georgia overseeing the campaign for health care coverage in Congress.

Last week, in an outrageous twist of events, Lewis was targeted on Capitol Hill by anti health care protestors who spit on him and called him a “nigger.” Some things haven’t moved very far in 40 years, I guess.

(You know what they say about those who ignore history.)

Inevitably, the “Party of No” continues to portray the health care reform bill in ridiculous and overblown terms. Horriffically ugly and inaccurate demonstrations marked the discussion of the bill, with protesters likening Obama to Hitler and Stalin – and Republican officeholders not doing much to tamp them down.

Ironically, the odd bedfellows who oppose health care include both those within the insurance industry who have benefitted hugely from the current, bloated American corporate system – and those with virtually nothing who have been victimized by the same system but fail to see the connection.

At Clearly New Mexico, we believe that universal health care for all is a basic human right deeply rooted in the history and promise of America – and we are gratified to see the bill yesterday as being a huge step toward that worthy goal.

We Can All Learn A Lot From Stewart Udall

My colleague Matt Brix was lucky enough to work with and get to know the great statesman Stewart Udall, and he wrote a heartfelt essay about him for Clearly New Mexico on Sunday.

Udall, a former U.S. Interior Secretary, an ardent conservationist and the last surviving member of the Kennedy Cabinet, died Saturday at his home in Santa Fe at age 90.

I was not lucky enough to ever meet Udall, but I was struck by what a great loss the American public has suffered after I read this New York Times piece about his lifelong dedication to preserving epic American landscapes and priceless historical sites.

From the story:

Though he was a liberal Democrat from the increasingly conservative and Republican West, Stewart Udall said in a 2003 public television interview that he found in Washington “a big tent on the environment.”

The result was the addition of vast tracts to the nation’s land holdings and — through his strong ties with lawmakers, conservationists, writers and others — work that led to landmark statutes on air, water and land conservation.

Udall’s words, methods and accomplishments seem so remarkable now, as we see every effort to develop or even discuss responsible energy and conservation policies rent by ugly partisan arguments.

More on Udall from the NYT story:

Few corners of the nation escaped Mr. Udall’s touch. As interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he presided over the acquisition of 3.85 million acres of new holdings, including 4 national parks — Canyonlands in Utah, Redwood in California, North Cascades in Washington State and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas — 6 national monuments, 9 national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, 50 wildlife refuges and 8 national seashores. He also had an interest in preserving historic sites, and helped saved Carnegie Hall from destruction.

“Republicans and Democrats, we all worked together,” Mr. Udall said in a television interview with Bill Moyers. But by the time of that interview, Mr. Udall added that Washington had been overtaken by money and that people seeking public office fought for contributions from business interests that viewed environmental protection as a detriment to profit at best.

In his years in Washington, he won high regard from many quarters for his efforts to preserve the American landscape and to educate his fellow Americans on the value of natural beauty, points he made in his 1963 book “The Quiet Crisis.” The book, whose aim, he wrote at the time, was to “outline the land and people story of our continent,” sold widely.

Stewart Udall is gone now, but he leaves behind a legacy of such remarkable and admirable statesmanship and stewardship of the land. It would honor his memory – and only benefit us all – if we could take a look back to emulate his words and deeds as we wrestle with the important environment decisions facing us now.

Stewart Udall: A Personal Reflection

By Matt Brix

Stewart Udall, Air Force veteran, lawyer, Congressman, Interior Secretary, author, outdoor adventurer.  Each of these titles alone could easily define a lifetime of accomplishment and public service.

I believe Stewart Udall was not defined by what he did, but by who he was – a caring human being and a gentleman.  The immeasurable effect he had on regular people is what made Stewart a hero.  My good fortune in knowing him is but one of thousands of stories that could likely fill volumes.

I first met Stewart Udall four years ago when he and I served on Governor Bill Richardson’s Ethics and Campaign Reform Task Force.  By that time, Stewart was 86 years old.  On first glance, it would have appeared that he was well past his days of fighting for land conservation, or working to protect victims of uranium mining and nuclear testing.

