Climate Change Impacts on Santa Fe Predicted

 

A preliminary assessment that looks at how projected climate change impacts may influence some of the key natural and human systems in the Santa Fe watershed has been released. The assessment also explores possible adaptive actions and details ongoing activities that will have a positive impact on the watershed and mitigate effects of climate change.

 

Claudia Borchert, city hydrologist, and Dangar Llewellyn, from the Bureau of Reclamation, helped write the draft report, which says that climate change is predicted to have profound impacts on the watershed. “The degree to which we gracefully weather and adapt to the impacts will largely be determined by the preparations we engage in today,” the report says.

 

According to studies, higher temperatures, earlier spring melts, reduced stream flow from diminished snowpack, increased evaporation, drier mid-to-late summers and more potentially catastrophic fires with subsequent flooding are already happening and are expected to increase. “These are things that will be the new normal,” Borchert says.

Recommendations from a climate change workshop that city, county and federal officials held in March include establishing technical advisory committees, including consideration of potential climate change impacts of all future government decisions, design and material usage considerations for roads and bridges to handle higher intensity runoff, water harvesting and increasing water system storage, installation of solar panels over parking lots to reflect heat and produce energy, establishment of a municipal energy system, improving ecosystem diversity, and a monitoring system for climate change.

To read the report, visit www.santafenm.gov/index.aspx?NID+2577

 

 

Santa Fe to Pilot New STAR Sustainability Ratings System

In November, Santa Fe became one of the first of about 30 US cities to pilot the new STAR Community Rating System, the first national system for assessing the sustainability of communities. This is the latest initiative pursued by the city to implement the Sustainable Santa Fe Plan, adopted by the City Council in 2008. The pilot program offers participants the chance to evaluate indicators of sustainability in their communities and set specific goals for improvement.

Bianca Sopoci-Belknap, chair of the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, which drafted the 2008 plan, believes the program will allow the commission to expand its efforts in the community: “One of the first goals of the SSF Plan is to determine the current level of greenhouse gas emissions in Santa Fe. With the STAR Index, we will finally have a way to set those baselines and accurately measure our progress.”

The new rating system is unique in its emphasis on comprehensive, community-wide assessment. Based on the “triple bottom line” principle that advocates “people, planet, and profit” as the three pillars of success, the system’s 45 objectives aim to capture the specific economic, environmental and social factors of sustainability.

Students from Santa Fe Community College will assist the commission with data collection and input for the yearlong pilot. Participating in the program will allow the team access to innovative reporting tools, training opportunities and expert support to complete the assessment and set appropriate targets. They will also be able to collaborate with other progressive sustainability programs, including those in Portland, Ore. and Austin, Texas.

Ratings assigned by STAR Communities can be used to attract tourists and green businesses. Says Sopoci-Belknap, “With this pilot, we have a real opportunity to ensure a healthy, sustainable future for Santa Fe. As we see more and more unprecedented weather events like the super-storm devastating the East Coast, it is critical that we respond by reducing impacts and preparing our community for the effects of climate change.”

For more information, contact Katherine Mortimer, Sustainable Santa Fe Programs Manager at 505.955.2262 or kemortimer@santafenm.gov

 

SFCC Awarded $1 Million for Youth Construction Program

Santa Fe Community College has received a $1.1 million grant to create a program to teach at-risk youth green construction skills while cultivating individual leadership and learning abilities. The US Department of Labor grant will help 60 disadvantaged young people in Santa Fe County learn while working toward an adult basic education GED certificate. Students who complete the program will receive certification in green building construction and an OSHA-30 construction industry card. The program, which starts in January and lasts three years, includes post-program follow-up services such as career placement and educational counseling.

The SFCC YouthBuild program is expected to benefit the community by increasing the number of skilled workers in Santa Fe’s expanding green and sustainable building industries, providing healthier affordable homes with cheaper operating costs,” said Randy Grissom, SFCC’s Dean of Economic and Workforce Development. “The lower cost of the homes built by YouthBuild participants will be passed on in savings to the homebuyer.”

 

YouthBuild partners include YouthWorks, LANL, the Building Trades Advisory Corporation, Heroes Housing Alliance and the Santa Fe County Housing Authority.

Persons interested in the program should call 505.428.1144, 505.428.1641 or email randy.grissom@sfcc.edu.

 

 

 

Court Denies Corporation’s Attempt to Monopolize San Augustín Water

 

On November 16, a State District Court judge upheld a decision to keep a New York-based corporation from appropriating 54,000 acre-feet of public groundwater per year from the San Augustín basin in Catron County, NM. Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC had filed an appeal seeking to overturn the NM State Engineer’s decision to deny the application.

