Arizona Solar Under Attack

 

A legislative battle is brewing in Arizona over whether or not it is necessary, or just, to reduce the financial incentive to homeowners for installing solar panels. Residential and commercial net-metered solar systems receive credit from utility companies for the energy they generate. Arizona Public Service, the largest utility in Arizona and a publicly traded corporation, is pressing to either increase the rates of electricity usage for solar customers regardless of the amount they generate, or to quarter the credit they receive from generating electricity. APS, which is granted monopoly status in certain areas, claims that net-metered solar systems are sufficiently damaging to their profit earnings to endanger regular maintenance of a public grid.

 

Nobody denies the necessity of a public grid, but, given that as a corporation APS has a responsibility to its shareholders to maximize profits, this legislative motion is widely accused of serving the utility rather than the citizens. Such a change would certainly work against the rapidly growing solar industry in the sunniest state of the US, and would put the environmentally destructive fossil fuel industry at a significant advantage.

 

Critics say that APS is not taking into account the benefits it receives from net-metered solar systems—mainly a reduction of the need to build new power plants and accompanying transmission infrastructure. They also charge that, by attempting to limit the solar industry in Arizona, APS is refusing to adapt to a changing energy market and will be placing restrictions on the growth of the Arizona economy.

 

Similar proposals have already been considered and rejected this year by regulators in Idaho and Louisiana.

 

 

 

Albuquerque Builders Go Green

Albuquerque is gaining national recognition for being on the frontline of the green building movement. The Albuquerque metropolitan area now has more green-certified homes than any other in the country, and new submissions for green-certified permits keep pouring in at rates far above the national average. The question is, why Albuquerque? The answer lies in the numerous economic incentives set forth by the New Mexico Legislature and Mayor Richard Berry. These incentives, cumulatively as high as $25,000, combined with consumer demand, have caused the rate of these building-permit submissions to skyrocket since they were put in place between 2007 and 2009.

Mayor Berry, drawing on his experience as a contractor, believes that economic incentive is vital to environmental stewardship. The recent explosion in green building seems to support his conviction. According to Rex Paul Wilson, owner of Paul Allan Homes, in 2009 only 6 percent of permits submitted for homes in Albuquerque were green-certified; now 73 percent have some level of green certification. According to Jim Folkman, executive vice president of the Homeowners Association of Central New Mexico, overseer of the Foundation for Building, and an influential figure in the establishment of the incentives, the Albuquerque area’s performance in this area towers over the national average of a mere 5 percent.

The incentives include a Sustainable Building Tax Credit, instituted in 2007 and extended, thanks to the bipartisan effort of state legislators Sue Wilson Beffort, R-NM, Dist. 19, and Peter Wirth, D-NM, Dist. 25. Additionally, in 2009, provisions were made to provide waivers to the steep impact fee, originally designed to combat urban sprawl, for permits issued with green certification. Such permits are also expedited, providing a significant incentive for builders and developers.

Mayor Berry and Paul Allan Homes have been given the 2013 Partners of Excellence Award for embracing National Green Building Standards. The CEO and top staff of Home Innovation, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders and a major green certifier, visited Albuquerque on July 23 to offer their congratulations for the success of the green building industry. Not only does Albuquerque have the most green-certified homes in any metropolitan area; it also has the most NGBS Gold level certifications, which require a much higher performance than minimum code standards.

Folkman believes that Albuquerque is taking part in an inevitable change in building methods, and that the incentives he helped to put in place were a necessary step in the development of the industry. He is retiring from his position at the HACNM, but stated in Albuquerque Business First last month that he plans to continue on at the Foundation for Building and wants to give lectures at UNM on the efficacy and sustainability of green building.

 

National Democracy Activist to Visit New Mexico – Sept. 12-18
Community forums on “Creating Democracy and Challenging Corporate Rule” with Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, national director of the Move to Amend campaign, are being held this month. Part history lesson and part heartfelt call to action, the forums are intended to help residents understand the history behind the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and how they can work to abolish “Corporate Personhood.” The ruling opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections.

