April 2015

Newsbites – April 2015


Healthy Eating Guidelines May Align with Agricultural Policy

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary recommendations, released every five years, may, for the first time, in addition to addressing calories, sugars, fats and sodium, take into consideration what constitutes a “sustainable diet,” how food is grown, and what is healthy for the environment. An advisory panel to the USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has been considering an approach that is “more health promoting and associated with lesser environmental impact than the current average U.S. diet.”

That may mean recommending that people consume more fruit, vegetables and other plant-based foods, and less meat and dairy, a perspective backed by a 2014 National Academy of Sciences study that evaluated greenhouse gases produced, nitrogen pollution of water and the amount of water and land required for beef production. The panel’s draft report, released last month for public comment, cites many studies.

Miriam Nelson, professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy at Tufts University, is one of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council members. She said, “We need grazing animals, as they are important for the ecosystem. But Americans eat too much meat.” Nelson also said that since the dietary guidelines were first developed in 1980, providing access to safe, affordable, quality food has been a focus. She added, “A sustainable diet is essential and a key link to food security. Food security includes sustainable supply chains.”

A sustainable supply chain may require environmental and animal-welfare stewardship. The idea of the government including broader sustainability considerations as part of diet recommendations and integrating that approach into school lunch and federal eating programs has outraged the industrial agriculture, meat and dairy industries and those of like mind in Congress.

The USDA and HHS departments will review the proposed changes to the dietary guidelines, then finalize and release them by the end of 2015. To read the report, visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/


María Benítez Institute Partners with Healthy Kids/Healthy Communities

The María Benítez Institute for Spanish Arts (ISA), in partnership with the Santa Fe Public Schools, has joined the statewide Healthy Kids/Healthy Communities initiative. The program is designed to increase physical activity to support obesity prevention among vulnerable communities and to increase nutrition awareness. ISA is working with five elementary schools to teach 3rd-5th graders techniques, dances and guitar classes based the long tradition of Spanish dance. Nearly 100 students from mostly Southside schools are participating in ISA after-school classes.


ISA is also utilizing the Department of Health’s Healthy Kids 5-2-1-0 Challenge curriculum. Students learn about healthy eating through experiencing Spanish, Mexican, Central American and South American cuisines. Chef José Rodríguez of La Boca and Chef Martín Ríos of Restaurant Martín will bring quality ingredients and food preparation demonstrations to classrooms.


All the partner schools will participate in the ISA’s performance on May 17 at 2pm at the Santa Fe Performing Arts Theater, 1050 Old Pecos Trail. For tickets, visit www.institutespanisharts.org



Kreger Achieves Passive House Certification

Architect/home builder Bob Kreger, of Kreger Design Build, has been building innovative homes for more than 30 years. After rigorous training, Kreger is now certified as both a Certified Passive House Consultant and a Certified Passive House Builder, one of only two people in New Mexico to attain both certifications. Kreger, who is based in Santa Fe, plans to help make New Mexico a leader in the zero-energy home-building industry. His performance-driven design concepts artfully incorporate the Passive House standard (www.PHIUS.org).

The Passive House standard targets a minimum of an 80 percent reduction in heating and cooling costs. “This performance-driven design and building process provides durable value, enhanced comfort and common-sense aging-in-place strategies,” Kreger said. “A Passive House provides a cost-optimal solution for energy and water savings over years of ownership.”

Kreger, who produced the first custom LEED-Platinum home in New Mexico in 2008, has also developed architecturally enhanced and insulated rainwater-storage units, called RainVessels, informed by the newly released WERS (Water Efficiency Rating Score) standard. www.KregerDesignBuild.com, www.Facebook.com/RainVessels


NM Builders Create Water-Efficiency Rating System

The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating has become the standard across North America for measuring a home’s energy efficiency, where the lower the number, the more energy-efficient the home. A HERS index of zero would be a net-zero-energy home.

Another way to quantify a home’s efficiency is to evaluate its water use—obviously, an important consideration in an era of ever-growing scarcity. Reflecting Santa Fe’s national reputation as a leader in water conservation, experts from the Santa Fe Area Home Builders’ Association’s Green Building Council put up some of the seed money to design and develop a new mathematical model for measuring and scoring a home’s water-efficiency performance. They worked in association with Santa Fe Community College, Build Green New Mexico and the Green Building Coalition.