But, I would soon realize that Stewart Udall still had the ability, and the will, to say what needed to be said.

Continue reading

SMACKDOWN: League of Women Voters vs. Beverlee McClure

In an earlier post, we declared that Beverlee McClure, President of the Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI), was the day’s “Worst Person in the World” for making outrageously false statements about the Better Choices New Mexico coalition in a speech to the Economic Forum.

Well, on today’s Albuquerque Journal OpEd page, Katherine Campbell, President of the League of Women Voters New Mexico, weighed in on the controversy, taking McClure to task for her misrepresentations, as well as calling ACI out for its anti-working families agenda:

While ACI wanted deeper cuts to education and health care, Better Choices advocated for a more balanced approach — one that doesn’t make it harder for families to put food on the table; one that truly spreads the sacrifice around. We called for a reasonable, measured approach to our crisis — hardly the extremist position that McClure paints.

The members of Better Choices, including the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, know the New Mexico economy cannot thrive without its rank-and-file employees — the people who create the products we buy, process the food we eat, care for and educate our children, and perform the many other tasks that make our modern economy and way of life possible. New Mexico’s children and working families did not cause this recession and they should not be expected to clean up this mess alone.

You can read it all here — if you’ve still got a subscription to the Journal:

ACI Head Misrepresented Group’s Relation to Politics.

For Communities Living with Uranium Mining Contamination, Court Decision is “Slap in the Face”

Earlier this month a decision was made by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals over a license issued by the NRC for four uranium mines on the Navajo reservation. The four proposed in-situ leach (ISL) mines would purposefully and irreversibly contaminate the sole source of water for Navajo communities in Churchrock and Crownpoint.

The decision of 2-1 in favor of upholding the NRC’s authority to issue the permit follows a 15 year long battle in front of administrative law judges and Federal courts.  The proposed mines by Hydro-Resources, Inc. (HRI) would use a method of mining known as in-situ leach (ISL) mining which injects chemicals into aquifers to mobilize uranium and pump it out of the ground.

No ISL mine in the country has ever been restored to its pre-mining condition.  Two of the proposed HRI mines are less than a half mile away from Crownpoint’s municipal water wells.  The decision by the court supports HRI and the NRC even though all available data show that the sole source of water for more than 15,000 Navajo community members will be irreversibly contaminated.

In addition to water contamination, communities are dealing with problems of airborne radiation caused by mine waste from previous mining during the last uranium boom.  At the proposed Section 17 mine site in Churchrock, abandoned mine waste emits levels of radon beyond even what the NRC’s own regulations consider safe.  To permit new mines will only add to this problem.

The NRC argued that they only had to consider new emissions of radioactivity from the new mines, rather than either existing conditions or cumulative impacts.  The cumulative impacts would leave communities exposed to radiation levels anywhere from 9 to 15 times NRC regulations.

This decision is a slap in the face to communities that are still living with contamination left after companies left town and refused to clean their mess, leaving hundreds of abandoned mines and radioactive waste. This devastating legacy of continues to haunt our communities, resulting in sky-high rates of various cancers, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, birth defects, and miscarriages.

It has been more than thirty years since mining companies left and state and federal agencies that are responsible for protecting the environment and human health are only now beginning to take steps towards reclamating these areas.

As more uranium companies come into our area, our communities stand united against any new uranium mining.  There are an estimated 300 million pounds of uranium in the Grants Mineral Belt, with more than a third on Indian lands and protected under both the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Laguna’s bans on uranium mining.

Another lawsuit over the proposed mines is still pending and community groups continue to work to secure federal and state funding for cleanup.

This is a guest post by Nadine Padilla of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), a coalition of grassroots organizations working to address the uranium legacy that still plagues many communities.