 

The NM Environmental Law Center, the organization that led the fight to stop the appropriation, and which represents more than 80 residents from the area, had filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the application. “The judge’s decision confirmed what 150 years of water law has already established—you can’t take the public’s water unless you have a concrete beneficial use for the water,” said Bruce Frederick of the NMELC. “This corporation is trying to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling it. The decision today is an important step towards protecting NM from rampant water speculation.”

 

The application, first filed in 2007, was originally protested by close to 1,000 individuals, ranches, businesses and government agencies. They have a variety of concerns, including that the application would impair existing water rights, deplete flows in the Río Grande and Gila River stream systems, dry up springs and harm fragile ecologies.

 

The state engineer denied the application for several reasons, including that it omitted basic critical details required by law—how, when, where and in what quantities the corporation intended to use water. However, D.L. Sanders, lead attorney for the Office of the State Engineer, said that he still sees the proposed water transfer as “innovative,” and encouraged the ranch’s owners to file a new application that meets the state’s legal requirements.

 

We will continue to work to protect NM’s most precious resource from those who wish to monopolize it,” said Fredrick.

 

 

 

Court Denies Corporation’s Attempt to Monopolize San Augustín Water

 

On November 16, a State District Court judge upheld a decision to keep a New York-based corporation from appropriating 54,000 acre-feet of public groundwater per year from the San Augustín basin in Catron County, NM. Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC had filed an appeal seeking to overturn the NM State Engineer’s decision to deny the application.

 

The NM Environmental Law Center, the organization that led the fight to stop the appropriation, and which represents more than 80 residents from the area, had filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the application. “The judge’s decision confirmed what 150 years of water law has already established—you can’t take the public’s water unless you have a concrete beneficial use for the water,” said Bruce Frederick of the NMELC. “This corporation is trying to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling it. The decision today is an important step towards protecting NM from rampant water speculation.”

 

The application, first filed in 2007, was originally protested by close to 1,000 individuals, ranches, businesses and government agencies. They have a variety of concerns, including that the application would impair existing water rights, deplete flows in the Río Grande and Gila River stream systems, dry up springs and harm fragile ecologies.

 

The state engineer denied the application for several reasons, including that it omitted basic critical details required by law—how, when, where and in what quantities the corporation intended to use water. However, D.L. Sanders, lead attorney for the Office of the State Engineer, said that he still sees the proposed water transfer as “innovative,” and encouraged the ranch’s owners to file a new application that meets the state’s legal requirements.

 

We will continue to work to protect NM’s most precious resource from those who wish to monopolize it,” said Fredrick.

 

 

NM Green Chamber Names Santa Fe Chapter Director

 

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce has announced the selection of Glenn Schiffbauer as the new executive director for the Santa Fe Chapter. Schiffbauer, a native New Mexican, received his MBA from the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico. He has been a marketing researcher and active in several area nonprofits. “Being part of the Santa Fe business community for 30 years, I have seen how committed this community is to socially responsible business practices,” Schiffbauer said.

 

Under [Schiffbauer’s] leadership, we believe the Santa Fe Chapter will move quickly to initiate educational activities to help businesses reduce waste, advocate on behalf of renewable energy and support ‘Buy Local’ campaigns,” Allan Oliver, NMGCC’s CEO, said in a news release.

 

The two-year-old NMGCC is non-partisan association with over 1,100 business members statewide, with other chapters in Las Cruces, Silver City, Albuquerque/Rio Rancho and Taos. The membership is comprised of businesses that are committed to the concept of the Triple Bottom Line model, which helps companies evaluate their social, environmental and economic impacts. www.nmgreenchamber.com

 

 

Santa Fe’s Largest Fire Station Goes Solar

The Santa Fe Fire Department hosted a green-ribbon-cutting celebration last month to showcase the new rooftop solar panels that will provide electricity for the city’s largest fire station, located at 1751B Cerrillos Road.

The nonprofit New Energy Economy (NEE) and the city of Santa Fe partnered with residential and commercial installer Positive Energy Solar to install 38 panels on Fire Station #3’s roof and an additional 24 panels on a tracking system adjacent to the station. The system will produce approximately 28,000 kWhs of electricity per year, which equivalent to what about four average homes in NM need annually. Positive Energy Solar crews led the install, providing training to students from Santa Fe Community College and various city and county employees and first responders.

Our firefighters are really proud of these solar panels and the efforts of Santa Fe students, businesses and Mayor Coss that made it possible,” said Fire Chief Barbara Salas. Area high school students, working with NEE’s Sol not Coal campaign, local restaurants and businesses raised more than $22,000. The city, which expects to rely on solar for 20 percent of its municipal needs by next year, matched the funds.

