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Sustainable Building Tax Credit Fund Almost at Annual Cap
Due to the popularity of new energy-efficient homes, the Sustainable Building Tax Credit for residential building in NM is nearing its annual $5 million cap. Once the cap is met, builders or homeowners who expected to claim the credit for green-certified construction on their 2012 taxes will have to wait until next year. This is likely to have the effect of depleting the funds available for issuing credits in 2013, the year the tax credit is due to end. However, a proposal to extend the program is being developed. It will need legislative approval.
Sixty-seven percent of all permits issued for single-family homes in Albuquerque through the end of September were green-certified. Green home construction has almost doubled its 36.5 percent rate for 2011. Albuquerque’s Green Path Program has two ways to build to green standards that require third-party certification: Build Green New Mexico and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Last month, in an effort to help more residents install solar panels, add insulation and make other improvements, Santa Fe’s City Council approved a contract with Homewise to keep the Energy Partnership Loan Program going. Energy improvements are another way to help keep homeownership affordable.
New Mexico Transmission Project Request Rejected
The Federal Regulatory Commission has denied a request by PNM and the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority for a waiver to expedite the Power Network Project, a $350 million 200-mile transmission line that proponents say would carry up to 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy from east and central NM to PNM’s Rio Puerco switching station near Rio Rancho and then on to Western markets. 1,500 megawatts is about three-quarters of peak demand from PNM’s 500,000 customers.
The nation’s transmission line capacity is nearly at capacity as state mandates call for more renewable energy to be utilized. The waiver was requested because of a backlog of requests. FERC said that granting a waiver would be discriminatory toward other energy developers in line for approval. Some have been waiting for access to transmission service for years.
PNM added five solar arrays to its network last year and plans to expand those plants, but development of utility-scale solar and wind projects has been slowed down by the limited transmission capacity.
Sapphire Energy Facility Now Producing “Green Crude”
After 14 months of construction, Sapphire Energy’s algae crude oil production facility near Columbus, NM is now functioning. The commercial demonstration project using an open pond design will utilize 300 acres for algae cultivation when completed. The renewable oil produced by a proprietary process will be turned into 91-octane gasoline, 89-cetane diesel and jet fuel. From the lab to harvesting to production of oil, the process takes a little more than a month. The facility hopes to produce 100 barrels of green crude per day by 2014 and 5,000 to 10,000 barrels per day by 2018.
Green crude requires two main inputs – sunlight and CO2. It uses non-potable, brackish water pumped from aquifers and, with added nutrients, grows on non-arable land in desert climates. Sapphire is addressing the potential of environmental contamination in the open ponds by breeding high pH level strains of algae to withstand the elements. The company says that when its process is done at a larger plant, it will match fossil fuel-sourced oil at $85 a barrel.
The Sapphire Green Crude Farm was funded, in part, by a $50 million Department of Energy grant, a $54 million USDA loan guarantee and $85 million from private investments.
Las Vegas, NM Group Seeks to Prohibit Fracking
The Community for Clean Water, Air and Earth (CCWAE), a San Miguel County-based group, is working to get the city of Las Vegas and the county to ban oil, gas and geothermal drilling. Last month the City Council passed a moratorium on those operations.
CCWAE is also trying to get a “community rights ordinance” instituted that would prohibit hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – but Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz is blocking it. The mayor and city officials say the ordinance would supersede state and federal laws. In July, the mayor did sign an executive order that established a moratorium on fracking, a process that involves injecting large amounts of water and sand laced with chemicals to crack open fissures in rock to unlock reservoirs of oil and gas.
In some instances, contaminants found in well water have allegedly been linked to the process. The US Environmental Protection Agency has been testing groundwater samples near fracking sites in Wyoming. The agency theorized a fracking-pollution link in a draft report released in December that drew heavy skepticism from the petroleum industry and state officials.
Fracking in Las Vegas is unlikely, but the ordinance’s sponsors say they intend the measure as a community statement against drilling and in solidarity with opponents of possible oil and gas operations in nearby Mora County.
CCWAE’s proposed ordinance was drafted with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Mercerberg, Pa. The ordinance is similar to 140 other ordinances in place throughout the country, including many in Pennsylvania where communities have been fighting fracking for a decade. CCEAE hopes to prove that its ordinance is constitutional by taking it to court.
Traditional Agriculture and Sustainable Living Conference
October 12-13, Northern New Mexico College, Espanola, NM
This 7th annual conference features many important presenters, including keynote speakers Paul Stamets and Oscar Olivera. Stamets, an acclaimed author and mycologist, will talk about how mushrooms can help heal the world. Olivera was one of the main leaders of the “water wars” in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he lead the impoverished indigenous people in their fight against the privatization of that region’s water. Also presenting will be the renowned economist/activist Winona LaDuke, Mohawk seed-saver Rowen White, and Native actor Gary Farmer, who will introduce his documentary, “The Gift.”
The event’s workshops include Sacred Gardens, with Tesuque Pueblo farm director, Emigdio Ballon and Four Corners Traveling Permaculture Institute’s Lorraine Gray; Goat Management, with Nancy Coonridge of Coonridge Organic Goat Dairy; and Building a Solar Oven. There will be a variety of hands-on activities, an organic lunch, Pueblo Buffalo Dancers, and live music by Tito Rios and his band. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own seeds to trade at the Heritage Seed Exchange to be held later in the day on October 13th.
The Pueblo of Tesuque Farming Department, Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute and the Sostenga program of Northern New Mexico College organize the conference annually. Participant/supporters include the Institute of Natural & Traditional Knowledge, the New Mexico Acequia Association, and the Traditional Native American Farmers’ Association.
Camilla Bustamante, Ph.D., Director of NNMC’s Sostenga Program says, “The Traditional Agriculture and Sustainable Living Conference inspires critical dialogue towards better understanding of the relationship between tradition as sustainability. With a unique and quality level of speakers, relationships are formed, and the issues are not always easy or without controversy. The synergy between values and natural science is palatable and critical as we address issues of climate, food security and culture.”
For more information, visit www.4bridges.org.
El Rito Studio Tour • Oct. 13-14
Hidden in plain sight is a small community embraced by the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos where residents have lived quietly for generations cultivating lives that foster independence. Autumn – with golden cottonwoods, clear blue skies, warm days and cool nights – is a particularly beautiful time to visit El Rito, 50 miles north of Santa Fe. The village is bursting with creativity. Twenty-one stops, including two on the NM Fiber Arts Trail and one on the NM Potter’s Trail, will display the work of over 50 artisans. Their work includes sculpture, pottery, weaving, welding, tin and ironwork, paintings, drawings, printmaking, photography, jewelry, handmade books and notecards, Spanish Colonial furniture and carving, and musical instruments. Local musicians will entertain.
Northern NM College’s El Rito campus will host a unique Mercado, and will open its café and three departments for the tour: Fiber Arts, Spanish Colonial Furniture, and Retablos. The El Rito Library will host its “Death by Chocolate” fundraiser, and the El Rito Quilters Guild will be selling quilts, pillows, art dolls and drawstring bags.
Wear comfortable walking shoes to enjoy a stroll in the crisp fall weather and work up an appetite. Mama Juana’s tamales will be available, and El Farolito will be cooking their popular chile, enchiladas, burritos, tamales, rellenos and frito pies. www.elritostudiotour.org
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