The Water Efficiency Rating System (WERS) is an easy-to-use software program that gives consumers and builders around the country a way to compare the water efficiency of homes. The WERS calculates typical water consumption based on various appliances’ and plumbing fixtures’ gallons-per-minute or per-flush rating and the level of household occupancy. Based on this information, fixtures can be installed that will reduce water usage while suiting particular needs. The WERS also encourages the use of rainwater and greywater for outdoor irrigation, as well as—with proper health and safety protocols—for indoor use.

The pilot WERS tool is being discussed with the EPA and others regarding a likely national release.


Renewable Taos Project Wins RMI Invite

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and its Electricity Innovation Lab (eLab) Accelerator have selected the Renewable Taos project to join teams from throughout the United States who are “…leading the most impactful and innovative projects at the distribution edge of the electricity system.” The teams are creating groundbreaking system solutions based on new utility-business models for building and distributing locally generated renewable energy. The 12 teams met at Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah, from March 23-26.

Renewable Taos Project’s successful application was based on establishing the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) service area as a new Energy Innovation District. Renewable Taos began working with RMI in 2014 to determine ways to supply Taos-area energy demands with renewables such as a locally operated microgrid that could produce income from solar-power generation in excess of demands. Renewable Taos co-founder Bob Bresnahan said that the group’s work also involves policy and contract changes plus community outreach to dispel misinformation about costs, reliability and grid impacts of renewable energy.

Core team members are Luis Reyes, CEO of KCEC; Valerie Espinoza, New Mexico Public Regulation Commission; Andrew Gonzales, Town of Taos councilor; Jay P. Levine, Levine Mesa Web; and two other business and industry principals who have not yet been announced. Energy consultant Bill Brown is the team coordinator. http://renewabletaos.org, http://www.rmi.org/elab


New Mexico’s Water Checking Account Overdrawn

Sam Fernald, director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, thinks that, if water were dollars and New Mexico a bank, the state’s checking account would be broke and digging into savings. “This situation is dangerously out of balance,” Fernald says. “We’ve been using our groundwater as a checking account. But, because of the drought and lack of surface water, the groundwater has not been recharging. So now we’re tapping into our reserves.”


Fernald made the comment at a news conference convened by the nonpartisan public-policy organization New Mexico First, requesting actions by state agencies in formulating water policy. Watershed restoration, brackish-water research, incentives for conservation and other policy priorities were discussed at a town hall that New Mexico First sponsored in Albuquerque last year. That event brought together more than 300 people from 31 counties, representing rural, urban and tribal interests.


ABQ-Bernalillo County Rainwater-Harvesting Pilot Project

Six applications have been selected from more than 100 people and businesses that applied to participate in the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s rainwater-harvesting pilot project. The project is part of the 2024 Water Conservation Plan Goal, which focuses on conserving water and lowering water bills by using stored rainwater, captured from rooftops, on landscapes. Rain barrels fill up quickly in storms. The project facilitates the installation of above- or below-ground cisterns and tanks that hold 1,000 gallons and are connected to an irrigation system.


The project is being presented in partnership with the New Mexico Water Collaborative, which, through donations, is paying some of the costs. Participants pay a fee based on a sliding scale according to household income. Based on information it gets from the program, the ABCWUA will launch a study to assess the feasibility of expanded rainwater-harvesting rebates and programs. For more information, visit www.abcwua.org or www.nmwatercollaborative.org


Taos’ Acequia de los Lovatos Celebrates its 300th Year

In 1715, Gov. Flores Mogollón, in Santa Fe, received a letter concerning a petition for a land grant in the Taos Valley, submitted by Francisca Antonio Gijosa, the widow of Antonio Moya. The stipulation for receipt of the land grant was that it needed to be occupied as a residence within six months.


On Sept. 20, 1715, Taos Mayor Juan de la Mora Pineda wrote a letter of response to the governor that identified the boundaries of the land grant: south from the Camino del Medio going to Picuris, west to the black rocks, and east from the acequia, which was already in use, documented and identified as the Acequia de los Lovatos.


