Mt. Taylor Protected After Years of Struggle

MountTaylor

Guest Post by Nadine Padilla. She is an organizer for the Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality (SAGE) Council.

The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee has unanimously decided to place Mt. Taylor permanently on the State Register of Traditional Cultural Properties.  This designation follows a year-long battle between private landowners, who say the designation will affect development that may occur on their lands, and Native American tribes, who honor Mt. Taylor as a sacred place central to the cultures and livelihoods of Native Americans.

The permanent designation of Mt. Taylor as a Traditional Cultural Property is the culmination of hard work for five tribes acting on behalf of all tribes in the southwest and the residents of New Mexico.  The five nominating tribes, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, and the Hopi and Navajo Nations began the application process over a year ago in order to protect Mt. Taylor from renewed uranium mining interests.  This designation will ensure that the public has the opportunity to give proper comment on any new mining proposals that are within the TCP boundary.

The Cultural Properties Review Committee was under great pressure and received over 6,000 letters and emails concerning the nomination.  The letters were 4 to 1 in favor of the nomination.  The CPRC should be commended for their continued service in protecting New Mexico’s greatest treasures.

Mount Taylor is a stratovolcano in northwest New Mexico, northeast of the town of Grants.  It is the high point of the San Mateo Mountains and the highest point in the Cibola National Forest.

Editor’s Note:  SAGE Council’s Nadine Padilla, who is of Navajo descent and grew up near Grants, remembers that being close to the sacred mountain was integral to every important moment of her childhood, including her coming-of-age ceremony at age 13.

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Is it PNM’s turn for a bailout?

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If you pay enough attention to what’s been going on as of late, you’d figure that PNM is about to be swimming in money. Not money from profits based on their energy production (in fact, PNM posted losing quarters all of last year), but in “help” from state and federal sources.

First off, PNM has been given free rein when it comes to rate increases.  Last year the state Public Regulation Commission approved PNM for a 4.4% ($24 million) rate increase. That was big, but not quite the $82 million PNM originally wanted. PNM also requested a fuel clause, which would have given them the ability to adjust their rates to adjust to fuel costs. Many spoke out against this rate clause, saying it was simply a thinly-veiled rate hike designed to help PNM make up some of the $58 million that they didn’t get in the rate increase. It was determined that there wasn’t a need for the fuel clause and PNM’s request was rejected.

Now there’s word of another rate increase at the beginning of this year. PNM recently announced they will impose a 9.7% or $77 million rate increase starting in July. According to PNM’s CEO Jeff Sterba, the increase “is the latest step in our ongoing efforts to ensure adequate recovery of PNM’s costs and restoring shareholder value.”

Funny, I thought the reason PNM sold their gas holdings and got a credit line increase (increased to $300 million) last spring from the PRC was to improve PNM’s profits (and thus decrease how much they pass on to consumers) and help improve PNM’s credit rating.

One has to wonder whether last year’s profit losses, the large costs paid out to upgrade PNM’s San Juan Generating Plant, and the recent $7 million fine for emissions from the San Juan plant have anything to do with PNM’s recent request for a rate increase.

But now PNM is taking it to the federal level.

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PNM and Carbon Pollution: Will consumers get the shaft?

Jeff Sterba

PNM Resources CEO Jeff Sterba

Right now in Washington, members of Congress are debating a twist to climate control legislation that could lead to a massive corporate giveaway for oil and gas companies.

The Energy & Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, (ACES) a comprehensive climate and energy legislative package that would limit carbon pollution and require the development of renewable energy. The bill is expected to go on to the full House of Representatives, and later this summer, to the Senate.

The fact that Congress is finally moving to limit carbon pollution by “capping” the overall amount of emissions allowed and issuing permits to emit carbon within those limits is a crucial step toward slowing global warming. Read what Al Gore has to say about it here.

What’s not so great is what Congress may decide to do with the trillions of dollars that could be generated by requiring companies to pay for the permits.

The plan that makes the most sense is to make companies pay for the permits, therefore making them financially responsible for limiting their emissions and forcing them to develop alternative forms of energy. The estimated billions that would be raised by a 100 percent auction of the permits would be returned to energy customers – you and me.

But this week, news emerged that some in Congress are apparently being swayed by the powerful oil and gas companies, who want Congress to agree to give them the permits for free.

New Mexico’s own Jeff Sterba (CEO of PNM Resources) was among a long string of utility executives who told the House committee last month that requiring companies to cap carbon emissions and develop alternate forms of energy would force them to charge their customers more.

New Mexicans know PNM well.  It’s the company that was just fined $6.9 million for federal and state air quality violations at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners. According to the New Mexico Environment Department, it was the largest fine ever levied by the state for air quality violations.

In light of those violations and others, New Mexicans need to question whether we can really trust utility companies to act on their own to reduce carbon emissions.

