BLM Asks Interior Department for New Henke Probe

By Tracy Dingmann

Citing “new information,” the director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has asked federal investigators to reopen a probe into former Farmington BLM manager and current New Mexico Oil and Gas Association president Steve Henke.

According to an Oct. 25 story in the Farmington Daily Times, Henke faces renewed questions regarding his tenure leading the BLM’s Farmington office after a previous investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior found he accepted golf vacations and other gifts from the oil and gas industry.

Before retiring from the BLM in May, Henke served for nine years as district manager of the BLM’s Farmington field office. He is now president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, a trade group that advocates for industry interests.

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Revive BLM Coziness Probe, Watchdog Group Says

By Tracy Dingmann

A federal government oversight group is calling for the U.S. Department of Interior to further investigate former Bureau of Land Management manager and current New Mexico Oil and Gas Association president Steve Henke for taking gifts from the industry he once regulated.

Henke, who was the BLM’s district manager in Farmington, left the BLM last spring in the wake of an Interior Department investigation that found he had improperly accepted gifts and favors from a number of companies he was in charge of regulating. Henke retired and was not sanctioned by the BLM.

We wrote about the curious facts in the Henke case on Clearly back in September (read: “A Case of Excessive Coziness with Oil and Gas”) and noted that five local and national environmental groups have asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for further investigation into the allegations. We also noted that the groups want Salazar to look into how much contact Henke had with NMOGA while he was still with the BLM and in charge of regulating oil and gas companies.

Now the Project on Government Oversight is asking the Interior Department has joined the chorus of voices asking the Interior Department to revisit the investigation.

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What New Mexicans Told The EIB About Capping Carbon Emissions

By Tracy Dingmann

Last week I attended hearings held by the Environmental Improvement Board on a carbon cap petition filed by the New Mexico group New Energy Economy and 16 other organizations, including faith-based groups, medical professionals, indigenous groups, rural industries and others.

You might have heard a little something about the NEE petition – it asks the state to set a cap on New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to encourage traditional energy companies to curb carbon pollution caused by oil and gas and focus more on developing alternative energy sources instead.

With the petition, New Mexico stands poised to become a national leader in renewable energy and manufacturing – not to mention a safer place and more healthy place for all of us to live and work and raise our families.

Oil and gas industry people, along with utilities, have vigorously opposed the measure, saying it would increase their cost of doing business and cause them to pass those increases along to their consumers.

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It’s Official: AG Approves Environmentalists on Environmental Improvement Board

By Tracy Dingmann

The New Mexico Attorney General’s office has determined that there is no conflict of interest among members of the Environmental Improvement Board who are currently considering two petitions on limiting carbon emissions. (Read “AG Office Finds No Conflict on EIB.”)

What does that mean in plain English? It means the state has just made clear that it’s okay for environmentalists to serve on the Environmental Improvement Board.

Sound silly? It is.

The only reason I’m even writing about this again is because last month, a group of New Mexico legislators – specifically, the GOP Caucus in the House of Representatives – sent a letter asking the state Attorney General to investigate whether specific EIB members have conflicts of interest that would preclude them from making objective decisions on the carbon cap petitions.

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Honor Indigenous Day; Help Kewa Pueblo

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

Today, as our country officially celebrates the “discovery” of a land already inhabited, I think it is a great time for New Mexicans to reflect on, and honor the past and present struggles for control of our land.

Let me start with a quick story: This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of the volunteer crew organized by the Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo) Pueblo to begin to repair the significant damage done to the Tribe’s traditional houses by the October 2nd hailstorm. Many homes have been deemed “un-inhabitable” and Kewa officials estimate that 90% of the homes in the old village have suffered damage to their roofs.

The damage there is significant, but even more heartbreaking was the reality that as of Sunday afternoon, over a week from the storm, very little attention had been given to the situation from beyond the Pueblo. Tribal leaders had yet to hear from our state government in their request to have a state of emergency declared.

As we shoveled mold-ridden clothes from a house, where the water line rose to my knees (giving me eerie flashbacks to post-Katrina Louisiana), a fellow volunteer remarked, “I think this situation will serve as a good lesson for the Tribe.”

Huh?

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Fight Climate Change on 10-10-10!

By Tracy Dingmann

Looking for something to do on 10-10-10?

How about a 10-10-10 Cut Carbon Rally where you can hear about the latest in the fight against climate change and pick up practical tips to help you do your part?

The rally is part of a series of nation-wide events on 10-10-10 organized by pre-eminent environmental writer, educator and researcher Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature” and “The Age of Missing Information.”

In Albuquerque, the rally will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the Simms Auditorium at the Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming NE.

It’ll start with an indoor program with speakers, including New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, New Energy Economy director John Fogarty, Native American environmental justice activist Louise Benally, Art Gardenswartz and others. There will also be video addresses by McKibben and New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman.

During the second hour, people will have a chance to visit informational booths and to participate in workshops on how to compost, how to caulk and weatherize their homes as well as how to write letters and call elected officials to support reductions in carbon emissions.

It’ll end with a bike raffle at 2 p.m.

Come out and celebrate the day in an educational yet fun way!

A Fire Department Only the Rio Grande Foundation Could Love

On September 29th, firefighters in Olbion County, Tennessee, stood by and watched Gene Cranick’s house burn to the ground because he hadn’t paid the annual $75 fire protection fee.  The Cranick’s lost their home, 3 dogs and a cat to the blaze.  As the fire began to rage, they repeatedly told 911 operators they would pay firefighters, whatever the cost, to stop the fire. But their pleas for help were to no avail. (Mr. Cranick was interviewed yesterday while sitting in front of the ruins by Countdown’s Keith Olbermann.)

Here is the local news report from WPSD-6, Paducah, Kentucky.

It’s a bracing vision, this smaller, less intrusive, government thing — or, in this particular case, non-intrusive firefighters.  There’s nothing like taking the “public” out of “public safety.”

(see also: “John Galt Joins the Fire Brigade”)

Imagine That: Environmentalists on an Environmental Board

By Tracy Dingmann

Could we finally just put to rest the astounding notion that being an “environmentalist” should somehow disqualify you from being a member of the Environmental Improvement Board?

I ask this in wake of the Oct. 2 Journal story titled “ GOP wants `Green’ Partisans Off EIB.”  The story details efforts by some Republican legislators to force any EIB members with “known green agendas” to recuse themselves from deliberations on two proposals to cap carbon emissions that are currently before the EIB.

According to the story, the legislators want the Attorney General Gary King to investigate possible conflicts of interests that specific EIB members might have regarding the two proposals.

This is just the latest salvo in the epic battle over the makeup of the Environmental Improvement Board, an advisory board whose members are appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson.

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Protecting Sick Children? It’s No Job For Insurance Companies, Apparently

By Tracy Dingmann

How dismaying.

A story in the New Mexico Independent yesterday says Lovelace Health Plan will sharply limit the time period during which parents can buy child-only health insurance for their kids.

Lovelace, which is one of the largest health care providers in New Mexico, said it will only allow parents to buy such policies during a one-month enrollment period each year, instead of maintaining open enrollment all year long.

The decision is expected to result in a huge drop in the number of children-only policies Lovelace issues.

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