January 2018

Newsbites – January 2018


New Mexico’s Largest Wind Farm

According to an agreement signed last month by Xcel Energy, the New Mexico Attorney General, the Coalition for Clean, Affordable Energy, and the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, a new wind farm in eastern New Mexico will spend at least $57 million locally. Thirty percent of construction costs for the 522-megawatt Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County, which is projected to come online in 2020, will go to New Mexico-based subcontractors, vendors and labor.


Sagamore is part of a massive, $1.6-billion regional wind project that includes a 478-MW facility in West Texas and purchase of 230-MW from a facility owned by NextEra Energy. Together, the wind farms will be able to power about 440,000 average homes per year.


Southwestern Public Service Company, an Excel subsidiary, says the Sagamore project will save consumers in New Mexico and West Texas about $2.8 billion over 30 years by providing cheaper electricity, without emissions or having to use groundwater. Customers will be credited with 100 percent of the federal production tax credits for wind generation.


The Sagamore project is awaiting approval by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Xcel officials said that changes to production tax credits being discussed in Washington, D.C. could possibly derail the project.


Caprock Solar Project

A 25-MW solar farm near Tucumcari, consisting of more than 103,000 panels, is up and running. The Caprock Solar Project is North Carolina-based Duke Energy Renewables, first solar farm in New Mexico. Under a 25-year agreement, Caprock is providing power to Western Farmers Electric Cooperative for about 5,000 homes across Quay County.


Kit Carson Electric to Add Solar Array in Taos

Starting in February, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and Guzman Energy Partners will build its largest solar array in Taos County. The 4-MW array will power about 1,500 area homes. Taos town officials signed a lease for land at the Taos Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, along with a 30-year solar power purchase agreement. The town approved a 1-MW solar array earlier in 2017 that will cost about $2 million. The new $5 million project will be paid for by Kit Carson and Guzman. The project is part of the cooperative’s goal of providing customers in Taos, Colfax and Río Arriba counties with 100 percent “daytime solar generation” by 2022. The treatment plant array will serve most of the town of Taos and surrounding neighborhoods. Kit Carson/Guzman also have arrays under construction at Angel Fire and Eagle Nest.


Picurís Pueblo Solar Farm

Picurís Pueblo officials flipped the switch on a state-of-the-art 1-MW solar array on Dec. 18. The array will provide most all of the tribe’s 110 homes plus generate additional power, which Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, under a 25-year power purchase agreement, will buy. The tribe’s 3,700 solar panels are capable of powering about 600 homes. That’s about one-third of all homes in the surrounding Peñasco Valley.


The project was funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the first DOE-funded solar project on Native American land in New Mexico. Employees of Picurís Pueblo will maintain the system. Picurís also has a solar-powered energy-neutral firehouse, which was built in 2015.


The Art of Climate Justice

Santa Fe community college and high school level students are invited to submit unique artistic ideas that both help prevent global warming and improve the community. The goal of this contest is to cultivate youth-driven solutions to climate change that foster economic and social justice at the grassroots level. Over the first quarter of 2018, participating students (with a coordinating teacher) are asked to create their own artwork (drawing, sculpture, ceramic, painting, poster or digital poster, mural, tapestry or mosaic). A good-quality photo of the artwork must be submitted by April 1.


An Earth Day opening will be held on April 19, from 5–6:30 p.m. at the Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road. Students will exhibit their artwork and present their ideas to peers, teachers, families, community members and city representatives. Prizes include a new $500 bicycle, $300 worth of gift certificates for art and music supplies, and interviews for paid student internships with the Climate Change Leadership Institute (CCLI) or a Green Chamber member business, as well as an opportunity to present and possibly implement ideas with the City of Santa Fe and local NGOs.


Host organizations/businesses include Santa Fe Community College, Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, Santa Fe Green Chamber, CCLI, Earth Care, Artisan, The Candyman and The Broken Spoke. For more information, email ccli@takeresponsibility.us


Cerros del Norte Conservation Act Passes United States Senate

In late December the U.S. Senate passed the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act. A diverse coalition of business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, local and federal elected officials, grazing permittees and others had advocated for the act’s passage. The legislation would provide extra protection for special areas contained within Río Grande del Norte National Monument by designating two new wilderness areas northwest of Taos, New Mexico—Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio. The areas comprise 21,540 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument.


The proposed wilderness areas serve as one of the world’s great avian migratory routes. They are also home to pronghorn and elk. The legislation would safeguard recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting and fishing. 


Grazing would continue in already-existing areas and water rights would not be impacted. Erminio Martínez, a grazing permittee, said, “My family has been ranching in northern New Mexico for over 400 years. The national monument designation has not impacted our operations, and neither will preserving Cerro del Yuta and Río San Antonio. Wilderness will help protect the time-honored tradition we value so deeply.”


Wilderness designation within the national monument is also expected to boost local businesses. One year after President Obama designated the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, there was a 40 percent increase in visitors and a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax revenue. A recent EcoNorthwest study found that “quiet recreation” on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands generated $173 million and supported 1,712 jobs across the state. According to Headwaters Economics, the local economies of communities surrounding Río Grande del Norte National Monument have grown, with per capita income increasing as much as 27 percent from 2001 to 2015.


Taos County Commissioners Fund Water Transfer Protest

Late last month, Taos County Board of Commissioners voted to allocate $150,000 in support of a legal appeal to the transfer of water rights from a farm in Costilla, N.M., to Santa Fe. The transfer, approved by the New Mexico State Engineer, is an important factor in the Aamodt Water Rights settlement involving four pueblos and the planned Pojoaque Valley Regional Water System.


The commission contends that transferring so many water rights out of the county could set a dangerous precedent for northern New Mexico’s groundwater to be legally sold to governments or corporations downstream.


NM Attorney General Joins Methane Lawsuit

The Attorney General of New Mexico, Hector Balderas, has joined a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s delay in implementing the Methane Rule. The Rule, which was to be enacted this year, is now scheduled to go into effect in January 2019.


The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California says, “The BLM has prioritized a negligible increase in oil and gas operators’ profits over the public interest in preventing the waste of a public resource that belongs to the American people. In doing so, [the agency dismisses] out of hand the harmful impacts of the thousands of tons of toxic air pollutants and hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of operators’ inefficient, outdated and wasteful practices.”


New Mexico is the second-largest producer of natural gas. Methane makes up about 95 percent of the natural gas in pipelines and is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.




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