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Newsbites – April 2017
PNM May Retire San Juan Generating Station
On March 16, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), majority owner and operator of the 1800-MW coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, in a shift of its long-held position, announced: “Retiring the remaining two units of the SJGS could provide long-term benefits to customers.”
Almost 300 people are employed at the SJGS in northwest New Mexico. The plant consumes 6.3 billion gallons of water per annum and is one of the most polluting power plants in the U.S. According to the NM Environment Department, between 2005 and 2008, the plant violated PNM’S air quality permit limits for nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide and opacity 60,000 times. Air pollution from the plant has been a major source of haze in the Four Corners region, clouding the air and views in national parks, including the Grand Canyon. Communities (particularly Native American) allegedly impacted by the plant’s air, water and soil pollutants have been experiencing serious health issues.
A press release says: “PNM is on track to retire SJGS units 2 and 3 by the end of 2017, while continuing to operate units 1 and 4 until at least 2022. Retiring the SJGS would provide PNM an opportunity to increase renewable energy production.” Fifty percent of PNM’s energy generation is currently from coal. The company is planning to replace the SJGS’s electricity with mostly natural gas and nuclear energy. The owners of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona—which releases more greenhouse gases than almost any other in the country—have voted to close that plant at the end of 2019. That shutdown will impact about 800 jobs.
On March 15, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the approval of a $22-million coal lease in central Utah. Coal leasing and underground mining in the area currently support nearly 1,700 jobs. Zinke said, “Let me make one thing clear, the Interior Department is in the energy business. For many communities and tribes across the West, coal on public lands has been both a boon and a missed opportunity with the potential for thousands of jobs and millions in economic opportunity. We are at a time in our history where we have technology available to responsibly mine coal and return our land to equal or better quality after.”
In February, after mining companies challenged pending changes in the coal royalty program, the Interior Department blocked the changes from taking effect. The Trump administration also delayed consideration of a proposal to require companies to prove they are financially capable of cleaning up polluted mining sites so that taxpayers don’t get stuck with cleanup bills at abandoned mines. Clean water regulations intended to protect mining debris from being dumped into streams have also been terminated.
The coal industry is seeking to benefit from proposed legislation that would increase the federal tax credit from $10 to $20 per ton for carbon capture and sequestration, an unperfected, costly process that would reduce some of the environmental impact of coal burning. The legislation also would expand available credits by more than one-third for carbon storage. Carbon can be flooded into declining oil fields to coax production.
Xcel Energy to Build NM’s Largest Wind Farm
Wind facility costs have dropped significantly. Combined with federal tax credits (which are set to expire), wind energy has become increasingly attractive to utilities.
Xcel Energy has announced plans to build the largest wind farm in New Mexico. The 522-megawatt, $865-million Sagamore Wind Project will be in Roosevelt County, approximately 20 miles south of Portales. It will generate enough power to supply about 194,000 homes per year. The project will provide about 300 construction jobs and 20-to-30 fulltime positions when completed by 2020.
A subsidiary of Xcel, Southwest Public Service Co. has operated the 250-megawatt Roosevelt Wind Project since December 2015. Xcel will also build a 478-megawatt wind farm near Lubbock, Texas, and plans to purchase 230 megawatts of wind energy under a long-term agreement with NextEra Energy. The projects will allow Xcel to produce energy at a lower cost than that produced by the company’s coal- and natural gas-fueled plants, thereby saving its 385,000 New Mexico and Texas customers about $2.8 billion over the next 30 years.
Xcel is seeking approval for the projects from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Another New Mexico project, the 298-megawatt, 56,000-acre El Cabo Wind Farm in Torrance County, will go into operation this year.
UNM School of Medicine Ranks Third Nationally in Rural Medicine
The University of New Mexico School of Medicine ranks third in the nation for its Rural Medicine Program in the April 2017 U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools for 2018.” The magazine also ranks the school’s Primary Care Curriculum 18th in the nation. The Health Sciences Center’s College of Nursing Midwifery Program has maintained its ranking of seventh nationally. New Mexico has a long history of midwifery. Nearly one-third of all births in the state are attended by midwives.
This year’s medical school rankings are based on surveying 170 U.S.-accredited medical schools (140 allopathic, or mainstream medicine, and 30 osteopathic). They were ranked according to measures of academic quality, including academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources, and the percentage of graduating physicians who go into the primary care specialties of family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics. These rankings are based on peer-assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators, and/or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each discipline. Only fully accredited programs in good standing during the survey period are ranked.
Forty percent of the practicing physicians in New Mexico have graduated from UNM’s programs.
Sustainable Santa Fe Community Conversations Update
The Sustainable Santa Fe Commission wants to hear city and county residents’ ideas about critical issues and creative solutions. Mayor Javier Gonzales will introduce the first two community conversations, May 3, 5:30–7:30 p.m. at the Genoveva Chávez Center Community Room, and May 9, 5:30–7:30 p.m. at Hotel Santa Fe.
For the past 16 months, with education, economic development and social equity in mind, the commission engaged more than 50 experts in working groups to draft a plan to address regional issues related to energy, water, buildings, transportation, waste management, environmental protection, food security and greenhouse gas emissions.
These community conversations are the beginning of a larger strategy seeking public feedback and recommendations. The other meetings scheduled are May 13, 1–3 p.m. at the Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Drive (co-hosted by Earth Care); and May 20, 2–4 p.m. at Chainbreaker Community Center, 1515 5th Street (co-hosted by Chainbreaker Collective).
Food and refreshments will be served, and childcare and Spanish translation will be available. For more information, contact Commission Chair Beth Beloff at 505.467.8530 or Commissioner Robb Hirsch at 505.988.3364 or email@example.com, www.sustainablesantafe2040.com
Three Sisters Kitchen
ABQ space for “foodpreneurs”
Although New Mexico generated $11 billion in food production in 2012, and households in the state spend more than $4 billion on food in stores and restaurants annually, only 5 percent of the food produced in the state is consumed here, according to Anzia Bennett, founder of a new enterprise being developed in Albuquerque as part of the Downtown ABQ MainStreet Initiative.
The Three Sisters Kitchen is intended to support the development of a healthy local food economy by helping entrepreneurs become part of the state’s rapidly growing food production industry. Three Sisters is creating a commercial-grade, multi-use kitchen space and incubator for startups. “Foodpreneurs” will benefit from retail and showcase spaces and tasting events in a culinary classroom at a facility slated to open in the fall, downtown on Gold Avenue, between 1st and 2nd streets.
In addition to its own programming, Three Sisters will provide a space for individuals and other organizations to run programs that reach people around Albuquerque by partnering with initiatives such as the Downtown Growers’ Market, Kids Cook and the Street Food Institute, which trains people to run their own food trucks. The Mixing Bowl, a similar enterprise, run by the South Valley Economic Development Center, can facilitate large-scale production. It will be another of Three Sisters’ associates.
Three Sisters Kitchen will be supported by member fees and is seeking additional funding.
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