Celebrations are planned to celebrate this acequia’s history and impact on the community throughout the late spring. Look to upcoming publications for announcements.



New EPA Storm Water Requirements for Los Alamos

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that storm water discharges from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and urban areas of Los Alamos County may be contributing to the degradation of water quality standards and therefore require a Clean Water Act permit. The EPA’s preliminary decision was in response to a petition filed by the Taos-based conservation organization Amigos Bravos, which outlined the connections between storm water discharges from urban areas to tributaries that drain directly into the Río Grande.


A March 5 response to the petition stated, “EPA has made a preliminary determination that discharges of storm water from municipal, separate storm sewer systems on LANL property and urban portions of Los Alamos County result in or have the potential to result in exceedances of state water quality standards, including impairment of designated uses, or other significant water quality impacts such as habitat and biological impacts.” The EPA also found that Los Alamos canyons are “impaired” with radioactive materials and other contaminants.


This preliminary decision by EPA is an important first step towards protecting the Río Grande and tributaries on the Pajarito Plateau from contaminants such as gross alpha (a measurement of overall radioactivity), heavy metals and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenals),” said Rachel Conn, interim executive director of Amigos Bravos. “Regulation of these discharges will help ensure that downstream communities receive clean water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.” Two of New Mexico’s largest cities—Santa Fe and Albuquerque—divert drinking water downstream from Los Alamos.


If the designation is finalized, EPA will issue a draft discharge permit, which is subject to a public comment period and public hearing that will outline steps and deadlines that LANL, the county and the New Mexico Department of Transportation will have to take to ensure storm water discharges are not causing water-quality violations. Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess, in a statement responding to the EPA finding, said, “A full-time engineer would be needed to plan, design and complete a project of this magnitude.” A statement from LANL said, “The Laboratory has an extensive storm water monitoring and control system in place for regulated industrial activities and construction sites, including extensive use of storm water control structures…The Laboratory will determine whether additional corrective actions are needed to manage runoff from the urbanized sections of Laboratory.”


Groundwater Pollution in Southern New Mexico

The New Mexico Environment Department says that shallow groundwater beneath and beyond boundaries of dairies along the Interstate 10 corridor between Anthony and Mesquite is contaminated with nitrate—nitrogen, chloride and dissolved solids. The contamination is primarily the result of dairy operations in the southern part of the state. Late last month, the NMED held a hearing on a cleanup plan proposed by a consortium of 11 dairies. The hearing discussed sampling at monitoring wells and contamination effects on domestic wells.


In December 2014, the New Mexico Supreme Court struck down a motion by state water regulators to block the attorney general from participating in dairy wastewater hearings. The industry has sought amendments to state water-quality rules that require the installation of monitoring wells and synthetic liners in waste ponds.


Mining Water-Cleansing Technology Released

Each year, the oil and gas industry generates about 70 billion barrels of water contaminated with oil and gas particles, chemicals, metals and salts. Current technologies to clean “produced” water mostly just filters out the most toxic elements before the water is reinjected underground. The process is energy intensive and expensive, accounting for up to 10 percent of production costs.

After three years of development, IX Power Clean Water, a Los Alamos-based startup, has begun to sell its breakthrough technology. IX Power (pronounced “Nine Power”) claims its 1,500-lb., easily transportable OrganiClear machine can make wastewater clean enough for agricultural use and reduce costs for doing so by up to 90 percent. The machine, which is currently assembled at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, sells for $225,000 and can treat up to 1,000 barrels of water per day. The company has scheduled commercial demonstrations to oil and gas firms up and down the Río Grande and from West Texas to Wyoming and is also looking to international markets.

The OrganiClear machine filters water with an absorbent mineral called zeolite, cleanses it in a bioreactor with micro-organisms and then cleanses it further through a vapor-phase bioreactor that removes volatile, or airborne, organic compounds. The system was developed by LANL in collaboration with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the University of Texas.


CO2-Capture Technology Invented by NMSU Researcher

A New Mexico State University researcher has patented a new technology to capture and store carbon-dioxide emissions from the air. Nasser Khazeni, a doctoral student, has secured a provisional patent for the sponge-like metal-organic material he’s developed that attracts and binds CO2 100 times more than other similar structures. The captured CO2 can then be transported and reused.


