July 2017

Newsbites – July 2017


Methane Emission Rules Intercepted


The Trump administration has moved quickly to suspend, and perhaps rescind, two Obama-era rules intended to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to delay for at least two years a rule that would require companies to monitor and reduce leaks. The rule was one of the regulations intended to help the U.S. meet its commitment to the Paris Climate accord. President Trump has announced that he is withdrawing the U.S. from that agreement.


Claiming the rule would harm energy development, jobs and revenue in states such as New Mexico, the Interior Department has indefinitely postponed another regulation that would have reduced the methane released into the atmosphere from leaks, venting and flaring on federal lands. The industry claims it is already reducing emissions through technological innovation.


A 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane, identified as a major contributor to global warming, hangs over the Four Corners region. Other gases, such as benzene, that come from the wells, form smog and are linked to cancer, asthma and other effects. The main sources, scientists have recently reconfirmed, are leaks from 25,000 active and abandoned wells and 10,000 miles of pipelines that run across the San Juan Basin. New Mexico has no state regulation. Oil and gas production is soon to increase significantly in the Permian Basin of southern New Mexico and west Texas.


Last month, environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the EPA’s stay of the methane rule.


Economics of Happiness Conference October 12–14 in Santa Fe


Reconnecting to Our Local Future—Celebrating Diversity and Community

The Economics of Happiness Conference will explore and explain how humans can shift direction—environmentally, economically and spiritually—from a globalized system of exploitation, inequality and environmental degradation toward local cultures and economies that support renewal, resilience and human and planetary well-being. The conference will identify key strategic shifts and cultivate collaboration among individuals, groups and movements toward economic localization.


Themes to be discussed include local food, local governance, democratic systems, law- and policy-making, local businesses, local finance and banking, environmental and climate justice, health and wellness, cultural diversity and equality, biodiversity and connecting to nature, the Commons and the New Economy Movement. By presenting grassroots localization strategies, the conference’s organizers hope to facilitate learning, increased collaboration and hands-on action in northern New Mexico, as well as policy-level initiatives.


Helena Norberg-Hodge, a pioneer of the worldwide localization movement and founder of Local Futures, will be one of the keynote speakers. Other confirmed presenters include Native American economist Winona LaDuke; Lakota chief Arvol Looking Horse; author/physician Larry Dossey; local economy pioneer Judy Wicks; author Charles Eisenstein; author Craig Childs; former Bristol (England) mayor and architect George Ferguson; representative of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Tshoki Zangmo; Sami people from Norway; and Taos Pueblo’s Robert Mirabal. Notable businesspeople, environmentalists and activists from New Mexico (TBA) will also tell their story.


The 3-day conference at the James A. Little Theater (NM School for the Deaf) will include music, art and ceremony. It is sponsored by Local Futures/International Society for Ecology, a California-based nonprofit organization that has organized nine such conferences around the world so far. The local sponsor is Reconnect-Today (www.reconnect-today.org). Tickets ($150/advance; some discounts available) go on sale July 10. For more information, visit www.localfutures.org/



Northern New Mexico College Awards Mental Health Advocate Honorary Degree


At its graduation ceremony in June, Northern New Mexico College awarded longtime mental health advocate and former faculty member Gilberto Romero with an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities, in recognition of his services to the communities of northern New Mexico.


Romero, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, is renowned for his nearly five decades of tireless work and activism for underprivileged and underrepresented populations struggling with mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence. He was commended for having demonstrated an unparalleled knowledge of working in resource-deprived rural settings.


Romero has previously received the National Association of Social Workers’ Public Citizen of the Year award;  the Latino Behavioral Health Institute’s Honor Roll award, which is given to community members who exemplify the ideals of César E. Chávez and Dolores Huerta; and the New Mexico governor’s recognition for Achievement in Aging.


Romero describes himself as “a practitioner of human kindness.” An NNMC press release says he exemplifies a nonviolent philosophy in the struggle against injustice and the fight for peace and dignity in his community.


Report on Out-of-State Spending for Food Services Released


New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller recently released a report on state and local governmental food contracting which finds that the food industry has a high proportion of out-of-state contracting compared to other industries. Agencies such as school districts and correctional facilities had over $132 million in large food contracts in the last two years. Only 12 percent of those dollars went directly to New Mexico-based vendors.


“When governments purchase from New Mexico businesses, money flows directly into the local economy, helping build tax revenue, create jobs and invest in the community,” Keller stated. “When we spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars on out-of-state food contracts, even small steps matter.” He added, “Even just purchasing coffee and baked goods locally would create 100 permanent jobs, more than the Facebook plant.”


The report found that: 

·        Shifting just one-half of 1 percent of school district food contracting to local vendors would mean an increase of over $4 million back into the local economy.

·        Sustained support for innovative practices by local growers such as “food hubs” and pilot programs by government agencies can overcome the challenges that have made it difficult for local vendors to compete for government contracts. 


In April, the State Auditor released a report showing that the information technology (IT) industry had the highest percentage (81 percent) of large state and local government contracts awarded to out-of-state firms over a 2-year period. 



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