Climate Change: On the Frontlines at the EIB

Robby Rodriguez

Climate control is too important to leave in the hands of the U.S. Congress…or in the hands of the highly-paid lobbyists who speak for the energy companies and huge corporations.

That’s why it’s so important now for states to take the lead – and New Mexico has emerged as one of the boldest, says social justice activist Robby Rodriguez in a new essay just published in High Country News.

Rodriguez, who is executive director of the Albuquerque-based SouthWest Organizing Project, says New Mexicans should be proud that SWOP, New Energy Economy and more than a dozen groups are currently petitioning to make New Mexico a leader in the nation when it comes to regulating greenhouse gases.

The groups are asking the state’s Environmental Protection Board to place a science-based cap on the amount on global warming emissions in the state to 25 percent below 1990 levels. This is the minimum action recommended by the global scientific community to mitigate the impact of global change.  If approved, New Mexico’s plan could be used as a national model for other states.

Rodriguez writes that he was moved when he heard faith leaders, doctors, scientists, advocates, renewable energy producers and more testify at a March 1 public hearing on the petition.

From the HCN piece:

Those who spoke in favor of the petition in front of the EIB represented lifelong residents of the Four Corners area in northwestern New Mexico—one of the most heavily polluted areas in the country–who spoke of noxious fumes and the devastating impacts of the oil, gas and coal industries on their health, land and animals.  Young people talked about their future.  A pregnant mother talked about her soon-to-be-born son.  Faith leaders, renewable energy producers, advocacy organizations, doctors, scientists and local government officials all came forward in favor of capping greenhouse emissions.  The room was packed—standing room only!

It was beautiful.

Then  Rodriguez spoke of the parade of corporate CEOs, lobbyists and even some tea partiers, all of whom spoke against the petition.

From the HCN essay:

And then came the parade of polluters.  PNM, the major electric utility company in New Mexico led the way as grand marshal.  They were followed by suits representing the energy, mining, oil, gas, coal, agribusiness and other manufacturing industries, and of course, their shareholders.  Also in the parade were the various chambers of commerce and of course the new kids on the block, the ‘teabaggers.’ They cited all the usual “if we do this the sky will fall” arguments.  They argued the matter should be decided by our state legislature or by the congress at the national level or at the international level—as though the long political process necessary to overcome the massive propaganda campaigns they wage is time we can afford. .  We’ve heard it all before.

It got ugly.

And that was just the beginning. The EIB will continue to hold hearings throughout the summer and is scheduled to rule on the petition sometime in the fall.

As this battle plays out, we at Clearly New Mexico hope New Mexico continues to stand firm on the front lines of the battle over climate control.

Beverlee McClure: Worst Person in the World

Keith Olbermann probably doesn’t know Beverlee McClure.

But if he did, she surely would qualify for his daily Countdown feature, “Worst Person in the World,” based on comments she made at a meeting of local business leaders recently.

First, who is McClure?

She is President and CEO of the Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI), an organization that describes itself as a statewide Chamber of Commerce.  According to its website, ACI’s sponsoring corporate “investors” include  Bank of America, PNM, SunCal New Mexico, Chevron, Altria Client Services, (Phillip Morris), AT&T, Xcel Energy, Lovelace Health Systems, and PayDay Inc.

McClure has a very impressive background.  Her bio tells us that she started her career with RJR Nabisco, went on to earn her doctorate in education at the University of Texas, served seven years as President of Clovis Community College, and then was appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to be the first Secretary of the new state Department of Higher Education in 2005.

Less than two years later, Dr. McClure bailed on Richardson’s cabinet to snag the post as head of ACI.

So what’s the problem?

According to a story last week in the Albuquerque Journal (“Businesses ‘Slept’ in Last Election”), McClure issued a call to arms to the business community at a meeting of the Economic Forum, challenging it to wake up and back conservative candidates in the upcoming state election.

The trouble is that most of what McClure was without basis in fact – she simply made the stuff up.

This is what the Journal reported:

Continue reading