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Newsbites – February 2017
Santa Fe Receives EPA Stormwater Management Grant
Last month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New Mexico Environment Department and the City of Santa Fe held a press conference to announce that Santa Fe is one of five cities in the nation selected to receive a $150,000 EPA “toolkit” for planning comprehensive long-term strategies to manage stormwater. The web-based toolkit includes a planning guide, along with technical and financial assistance. The project, part of a national pilot program, will be led by EPA, coordinated with the city manager’s office and supported by the state.
Urban stormwater can be a public and environmental health concern. Many cities have utilized green infrastructure as part of a long-term approach to managing stormwater. Prioritized actions can provide significant long-term cost savings and guide smart investments by tying together multiple objectives such as street improvements, outdoor open spaces, greenways or recreation areas, as well as community revitalization. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said that the city could work on a variety of initiatives, such as capturing runoff for irrigation or expanding a program of releasing reservoir water into the usually dry bed of the Santa Fe River.
Former EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry said, “These tools will promote the use of flexible solutions that spur economic growth, stimulate infrastructure investments and help compliance with environmental requirements such as the Clean Water Act.” New Mexico Environment Secretary Butch Tongate said, “We are pleased to see Santa Fe developing the kinds of practices that will not only enhance regional surface water quality but may also serve as an example for other communities.”
Healthcare Employment in New Mexico
From personal care aides to health specialties teachers, postsecondary, healthcare jobs can be considered among the more secure in New Mexico. Many are as a result of an aging population. Senior caregiver is the fastest-growing job in the state, according to zippia.com.
The 11 fastest growing jobs in New Mexico in 2017:
1. Personal Care Aides
2. Home Health Aides
3. Physical Therapists
4. Nurse Practitioners
5. Speech-Language Pathologists
6. Cooks, Restaurant Cook
7. Childcare Workers
8. Preschool Teachers, except Special Education
9. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
10.Health Specialties Teachers, postsecondary
Further down the list: healthcare social workers at 14, followed by mental health counselors, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, and medical assistants. Registered nurses ranked number 22, followed by bartenders, pharmacy technicians, clinical, counseling and school psychologists. Physicians and surgeons are ranked 29th. For the complete list, go to www.zippia.com/advice/fastest-growing-jobs-in-new-mexico/
NM Healthcare Sector Adds—and Loses-—Jobs
The healthcare sector added 6,000 jobs in New Mexico from November 2015 to November 2016, the second highest year-to-year increase since 2003. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in regard to what will happen if, as promised, the Trump administration repeals or changes the Affordable Care Act and reduceds Medicaid spending. Such changes could result in more adults without health coverage as insurance becomes more expensive.
Last month the Commonwealth Fund at George Washington University released a state-by-state report on projected job losses if the healthcare law is repealed. The impact on New Mexico would be particularly significant because the government sector constitutes a major number of jobs, and the state expanded Medicaid government insurance to 200,000 low-income adults. The report projected that New Mexico would lose 19,000 jobs, including 7,800 in healthcare, as well as 1,900 in construction and real estate and 2,400 in retail trade, and that there would be a $10-billion impact from 2019 to 2023.
As a result of state funding and contract service cuts, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is eliminating more than 500 positions, including 33 doctors, 174 nurses, 167 hospital staff and 132 academic staff in the School of Medicine, nursing and pharmacy programs, and other research and education institutions. The center oversees UNM Hospital and medical facilities in 246 communities across the state. The center’s chancellor told legislators in January that most of the jobs will be planned staff expansion that have not yet been filled. Paul Roth, M.D., also said, “People may be losing their lives. Our kids are not going to receive the quality of medical care they need. Our patients may not have access to healthcare.”
Latinos Face Health Impacts from Oil and Gas Pollution
Latino communities in New Mexico and elsewhere face a higher risk of cancer and are more likely to be impacted by childhood asthma attacks than other segments of the U.S. population. This is because more than 1.81 million Latinos live within half a mile of methane and toxic pollutants emitted from oil and gas wells, according to a recent report by the Clean Air Task Force, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Hispanic Medical Association.
The report echoes the assertions of Juntos, a Latino-focused program of the Conservation Voters of New Mexico Education Fund. Juntos’ survey of Latino families in Albuquerque found that air pollution and respiratory problems were the top concern. The Clean Air Task Force says that volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas facilities in New Mexico have been traced to increased ozone in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Vegas.
Valles Caldera Could Become Geothermal National Park
The Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico is home to vast grasslands and the remnants of one of North America’s few (dormant) super volcanoes. The National Park Service has put the Valles Caldera National Preserve on the National Register under the Geothermal Steam Act. If the Department of the Interior signs off on the designation, the preserve would become the 18th national park with designated thermal features. Yellowstone, Crater Lake and Hawaii Volcanoes are on the list.
The Valles Caldera would get extra protection under the new designation. Developers in the Jémez Mountains, even outside the park’s boundaries, would have to prove that their project will not have a negative impact on the preserve’s geothermal resources before a permit would be issued. An Environmental Impact Statement that the National Forest Service is currently conducting on the potential effects of geothermal energy development on 195,000 acres of Santa Fe National Forest north and west of Valles Caldera could be affected by the designation’s higher standard.
The nearly 140-square-mile preserve was purchased by the federal government in 2000, which managed it as a working ranch and condemned the last privately owned mineral rights to protect against geothermal development. The Park Service took over in 2015.
Chaco Canyon Area Drilling Rights Sold
The Bureau of Land Management invited state, local and tribal governments to be “cooperating agencies” in the update of its Resource Management Plan Amendment for the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park area and held scoping meetings to hear from Navajo residents and chapter communities that would be affected by additional oil and gas development.
Despite opposition from a broad coalition of tribal, local, regional and national environmental and public health groups, last month the BLM auctioned oil and gas drilling rights to 843 acres, some of the few remaining parcels of undeveloped public lands within 20 miles of Chaco. More than 40,000 oil and gas wells have already been drilled in the region. The $3-million sale had been postponed three times since 2012. A BLM spokeswoman said that the agency would not issue the parcels to the winning bidders until several protests are resolved.
In December 2016, a company seeking to build the Piñón Pipeline, a 130-mile oil pipeline across 130 miles of federal lands including the Chaco area, withdrew its application to the BLM for a right-of-way. The company cited current market conditions. The pipeline would have been able to transport up to 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
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