Moreover, if there is really no penalty for polluting (because the fines will be given right back to energy companies like PNM), then where is their incentive to “pass the savings” back to the consumer?  The whole construct just doesn’t make sense.

Congress needs to resist pressure from the oil and gas industry and hold companies financially responsible for their carbon pollution. Implement the carbon caps – and give the billions of dollars raised by the 100 percent auction of the carbon pollution back to energy consumers where it belongs.

Week’s End Flashback: Open ConCom Bill signed, Health Care Reform, polluter bailouts, more Monahan mashing, King v. Balderas and a Pot Poll

As we plunge into a new week, here’s a flashback on some of the stories/posts we found interesting from last week’s fare:

Governor Richardson signed Open Conference Committees bill

Marjorie at M-Pyre speculated on the Gov’s game of cat and mouse.

Steve Terrell told us so and paid tribute to the late Bob Johnson.

Peter St. Cyr makes strong  case for health care reform
Sweeping Good Government Reform Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature.

Dr. John Fogarty warns of another corporate bailout
Polluters are pushing for their own massive bailout

APS and the Office of Circumlocution
Burque Babble translates the hidden meanings in an APS press release.

Who’s Twittering?  Matt has the answers.
New Mexico Twitter users

Attorney General Gary King uses subpoena power against political rival
Haussamen:  AG, auditor engage in a legal food fight

Monahan got skewered again and again over SunCal avoidance,  anonymous sources and blogger credentials

Inkstain:  Anonymous Sources

Monahan ignores SunCal news

Linthicum-Monahan feud continues

And self-appointed defender of the blogosphere Monahan refuses to doesn’t have a NM blogroll.

National blogger Nate Silver gave us some generational polling on pot
Why Marijuana Legalization is Gaining Momentum

And finally, in the Val Kilmer for Governor Watch
Val Kilmer gets the support of fellow actor Russell Means.

Putting the Brown Back in Green

What does this statement even mean?  Mainly it’s talking of how Hispanics, Native-Americans, and African-Americans across the country are getting reacquainted with their roots in the soil.

I’m sure that most people of color are aware of these roots, but they have other issues (getting a good education, finding a good job, surviving in this crazy world) to worry about, than to think about organic farming and working on sustainability and conservation.  Yet what I’m going to be saying by the end of this is that this green thing that many of us have been ignoring is one of the simple answers to help improve our lives and our communities.

My first major act of environmentalism was also an act of survival.

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Session Wrap: Big Wins for Ethics Reform, Green Jobs and the Environment

gavel1The gavel has sounded, the 60-day session is over, and we’re pleased to report a number of significant victories for ethics reform, green jobs and the environment.

ETHICS REFORM

On the ethics reform front, three high priority measures passed and await the Governor’s signature.

Campaign Contribution Limits: New Mexico was one of only five states with no restriction on the size of campaign donations.  Now you can scratch us from that ignominious list. Thanks to Common Cause, Senator Dede Feldman, Senator Peter Wirth, Representative Jeff Steinborn and others for their tireless work on this issue. (link)

Open Conference Committees: In years past, six designated lawmakers would often meet behind closed doors, away from the prying eyes of the public and the news media, where they could then radically alter passed legislation.  And year after year, the Senate would kill efforts to open up these conference committees to the public.  But this year the Senate broke with tradition and passed this reform overwhelmingly.  Hats off to the sponsors, Senator Dede Feldman and Representative Joseph Cervantes.

Legislative Webcasting: 2009 was the year of sunshine.  Now audio webcasting of floor sessions of both houses is available to the public.  Primitive video webcasts of Senate floor sessions started in the last week.

Defense of Nonprofits: A number of bills were introduced to restrict the public education efforts of nonprofit organizations around legislative issues. All of these assaults of the First Amendment were turned back.  In an impressive show of unity, the nonprofit community rose up to meet the threat, including the ACLU, American Cancer Society, Amigos Bravos, Audubon Society, Common Cause, Environmental Law Center, New Energy Economy, Conservation Voters New Mexico, AFSCME and many others.

GREEN JOBS

New Mexico Youth Organized, working with a host of allies, passed SB318.  SB 318 creates a one million dollar job-training program for green jobs. In the final hour, the legislature also passed HB 622, creating a bonding framework for green jobs.  Extra special thanks to the bill sponsors, Speaker Ben Lujan and Senator Eric Griego!

TIDDs

Conservation Voters New Mexico worked tirelessly to kill a $400 million Tax Increment Development District proposal for sprawl development west of Albuquerque. The California developer SunCal spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on industry lobbyists and advertising.  Nice work, CVNM!

Thanks to all of you for following this blog, and for your commitment to social and economic justice!

Man on a Mission: Local organizer profiled in The Nation

In case you didn’t know, our man Juan Reynosa has been on a mission. Turns out The Nation chose to document this mission.

Check it out: Juan Reynosa’s Environmental Mission.