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An Online Magazine of Environmental Politics in New Mexico
Updated: 4 days 15 hours ago

CCNS Alert to Department of Energy Plans to Dispose of Surplus Plutonium

Wed, 01/25/2023 - 18:23

Editor’s Note: I’m not getting this alert up until after the public meeting in Carlsbad about how the Department of Energy plans handle, treat, and dispose of surplus plutonium in New Mexico. But there’s still time to attend a public hearing in Los Alamos on January 26 and a  virtual public hearing on January 30. This involves proposed shipments of treated waste back and forth across New Mexico. See the addendum at the end of the article with a weather warning and contingency plan.

  “Buckle up.  This is going to be a contentious discussion.”  

On Tuesday, January 24th and Thursday, January 26th, the Department of Energy will hold in-person public hearings in Carlsbad and Los Alamos, respectively, about their plans to handle, treat and dispose of surplus plutonium in New Mexico.  On Monday, January 30th DOE will also hold a virtual public hearing about these plans to ship 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium in the form of plutonium pits, or the triggers, and non-pit plutonium for nuclear weapons to process at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

This is DOE’s sixth attempt to address how to handle surplus plutonium so that it could no longer be used in nuclear weapons.  DOE’s plan is found in the draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program environmental impact statement (EIS), which is open for public comment until February 14th.  https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program

Previous DOE attempts did not include LANL and WIPP.  That has changed.  LANL and WIPP are now DOE’s targets.

Since 1994, DOE has spent billions of dollars and held dozens of public meetings and hearings about how to prevent access to surplus plutonium.  Immobilization is one method.  But in 2002, DOE canceled the immobilization program “due to budgetary constraints,” even though thousands of public comments supported immobilization of all the plutonium.

You can tell DOE three things at the hearings.

First, no additional plutonium should be brought to LANL.

Second, WIPP has a limited mission and does not have the capacity for all the surplus plutonium.

Lastly, DOE must immobilize and safely store the plutonium until technically sound, suitable disposition facilities are available.

The first public hearing is in Carlsbad on Tuesday, January 24th from 6 to 9 pm Mountain Time at the Carousel House at the Pecos River Village Conference Center, 711 Muscatel Avenue.

The second public hearing is in Los Alamos on Thursday, January 26th from 6 to 9 pm at Fuller Lodge, 2132 Central Avenue.

A virtual public hearing will take place on Monday, January 30th from 5 to 8 pm Mountain Time.  The direct link to the Online Zoom meeting is available here:   https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program  Scroll down to below the hearing location, date, time and details box.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “If approved, DOE’s surplus plutonium plans will forever change New Mexico.  Current DOE plans would keep WIPP open until at least 2080 for the increased plutonium waste generated from expanded plutonium work at LANL.  It’s time to speak out about DOE’s plans.”  http://nuclearactive.org/does-dramatic-plan-to-move-tons-of-surplus-plutonium-for-processing-at-lanl-and-disposal-at-wipp/  , http://nuclearactive.org/stop-surplus-plutonium-waste-from-coming-to-wipp/ , http://nuclearactive.org/will-does-surplus-plutonium-end-up-in-new-mexico/

Even the Santa Fe New Mexican agrees.  On December 25, 2022, the 174-year old newspaper wrote in its “Our View,” entitled “Disposing of plutonium:  So many questions,” “Buckle up.  This is going to be a contentious discussion.” 

Addendum: Arends sent an addition to her article with a weather warning:

Earlier this week, the forecast for Thursday night was snow and ice in Los Alamos where the in-person public hearing will be held.  CCNS communicated with DOE/NNSA that fewer people may attend the hearing due to weather and as a result more people may chose to participate in the Mon. Jan. 30th virtual hearing. We suggested that DOE/NNSA would reduce the amount of time each individual would have to make comments.  Below is the DOE/NNSA response today:

However, NNSA will ensure that the virtual meeting on Monday, January 30, is long enough to allot 3 minutes for each participant to speak, consistent with the time allotted to participants at our SPD meetings in North Augusta and Carlsbad.

