Fire Season and Climate Change (VIDEO)

Fire season is upon us with serious outbreaks throughout New Mexico and Colorado. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose homes have either been consumed or are currently endangered. And a huge shoutout to the brave and tireless firefighters.

Taking the longer view, Sarah Kennedy offered these thoughts last week about the relationship of increased fire danger and climate change:

EIB Decides on State Carbon Cap; Helena Chemical Air Permit

By Tracy Dingmann

Two long-awaited decisions emerged from today’s meeting of the state Environmental Improvement Board in Santa Fe.

By a 4 to 1 vote, the board voted to adopt a petition by New Energy Economy that will create a new state carbon pollution reduction program that will lead the rest of the nation in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and create living-wage jobs for New Mexicans.

The new state pollution limit will require the state’s largest polluters to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 3 percent per year from 2010 levels starting in 2013, an effective date amended by the EIB.

“This new policy makes New Mexico the nation’s leader in carbon pollution reduction while at the same time stimulating our economy and creating jobs for New Mexico families and communities,” said NEE senior policy adviser Mariel Nanasi. “The board understands that the same technologies that can reduce carbon pollution can also make New Mexico more competitive in the clean energy economy, which means more long-term, well-paying jobs for New Mexicans.”

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EIB Decision on Statewide Carbon Cap Coming Today

By Tracy Dingmann

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board is expected to make its final decision sometime today (Dec. 6) on a proposal to reduce statewide carbon emissions.

If approved, the carbon emission rules would apply only to the state’s largest polluters, including power plants, refineries and natural gas processing hubs.

Approval of the proposal would kick-start an economic engine to bring jobs to New Mexico and to showcase the state as a national leader in the area of halting or slowing harmful climate change.

The proposal to reduce carbon pollution is the result of a petition from New Energy Economy (NEE), a New Mexico-based nonprofit organization, and 17 other organizations representing communities, businesses and rural interests.

“Our proposal is about unleashing investment that will drive innovation and create jobs for New Mexico families and communities while demonstrating national leadership,” said New Energy Economy president John Fogarty. “Clean energy is the next Industrial Revolution and we’re in a race to see who will lead that revolution. Let’s stake a claim and make New Mexico the beneficiary of the prosperity that’s there for the taking.”

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A Tip of the Hat to Laura Paskus at the Global Climate Change Conference in Cancun

By Tracy Dingmann

You may have heard about the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, meeting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 10 in Cancun, Mexico.

It’s a global confab of policymakers and negotiators from 192 countries who are gathering to work through solutions to the scourge of global warming and climate change. (Last year’s meeting was in Copenhagen.)

Aside from publications like the New York Times and The Guardian, news coverage of Cancun has been pretty sparse. That’s part of a trend noted by media critic Nathan Schock, writing at the blog 3blmedia, who notes that a recently-leaked memo from the Gannett newspaper USA TODAY shows that 27 reporters there cover entertainment, while only five cover the environment.

I am happy to say that New Mexicans are lucky to have one of the region’s finest freelance reporters, Laura Paskus, in Cancun gathering information for stories that will appear in a number of media outlets.

You can follow her personal blog – read one of her dispatches from Cancun here – and keep track of what longer-term projects she might be working on with the information she’s gathering from the world’s leading climate change fighters in Cancun.

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.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Climate Change

Are you a New Mexican who’s confused about all the information swirling around out there about climate change and clean energy policy? Would you love it if you could learn more about these pivotal topics from people who really know what they’re talking about?

If so, than you should know about an event happening Friday, March 12 at 2 p.m. that will give New Mexicans the details they need to know about climate change.

As part of a national “Let’s Talk” initiative designed to connect campus to congress, professor Bruce Milne and the University of New Mexico’s Sustainability Studies Program will sponsor a statewide conference call with the offices of New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. The conversation on climate change is being coordinated by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, located in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

While the call is designed to connect campus to the Senate, any and all interested community members are welcome to send in their own questions and join the call too.

Friday’s call will begin with a briefing by a New Mexico student discussing current statewide engagement on campus with climate issues. Call conveners will then discuss positions on clean energy and climate policy from Senators Bingaman and Udall. After these two introductory briefings, they will then respond to student questions and concerns.