The installation will include an interactive kiosk to provide information about solar energy and the amount of power being generated at the station. “These solar panels show that the transition from coal dependence to clean energy is not only possible, but we can do it now,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of NEE.

 

 

Santa Fe’s Green Lodging Initiative

More than one million tourists visit Santa Fe each year. While they are an important part of the city’s economy, they also put considerable pressure on environmental resources, particularly water.

 

The Santa Fe Watershed Association (SFWA)has been awarded a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to partner in a Green Lodging Initiative that will conserve water and reduce pollutants entering Santa Fe’s watershed. The city’s Environmental Services Division, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the New Mexico and Santa Fe Lodging Associations, Green Chamber of Commerce Santa Fe Chapter, and several leading lodging providers are part of the Initiative Working Group.

 

The SFWA has contracted HospitalityGreen LLC, a New York-based firm specializing in environmental and operations consulting services and founder of the nationally recognized Green Concierge Certification™ program to provide technical assistance. The company’s work with the Catskill Watershed Corporation resulted in measured environmental outcomes while simultaneously creating jobs and increasing tourism.

 

Over the next year, HospitalityGreen will provide technical assistance, training, and coaching free-of-charge to 15 lodging providers. By adopting streamlined practices, these B&Bs, hotels, inns, motels and resorts will save money, while upgrading their facilities to meet growing market expectations.

 

There is a kickoff meeting for interested hotel owners at La Posada at 2 pm Dec. 6. For more information, contact Bette Booth, initiative coordinator at 505.795.5316, ebooth13@comcast.net

 

 

PRC Indecision Threatens Jobs and Clean Energy in NM

In 2012, one in every 230 new jobs created in the US was in the solar industry, according to the National Solar Jobs Census published by The Solar Foundation. As of September 2012, 119,116 people were solar workers. This growth has been attributed to low prices for solar components, tax incentives and the adoption of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS). New Mexico, having excellent solar resources and a RPS requiring 20 percent renewable energy (RE) by 2020, has developed a vibrant solar industry that has created jobs for electricians, technicians and construction workers, as well as economic stability and clean energy for the state. State Public Regulation Commission (PRC) indecision threatens to put a halt to this bright spot in the economic landscape.

In the Reasonable Cost Threshold (RCT) and Solar Diversity Target case, the PRC is considering allowing utility companies in NM to not meet RE mandates in the state law, and to achieve only half of the mandated RE percentage. RE advocates say that this would result in heavy job losses and negative impacts on health and the environment. The Attorney General and the NM Industrial Energy Consumers are proposing to delay the decision into next year; a case has already dragged on for over a year. Further delay means uncertainty for local solar and renewable energy companies who will have to reduce hiring and local investment. It would also be a failure of the PRC to implement the will of New Mexicans. A bi-partisan poll conducted this year showed that 66 percent of New Mexicans favor solar energy development and want more of their energy to come from the sun rather than fossil fuels.

 

The NM Green Chamber of Commerce has issued a call to action for New Mexicans to contact their PRC commissioner right away, demanding that the PRC hear this case before the end of their term, and uphold the requirements of the state law by voting on the RCT rulemaking process and maintaining current solar targets.

 

 

Wind Energy Tax Credits May Expire

A new report from Environment New Mexico’s Research & Policy Center says that NM’s current power generation from wind energy displaces as much global warming pollution as taking 232,000 cars off the road per year, and that wind power saves enough water to meet the demands of 11,600 New Mexicans. The report also says that wind energy now powers nearly 13 million homes across the country, and is delivering results for public health in NM by avoiding 1,830 tons of smog-causing pollution and 340 tons of soot pollution.

The report was released late last month as Congress was considering whether to extend federal incentives for wind power—the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the offshore wind Investment Tax Credit (ITC)—before they expire at the end of the year. Without these credits, many planned wind farms in NM will not be built. Fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are vigorously opposing the credits.

New Mexico has at least 13,000 megawatts of commercially-viable wind power waiting to be developed that could be providing clean electricity to homes and businesses across the Western US without harmful emissions and without consuming our precious water supplies,” said NM Public Regulation Commissioner Marks at the announcement of the report’s release. “A multi-year renewal of the PTC is a key component for realizing this potential.” Marks was joined by Albuquerque-based pulmonologist Dr. Dona Upson, who said, “With so many New Mexicans suffering from respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the clean air benefits of wind power can help improve and save lives.”

For more information, visit www.environmentnewmexico.org

 

 

 

 

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