Climate scientists blame excessive CO2 generated by burning fossil fuels as a major contributor—along with methane—to global warming. Two thirds of the CO2 generated in the United States is attributed to power plants alone.


Khazeni’s work was done in conjunction with NMSU’s Arrowhead Center business accelerator, which is working to commercialize the technology. Technology-licensing associate Theresa Lombard noted, “It’s going to radically impact the world, with regard to carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. It’s exciting.”


Natural Agriculture Presentation—April 13 in Albuquerque

A Simple, Sustainable Method That Cooperates with Nature

Natural Agriculture,” developed by Mokichi Okada in Japan in the 1940s, is an approach to farming and gardening matched to local environments, without using fertilizers, manure, compost, aggressive pest control or crop rotation. Natural Agriculture—also known as Nature Farming—encourages continuous cropping, rather than crop rotation, based on the understanding that each generation of seeds improves and adapts to its particular soil and environment and that soil also adapts to particular crops. Farmers are encouraged to experiment to see which crops work well for the soil, rather than trying to force the land to produce an unsuitable crop for their own economic designs. By paying close attention to the cycles of nature, crops prone to infestation can be harvested slightly earlier or grown in greater quantities to allow for losses.

The results, according to Alan Imai, director of the Shumei Institute’s International Natural Agriculture programs (www.shumei-na.org), are nutritious food, abundant yields and the promotion of biodiversity and without pollution of soil or groundwater. This method has been successfully applied in small backyard gardens and large commercial farms in Japan, the United States and Europe. Imai has spent 11 years widening the scope of Natural Agriculture, helping indigenous people in Zambia, Nepal, Brazil and other countries break free of the economic burden of GMO seeds and fertilizers and to develop sustainable farming based on local crops.

Imai will explain Natural Agriculture and tell stories of its successes at a free presentation on April 13, at 7 p.m., at the First Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle Boulevard NE, Albuquerque. For more information about the presentation, call 505.281.4888, or email seraphim@ocoy.org


Proposed Santolina Development Draws Opposition

A large crowd of demonstrators that included farmers arriving on tractors held a rally and march through downtown Albuquerque on March 25. About 150 of them then packed a Bernalillo County Commission meeting to oppose the proposed Santolina development west of Albuquerque. The development would cover nearly 22 square miles and include an urban center, industrial park and residential villages for 90,000 or more people.

Opponents say it would divert important—and limited—water resources, and negatively impact the river, bosque, acequieros, ranchers, farmers and nearby communities. The developers have objected to a recommended water-use limit on the area and have hired a high-level public relations firm. At the hearing, a spokesman said that the development team might pursue financing mechanisms such as tax-increment development districts (TIDDs), which would allow tax revenue to be diverted to reimburse the developer for building infrastructure.

After more than 11 hours of comments over two days, the commission postponed making a decision. The next hearing will be at 4 pm on May 11. https://contrasantolina.wordpress.com


Groups Sue Over Drilling in Northwest NM

Last month a coalition of environmental and Native American groups filed a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of the Interior, challenging the BLM’s approval of at least 130 oil and gas drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico. The groups cited alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. They contend that additional development and fracking could harm the area, which includes the Chaco Culture National Historic Park and Navajo communities. Many archaeological sites and areas sacred to tribes lie outside the park boundaries. Environmental and tribal groups have also been fighting a proposed 130-mile-long oil pipeline that would pass through the region.

Faced with an expected Mancos shale oil boom, the BLM is in the process of updating its management plan for the San Juan Basin. The coalition wants the agency to postpone approving drilling permits until the new plan is in place.


Santa Fe Startup Weekend – April 17-19

The next Santa Fe Startup Weekend will take place April 17-19 at the Santa Fe Business Incubator. Passionate people will come together to network, bridge the gap between trades, expose potential and see actual results. “This type of innovative collaboration is extremely important to the economic growth of all of northern New Mexico,” said SFBI’s program director, Sean O’Shea. 