Anyone who is interested in being part of this critical educational dialogue on climate change should start by submitting questions to climate@bard.edu and then by calling (712) 432-3100, code 253385 at 2:00pm MST on Friday, March 12th. Those wishing to submit questions can also Click here.

For more information on the Let’s Talk initiative, follow the Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s Twitter feed and  Facebook page!

New Mexico Energy Titans File Lawsuit Against Emission Case

Did you know that the titans of New Mexico’s energy industry joined together to file a lawsuit yesterday to keep the state Environmental Improvement Board from setting a cap on greenhouse emissions?

Public Service Company of New Mexico, El Paso Electric Co., and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, along with three state lawmakers and other industry groups, claim the board does not have the authority to regulate greenhouse admissions.

Besides the power companies, the plaintiffs include Sens. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, and Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs; Rep. Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs; the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association; Dairy Producers of New Mexico; the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association; the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau; and the New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association.

In the suit, filed Jan. 13 in state district court in Lea County (heart of the state’s oil producers) they ask the court to halt administrative hearings into a petition that directs the board to adopt the regulations.

The petition asking the board to regulate was filed by a Santa Fe group called New Energy Economy, which says it believes the state has the authority to regulate the emissions.

John Fogarty, executive director of the New Energy Economy, said the group’s petition has gained the support of many in the medical and business communities.

“It is critical that we move forward to address what is quickly becoming the most important public health problem that society faces. If the federal government isn’t going to act, it’s going to be incumbent upon states and municipalities to act,” he said.

You can read the full story in the Huffington Post.

Here’s also another local perspective from journalist Peter St. Cyr

Black Mesa Mining Permit Withdrawn

From Indiancountrytoday.com

One of ex-President Bush’s last second (or as they call it “11th Hour Decisions”) decisions was to grant Peabody Coal Company in Black Mesa, AZ a Life of Mine permit.   The permit would have allowed the Peabody Coal Company to re-open the Black Mesa Coal Mine. It also would have allowed Peabody Energy to consolidate Black Mesa Mine with the Kayenta mines, which would have added up to 65,000-acres of mines.

Thankfully a Department of Interior Law Judge recently withdrew the permit. The Judge’s thought process behind his ruling from a Native Times article:

According to Judge Robert G. Holt, “OSM violated NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] by not preparing a supplemental draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] when Peabody changed the proposed action. As a result, the Final EIS did not consider a reasonable range of alternatives to the new proposed action, described the wrong environmental baseline, and did not achieve the informed decision-making and meaningful public comment required by NEPA.  Because of the defective Final EIS, OSM’s decision to issue a revised permit to Peabody must be vacated and remanded to OSM for further action.”

Many local advocates had appealed the life of mine permit last year, citing similar reasons that the judge based his ruling on.   And now their work has come to fruition a year later.

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A Sterling Example

I had some harsh words last week for some members of the local business community who’ve been resisting any and all efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry in the name of climate control.

Then I read this, taken from a story in the Dec. 4 edition of the New Mexico Business Weekly (subscription required):

Businesses Unite on Behalf of Climate Change Legislation

A broad alliance of business associations representing about 1,400 local firms is pushing New Mexico’s senators to include tougher regulations in emerging climate change legislation.

The coalition will hand deliver a letter this month to New Mexico’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, urging them to seek faster emissions reductions and more industry responsibility for the cost of regulations than what is outlined in the current bill under debate in the Senate.

Most coalition participants represent businesses directly linked to clean energy development, such as the New Mexico Solar Energy Association. But the group also includes associations with a variety of businesses that embrace carbon reduction and see economic opportunities in a green economy, such as the Santa Fe Alliance, which represents 500 locally owned businesses and nonprofits, and the 620-member Santa Fe Area Home Builders Assn.

Mark Giorgetti of AmEnergy LLC, which has a leading role in the emerging coalition, said participants want to “embolden” New Mexico’s senators to act aggressively in the climate change debate.

This hearty endorsement proves that being in business in New Mexico doesn’t have to equal being hostile to tougher regulations regarding climate control.

Kudos to this diverse new alliance of businesses – and here’s hoping the group has some sway with New Mexico’s senators!