National Parks and Monuments May Lose Protections
National monument designations make lands off-limits to commercial development. President Trump has described national monuments created since 1996 that cover more than 100,000 acres as “a massive federal land grab” that “should never have happened.” The president has proposed reducing or redesignating 27 monuments in 11 states. Under an executive order, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was instructed to produce a final report in 120 days.
Conservationists see Zinke’s review as the first step in turning over monuments to become federal land that can be transferred to state trust lands required to generate income for the state, often mining and gas and oil drilling.
Last month Zinke toured Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. He met with the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition for an hour. Tribal leaders said there wasn’t enough time to make their points and that Zinke mostly listened to his entourage of anti-monument politicians.
Tribal councils representing Río Grande Valley Pueblos, as well as Zuni, Mescalero Apache and Navajo, have demonstrated broad agreement that the Río Grande del Norte National Monument and Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks Monument designations must be maintained. The RGDN stretches from Taos Pueblo lands to beyond the Colorado line. The OM-DP is 300 miles south toward Las Cruces. New Mexico’s Republican congressional representative Steve Pearce has proposed reducing that 490,000-acre monument to 54,800 acres. Both monuments have seen significant economic impact since becoming national monuments because of the increasing number of visitors.
New Mexico Among Four States to Sue Over Coal Lease Decision
President Trump’s executive order to amend or withdraw the coal-leasing moratoria on federal lands has sparked a lawsuit. Attorneys for California, New Mexico, New York and Washington say that the program was reversed without due consideration for the environment and fair value for taxpayers. The suit claims that the reversal was made “with no justification other than an objection to the time and cost of complying with the law.”
“Climate change has to be considered when we are talking about compensating states and New Mexico citizens for their resources,” said Cholla Khoury, New Mexico Attorney Gen. Hector Balderas’ director of consumer and environmental protection.
The Obama administration blocked the sale of new leases in 2016 in order to conduct an environmental study and a review of the royalties that mining companies pay the government for coal that’s extracted. Interior officials said in January that those royalty rates could be raised to help offset the effects of climate change from burning coal. Eleven percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 reportedly came from the production and combustion of coal on federal lands.
The administration’s decision to review those designations in New Mexico has resulted in an opposition coalition of tribal leaders, sportsmen, ranchers, business owners and conservationists. They allege that the political drive threatening these lands is orchestrated in part by the American Lands Council, a group backed by the fossil-fuel industry-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has proposed the transfer of all federal lands in the West back to willing states.
Multinational Energy Firms Expand their Holdings in New Mexico
Despite environmental protests, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with oil and gas lease sales in southeastern New Mexico. The resulting $70 million in revenue is expected to improve the state’s budget crisis.
Major multinational energy companies have spent more than $13 billion in recent months on oil and gas hot spots in the state. Acreage has been going for twice what companies paid in September 2016, and New Mexico has been leading the nation in new drilling rigs.
Exxon-Mobil Corp. is paying $5.6 billion in company stock plus about $1 billion more in cash to the Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas, to double its holdings on 275,000 acres in the Permian Basin, which extends from Texas into southeast New Mexico, and includes the Delaware Basin in Lea and Eddy counties, where the company gains access to an estimated 3.4 billion barrels of oil. It will likely take many years to fully explore and develop the vast deposits there.
Last September, Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. acquired Yates Petroleum Corp. for $2.5 billion for extensive holdings in Lea and Eddy counties, and in November, Concho Resources paid $430 million for about 24,000 acres in the area. In April, ConocoPhillips announced plans to sell all of its San Juan Basin assets in northwestern New Mexico for $3 billion to Hilcorp San Juan LP.
Albuquerque’s Green Initiatives
With its focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation and public transportation, Albuquerque has become one of the nation’s sustainability leaders. Since 2010, the city’s carbon emissions have been reduced by more than 11,703 metric tons, the equivalent of taking more than 2,464 cars off the road or planting 300,086 trees. This is the result of $16.8 million invested in 100 energy-efficiency projects. The city’s website touts the projects’ environmental impacts as well as the economic savings, noting a total avoided energy cost of more than $4 million.
American City Business Journals, in its annual nationwide ranking, put Albuquerque at number 25 for green building, tying with Cambridge, Massachusetts. Albuquerque had 737,771 square-feet with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The city has 16 LEED-certified projects. Eleven are gold-certified and two are silver-certified. LEED certification measures energy-efficiency and other environmentally conscious building practices.
A prime example of this is Central New Mexico College’s Smith Brasher Hall construction of new computer labs, a renovated auditorium, an enlarged business resource center and staff spaces, which will be LEED-certified. Renovations to CNM’s School of Business & Information Technology building, to be completed this month by Bradbury Stamm, cost $24 million, funded by a voter-approved bond. The building’s wells have high-efficiency geothermal fields that reduce energy. Twenty-two thousand tons of recycled material were salvaged and used for the building.
Another focus for Albuquerque is its public-private recycling program and its Integrated Waste Management Plan, which aims to increase the city’s diversion rate to 40 percent. The city partners with Friedman Recycling to allow residents to recycle a variety of materials through cart-based curbside recycling. In FY 2016, residents recycled 26,166 tons.
SFCC Awarded $200,000 EPA Job Training Grant
Santa Fe Community College is one of 14 organizations selected by the Environmental Protection Agency to receive funding for job-training programs for local unemployed residents. The programs will prepare people for green jobs that reduce environmental contamination and provide more sustainable futures for communities affected by solid- and hazardous-waste contamination.
SFCC has long led the way in environmental job training programs for northern New Mexico students. “We continue to promote sustainable and environmental technologies as a driver of economic growth and new jobs,” said SFCC President Randy Grissom.
The college’s grant of $200,000 will help train 69 students and place at least 51 graduates in environmental jobs. The training program also includes instruction in health and safety, environmental site assessments and sampling, mold remediation and asbestos awareness, allowing graduates to earn 12 state or federal certifications. SFCC plans to focus recruitment on rural Native Americans, veterans and underserved youth. The college has partnered with Coordinated Vision LLC, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Branch of the Association of General Contractors, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Fe YouthWorks, SER Jobs for Progress, New Mexico Workforce Connection, Northern Area Local Workforce Development Board, and Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council Office of Environmental and Technical Assistance.
For information on SFCC’s job training programs, call 505.800.8765 or email