If you are concerned about the weather Thursday night, plan to attend the virtual meeting on Monday, January 30th from 5 pm to 8 pm or later. The direct link to the Online Zoom meeting is available here:
https://www.energy.gov/nepa/doeeis-0549-surplus-plutonium-disposition-program
Scroll down to below the hearing location, date, time and details box.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Peñasceros Show Up In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sun, 01/15/2023 - 12:14

“There is no justice, there’s just us.”—Jean Nichols

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Proposed Consent Decree in Texas v. New Mexico Water Lawsuit

Fri, 01/13/2023 - 15:32

In 2013 the State of Texas filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court alleging that New Mexico violated its obligations to the Rio Grande Compact by permitting groundwater pumping and other diversions in New Mexico below Elephant Butte Reservoir that depleted water intended for use in Texas. After a year of negotiations, with the U.S. as an intervener in the case (Elephant Butte Reservoir is a federal reclamation project), the proposed settlement agreement between the parties to the Compact—Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas—was just released to the public. The Special Master in the case, Judge Michael Melloy, ordered that the proposed Consent Decree be made public while waiting approval by the Supreme Court.

MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF THE JOINT MOTION OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, STATE OF NEW MEXICO, AND STATE OF COLORADO TO ENTER CONSENT DECREE SUPPORTING THE RIO GRANDE COMPACT November 14, 2022.

The Decree is 77 pages long, but in about 10 pages (29-38), it essentially “specifies procedures to ensure the proper apportionment of Rio Grande water between Texas and New Mexico below Elephant Butte Reservoir and quantifies New Mexico’s obligation to deliver water to Texas.” What is called the Effective El Paso Index establishes the annual amount of water that New Mexico must deliver. The Decree stipulates that the annual release from Caballo Dam will be used to determine New Mexico’s obligation to deliver water to Texas at the El Paso Gage (USGS 08364000), a stream gage very near the New Mexico-Texas state line, instead of where it’s currently measured upstream at Elephant Butte Reservoir. The Decree mandates that measures must be taken if New Mexico fails to deliver the Index’s obligated amount of water (or if the amount of water at Caballo falls below a certain amount).

Michael Hamman, New Mexico’s newly appointed State Engineer, submitted a letter of support of the Consent Decree that he believes ensures New Mexico’s Compact apportionment of water but that also offers possible procedures that can be implemented if the state is required to reduce depletions from aquifers connected to the Lower Rio Grande. These may include:

• acquisition of water rights and their permanent retirement (this was implemented on the Pecos River to meet its decree requirements with Texas);  

• employ temporary fallowing of land to reduce groundwater withdrawals;

• implement conservation measures with both municipalities and users in the Lower Rio Grande;

• import water to the Lower Rio Grande; and

• as last resort, implement priority administration as specified in the Active Water Resource Management (AWRM).  (This is a ruling that will allow an appointed water master to implement an administrative priority cut-off date.)

Because of the drought and climate crisis we’re currently navigating, some of these procedures are already being deployed along the entire Rio Grande to meet delivery requirements and will no doubt be deployed to meet the terms of this Decree at some point in the future.

 The many other pages of the Consent Decree are devoted to providing background to the case and then arguing that it doesn’t “Affect the United States Substantive Rights,” as the U.S. has nothing to do with the apportionment of water below Elephant Butte Reservoir, doesn’t own an apportionment of water, and that the decree won’t create any new legal obligations for the U.S. As mentioned above, the U.S. became an intervenor in the lawsuit because, as its request for intervention claims, “groundwater diversions in the Lower Rio Grande intercept Rio Grande Project [Elephant Butte Irrigation District] water, reduce Project efficiency, violate provisions of Reclamation law, and violate the Compact.”

This, of course, brings to mind that the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication, which La Jicarita has covered extensively since 2009, remains extant. This is a case in which the State of New Mexico and the U.S. Government have to determine the amount of water rights the feds own in the Rio Grande Project, or Elephant Butte Irrigation District. The fundamental issue of first priority rights was at stake in this very contentious adjudication, but the claimants have been stymied throughout the entire process. This is the last paragraph of the 2013 La Jicarita article, credited to the attorney for one of the claimants:

“If the pre-1906 Claimants are correct, that their appropriation of all the flood waters of the Rio Grande has a priority date of 1893, then all persons claiming later rights are affected by this adjudication, including water rights claimants with later priority dates throughout the entire stretch of the Rio Grande. This Court probably cannot meet its obligation to adjudicate all the rights of the claimants without considering all priority claims on the river.”