Anyone can pitch an idea on Friday evening. Teams are then formed around the ideas that elicit the most excitement from the registered participants. The rest of the weekend will be spent turning the idea into a startup that is pitched to a group of local investors and startup experts. The winning team receives a prize package from the incubator and the ABQid accelerator program, among others. Registration is $50, with some discounts available from community sponsors including the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, Santa Fe Economic Development Division, Creative Santa Fe, IN Santa Fe, MIX-SF and First Citizens Bank. For more information, email soshea.sfbi.net or visit www.santafe.startupweekend.org



Court Rejects Navajo Mine Expansion

Last month, a judge in Colorado rejected a federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) plan to expand coal mining at the 13,000-acre Navajo Mine near the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. Navajo and conservation groups had sued the OSM over the plan, which would have allowed strip mining of 12.7 million tons of coal on a 714-acre expansion.

U.S. District Judge John L. Kane held that the OSM environmental assessment violated the National Environmental Policy Act by ignoring cumulative impacts and indirect effects that would result from the expansion, including mercury from burning the mined coal at the nearby Four Corners Power Plant and disposing of coal-ash waste.


With this decision, we hope OSM seizes the opportunity to address the legacy of pollution from the Navajo Mine and Four Corners Power Plant,” said Mike Eisenfeld of San Juan Citizens Alliance. “With so many of New Mexico’s lakes and reservoirs contaminated by mercury and other coal pollution, we are pleased that the court agreed that it is essential to take a serious look at the intertwined impacts of mining and burning coal,” said Rachel Conn of the water conservation advocacy group Amigos Bravos.


The Diné people who reside near the power plant and Navajo Mine have suffered the burden of coal impacts for far too long,” said Colleen Cooley of Diné CARE. “This is our home, and we cannot just move away from our communities, so we are grateful that the court rejected this plan.”



ABQ to Launch Bike-Share Program

A bike-share program makes bikes available for short-term rentals. Austin, Denver and Phoenix have such programs. In a first of its kind for New Mexico, a bike-share will be launched with stations in downtown Albuquerque by May 15. Payments may be processed on a website or by smartphone apps. Some sites offer memberships or discounts for 30- to 45-minute uses.

Downtown ABQ MainStreet Initiative, the Mid-Region Council of Governments, the city of Albuquerque, the incubator FatPipe ABQ and private businesses are among those partnering on the pilot program, which will begin with 35 to 50 durable, lightweight bikes designed for city streets. A $15,000 PNM grant is helping to start the program. The bike-share may eventually go citywide and help support Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

A bike-share program for Albuquerque fits in with other initiatives such as the 2030 District; Urban ABQ, which advocates for more walkable and bikeable city corridors; and the city’s Complete Streets legislation, which requires that streets be designed to serve pedestrians, cyclists and mass-transit users, as well as vehicles. Lola Bird, with Downtown ABQ Mainstreet, the project’s organizer, says that cities with bike-share programs report increased residential and commercial property values. For more information, visit www.abqmainstreet.org/bici


Craft Entrepreneurship Workshops for Creative Entrepreneurs

On April 23, WESST Santa Fe is launching a free series of workshops to help creative entrepreneurs generate supplemental income by starting an online shop to sell handmade products to an international audience.


Applicants should have the ability to develop a line of products to make their website competitive. Fifteen qualified artisans will create their ETSY site while learning business basics like accounting, research, pricing, competitive marketing, shipping and more.


The workshops will be held on six consecutive Thursdays. The classes will be taught by Charlene Jacka, who has been instrumental in the development of the ETSY network, NewMexiEtsy. The network has nearly 250 members statewide. WESST is the only New Mexico organization teaching the ETSY Craft Entrepreneurship Program. Contact rperea@wesst.org to receive an online application.


Spring Harvest Festival at Tierra Wools, April 25

Renovations have recently been completed at Tierra Wools in Los Ojos, New Mexico, just in time for the annual Spring Harvest Festival, which will showcase spinning, weaving, dyeing tours, music and local food.

Founded in 1983, Tierra Wools is a hand-weaving and dyeing workshop, local wool marketing shop, as well as a place for local artisans to consign their goods. Thanks in part to a grant from the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area, local workers’ renovations included walls and door repairs, finer gravel for easier, safer walking, a new propane tank, new hoses for the natural dye setup, restroom renovation and, most important, replacement of the kiln for hand-dye heat.



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