Corporate Personhood” commonly refers to the court-created precedent that gives corporations constitutional rights intended solely for human beings. “Corporate Personhood is not an inconsequential legal technicality,” states David Cobb, an attorney and spokesman for Move to Amend. “The Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a ‘legal person’ with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, natives or women.”

We are inspired by historic social movements that recognized the necessity of altering fundamental power relationships,” said Sopoci-Belknap, who is also executive director of Democracy Unlimited. “America has progressed through ordinary people joining together—from the revolutionaries to abolitionists, suffragists, trade unionists and civil rights activists through to today. Move to Amend is a long-term effort to make the US Constitution more democratic and establish a government of, by, and for the people.”

The event in Albuquerque will be on Sept. 12, 7 pm at the First Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle Blvd. NE. In Las Cruces it will be on Sept. 13, 6:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2000 S. Solano Dr. On Sept. 16 at 6 pm it will be in Taos at the Kit Carson Electric Co-op, and on Sept. 18 at 6 pm it will be at Warehouse 21, 1614 Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe.

We are a diverse coalition with deep roots in communities nationwide,” said Sopoci-Belknap. “We recognize that amending the Constitution to restore the power of the people over corporations will not be easy, but we know correcting the Supreme Court is imperative to the progress of our nation.”

Over 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting a constitutional amendment at www.MoveToAmend.org.

 

17th Annual Gathering for Mother Earth—Sept. 21-22

Tewa Women United and other community organizations are hosting the Gathering for Mother Earth at Pojoaque Ben’s Gathering Grounds on Highway 502, 1.8 miles west of the 285/84 interchange near the Cities of Gold Casino in Pojoaque, New Mexico.

The intergenerational gathering is organized to celebrate cultural ways of expressing gratitude for Mother Earth, to “nurture all relations with water and sky” and support eco-systemic survival. A TWU press release says the organizers emphasize “healing Mother Earth to bring sacredness back into our homes of earth-based living… and the need to protect the rights of Natural Laws of relationships.”

Activities will include youth programs, public talks, raffles, healing arts practitioners, renewable energy demonstrations, arts & crafts booths, food, and information tables. Afternoon circles will allow participants to spend time with wisdom keepers, midwives, grandmothers, and singers/drummers from New Zealand, Canada, Ecuador and Peru. Local Native dance groups will also perform.

The gathering will commence with a sunrise ceremony on Sept. 21 at 6:30 am, followed by the Tsankawi Sacred Relay Run at 7:30. The closing ceremony will be at 1 pm on Sept. 22. For more information, call 505.747.3259 or visit www.tewawomenunited.org

 

NEW MEXICO COMMUNITY FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES 2013 LUMINARIA AWARDS

New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) has announced its 2013 Luminaria Awards, paying tribute to outstanding individuals from throughout the state who make a profound difference in their communities. Luminarias are selected because they motivate, inspire and support the dreams of others, promote diversity and equity, and build community strength through their leadership and vision while embodying the values of NMCF.

 

This year’s Luminarias include Jill Cooper Udall of Santa Fe, Hayes Lewis of Zuni, Fran Levine of Santa Fe, Don Usner of Chimayó and Estévan Arellano of Embudo. Past awardees include Owen Lopez (McCune Charitable Foundation), Ali McGraw, Amigos Bravos (river advocacy group), Mamie C. Yazzie (Navajo elder) and Diane Denish.

 

Ten awards will be presented at the NMCF 30th Anniversary and 2013 Luminaria Gala on Dec.r 6, 2013 at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe. This community event will be a gathering of donors, grantees, past and present board members, community leaders and friends of NMCF to “Celebrate the Best of New Mexico.”

 

NMCF works in association with its honorees with a shared commitment to improving New Mexico through a statewide mission to help build community, grow charitable assets and help those most in need. The foundation is guided by the values of equity and fairness, inclusivity and local leadership, collaborative partnerships, sustainability and transparency. www.nmcf.org

 

 

 

 

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