I went to the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication OSE website to see that the latest files were dated December 13, 2022. Hopefully, the involvement of the U.S. in the Rio Grande Compact Consent Decree won’t  delay the process as it has the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication. This is the last paragraph of the Decree:

“Because this litigation has persisted for nearly a decade, negotiations lasted over one year, and all interested parties participated in good faith, the Consent Decree is presumptively valid and the United States cannot meet its heavy burden in opposing the Decree. Therefore, this Court should approve the Consent Decree on the basis of its procedural fairness.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

News Alert: Demonstration for Peace

Tue, 01/10/2023 - 14:50

Here in rural NM, we protest where we are.  Be a part of the national Martin Luther King Jr. week of peace. 

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: My own Government, I can not be Silent.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967.

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Contract Stewardship: A Valuable Tool in Forest Restoration

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 11:35

Opinion By KAY MATTHEWS

If anyone should be pissed off about the recent poaching of big ponderosas near El Valle it should be me. My partner Mark Schiller and I thinned this area over 15 years ago as part of the Contract Stewardship program on the Camino Real Ranger District: harvest the smaller diameter trees—ponder osa, piñon, and juniper—for firewood to favor the growth of the indigenous ponderosa and understory grassland. Here are the tracks of the poacher who drove in and chain-sawed the tree we favored by cutting the smaller trees crowding its growth. They left half the tree on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s always been tree poaching in the Carson National Forest. Resentment over illegal takings of community land grants that resulted in United States Forest Service ownership lingers in the cultural zeitgeist. Why should anyone who lives on a former land grant acknowledge and pay the Forest Service for firewood or vigas that are rightfully theirs? For hundreds of years villagers cut trees surrounding their communities for firewood or vigas and to create a wildfire buffer.

But we’ve lived under USFS management for a long time now and resentment has become resignation, undergirded by hope that the agency would manage the former land grants to benefit the local people. It’s motto, “Caring for the land and serving the people,” has been compromised by misguided policies that have created the mess we’re in today: prioritizing large scale logging over other multiple uses and 100 years of fire suppression, which left our forest overstocked and unhealthy. The increase in both the number of wildfires near communities and the intensity of those fires—exacerbated by drought and the climate crisis—has made forest restoration a priority.

The poaching situation on the Camino Real Ranger District has worsened because of the lack of the green fuelwood areas that for years provided much of the firewood needed in our communities. According to the USFS, areas where these projects were managed—marking the trees that people could cut—aren’t available anymore because of lack of access and USFS management capacity, and the preponderance of small trees. Now, the emphasis is on thinning the smaller diameter trees to allow the larger diameter trees to flourish and establish what’s called a Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) to protect communities from wildfire.

I’ve written numerous articles in La Jicarita about the restoration projects undertaken with Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) funding, under the auspices of the USFS. Now, with much of the Carson designated as one of the country’s top priority landscapes because of its vulnerability to wildfire, forest restoration projects are being funded through the Enchanted Circle Priority Landscape by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Multiple agencies are collaborating on these projects: USFS, the New Mexico State Forester, the New Mexico Forest Industries Association, Taos Soil and Water Conservation District, and multiple non-profits such as The Nature Conservancy and Forest Stewards Guild.

But a well-known El Valle resident believes that one of these forest restoration projects between El Valle and Las Trampas is to blame for the poaching that’s occurred near and within its boundaries. I’m on the board of the Rio de Las Trampas Forest Council, which is working to thin more than 200 acres of WUI forest between the two villages. The unit is accessed off FR 207 along a narrow dirt road that borders the north side of the project. On the north side of this road are the acres that Mark and I, and other local people, thinned as stewardship blocks under the management of Henry Lopez, Camino Real RD Forest Tech. Back in February of this year author Bill deBuys sent a letter to the Regional Forester in Albuquerque complaining that “by increasing access to more forest and by clearing small material from around the large trees, the project [the Rio de Las Trampas Forest Council] will put more large trees at risk and render them easier to cut down. Paradoxically, the conservation stewardship program, as presently designed, will doom much of the resource it is intended to protect.” He also complained about the lack of law enforcement by the USFS and that the project isn’t ecologically sound. He never came to the Forest Council board to air his concerns and sent the letter to the Regional Forester without our knowledge.

We responded to the USFS in a lengthy rebuttal of Bill’s claims, especially his egregious attempt to “blame the victim:” “ . . . we do not believe that thinning to remove ladder fuels from around large old trees is causing poaching. That line of thinking places the blame on the victims, which are in this case, the forest, the trees, and the leñeros who are working hard to do things the right way.” We continued to work, training more leñeros (wood cutters) and marking more acres for thinning until everything shut down last summer because of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire. While only a small portion of the wildfire was on the Carson, both the Carson and Santa Fe national forests were closed during the duration of the fire and for quite a while afterword to facilitate fireline and restoration work.

A few weeks ago, Bill sent another letter, this time an email, to members of the Rio de Las Trampas Forest Council (not everyone on the board was included in the email) and the Camino Real Ranger District, along with a file of 30 photos of newly cut ponderosa pine trees on our former stewardship blocks and 14 felled trees near the El Valle camposanto. He speculated that most of the poaching occurs at night and is for commercial use because of the large size of the trees (and obviously the green wood can’t be burned for fuel this winter). He wanted to know when the Forest Service will “take action” and when our Forest Council will “withhold cooperation until the Forest Service takes such action?”

The Rio de Las Trampas Forest Council has documented the poaching that occurs in our project and has had numerous conversations with the Forest Service about it, asking that it assign more law enforcement to the area and provide better information about where the public can access Dead & Down firewood. We’ve complained about the lack of green fuelwood areas, noting that stewardship work isn’t sufficient to supply the needs of our local communities.

But now, at this critically important moment when the Forest Service will actually have the money to hire more law enforcement and contractors to expand restoration work beyond the WUI areas to make our forests more resilient and provide more firewood, Bill continues to blame the victims. As someone who thinned more than five acres of forest over the years and who now oversees a much larger project, I, too, hate seeing the big trees that I hoped would flourish cut down by those who are greedy, angry, desperate, don’t care, or are just woefully ignorant. Those of us involved in restoration work share a proprietary attachment to these lands that we work. The more opportunities we can provide for others who are willing to commit the time and energy to thin a stewardship block is essential. We can’t do it without partners and we can’t do it without the support of the local communities. Playing the blame game gets us nowhere.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Book Review: Nuclear Nuevo Mexico: Colonialism and the Effects of the Nuclear Industrial Complex on Nuevomexicanos By Myrriah Gómez

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 09:18

Reviewed By KAY MATTHEWS

Myrriah Gómez’s grandmother’s family was evicted from the Pajarito Plateau in the early 1940s when the US military and the atomic physicists arrived to build Los Alamos National Laboratory, the place that birthed the Nuclear Industrial Complex. She grew up in El Rancho, the community at the base of “The Hill” that supplied much of the work force, including her paternal grandfather and three of his brothers who all died of cancer. She went to college and became an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. It would be hard to find someone better suited to explain this third settler colonial period in New Mexico: first Spanish, then American, and now, nuclear.

Gómez uses the terminology “nuclear colonialism” as she moves from the Plateau land acquisition through the ways in which this kind of colonialism has been imposed by the nuclear industrial complex: “Nuclear colonialism and settler colonialism share many of the same characteristics, but there is one major distinction: nuclear colonialism is a neocolonial framework that targets not only indigenous people but also other ethnic minority groups in poor economic situations that have become disenfranchised because of state occupation of their homelands.” The chapters then focus on the Pajarito Plateau Nuevomexicano/a evictions; the deaths of Nuevomexicano workers as LANL segues into 1950s nuclear work; the exploitation and alienation of both Nuevomexicana and Indigenous women at the Lab; the failure to compensate the Trinity Downwinders; and the nuclear corridor of waste in Southeastern New Mexico.

Chapter I, “Nuclear Colonialism: The Manhattan Project and Eminent Domain on the Pajarito Plateau” tells the story that La Jicarita readers are familiar with from the work of historian Malcolm Ebright and activists like Joe Gutierrez who sought compensation for the evicted Plateau families. Gómez explains the “Pajarito Plateau as Palimpset,” or a “space that has changed ownership and function since around 1600 CE,” with the final erasure of Nuevomexicano/a homesteaders when the military arrived in 1942 to claim the plateau for the Manhattan Project. The evictions through eminent domain were abrupt—days’ notice—brutal—destruction of property and animals—and unjust—unequal and unfair payment.

As Gómez ironically points out, however, the plateau met very few of the requirements set by the military (General Leslie Groves) in choosing a site for the Project, which were: “good transportation, by air and rail, adequate water, a reasonable availability of labor, a temperate climate . . . and an isolated area that near-by communities would not be adversely affected by any unforeseen results from our activities.” So why did they choose the Plateau? Because the military and scientists did not object to displacing Nuevomexicanos and Indigenous farmers who could also be used for cheap labor.

Gómez further explores this rationale in her second chapter, “Nuclear Alienation: Nuevomexicano Laborers and the Explosive Deaths of the 1950s.” Once the atom bomb was exploded over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the military made the decision to preserve the nuclear economy with the work force that inhabited the Plateau’s surrounding communities. In this chapter Gómez analyzes how the workers were alienated from their traditional roles in their rural communities, as blue collar workers in a vast scientific hierarchy, and socially silenced, unable to talk about their work in a secretive environment.

In the next chapter, “Erasing Querencia from Los Alamos: Racist and Sexualized Portrayals of New Mexican Women and Place in the Television Series Manhattan,” Gómez extends her discussion of alienation to the position of women in the Los Alamos environment. She analyzes the erasure of Querencia, or the memory of one’s landscape, in the television show Manhattan, a TV series that began in 1943 and ends with the Trinity test in 1945. It’s a fictional depiction of daily life in Los Alamos, focused on the wives of the scientists who came there from all over the country—and the world—to make an atom bomb and were recruited to fill in the clerical and non-scientific work to keep a town functioning. The “Real Women Laborers” in Los Alamos, were, of course, the Nuevomexicana and Indigenous women from the surrounding communities who were hired as housekeepers and caregivers for the white families. These women are mostly erased from Los Alamos in the show or characterized as ignorant and subservient.

Nuevomexicana women are the heroes of the next chapter: “Environmental Racism in the Tularosa Basin: The Trinity Downwinders and the Radiation Exposure Act Compensation Act.” Here Gómez says, “By documenting how the presence of Nuevomexicanos/as in particular was discounted to privilege other criteria of site selection, I demonstrate how the siting of the Trinity Test exemplifies environmental racism.” The Nuevomexicanos/as who actually lived as farmers and ranchers within the radiation fallout range suffered the same health problems as the Nevada test site downwinders but were never covered by the 1990 RECA (Radiation Exposure Compensation Act) law that provided restitution to the Nevada downwinders and workers exposed to radiation in the uranium mines. But if women like Tina Córdova get their way, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders will also be included in the Act. One of the organizers of the their eponymous Consortium, she’s testified before Congress and worked with the New Mexico delegation to amend RECA to include the Tularosa Downwinders. RECA was due to expire in July of 2022 but was extended for two years, after this book was written. There is still hope.

The last chapter, “ ‘No Nuclear Waste Aqui’: The Nuclear Corridor and Nuclear Waste in Southeastern New Mexico” is the story of how the state has been made a “nuclear wasteland” (Gómez makes the point that New Mexico, often referred to as a national sacrifice zone, is really a wasteland because being sacrificed requires that an object hold value and New Mexico was and is a nuclear colony). This corridor extended from the nuclear waste tailing piles from uranium mines to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) near Carlsbad, a burial ground for transuranic waste, and may be headed for Holtec’s proposed high-level radioactive waste facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs. This latest addition to a nuclear corridor, or in reality a nuclear alley, is opposed by the Hispanic/Latino community that comprises over 50 percent of Lea and Eddy counties as well as by New Mexico city and counties and numerous activist groups such as the Alliance for Environmental Strategies.

Gómez ends the book with these words: “I want the world to know that we exist, that we continue to be among the communities targeted by the nuclear industrial complex, and that we refuse to be its victims. We are resilient, we are strategic, and we work in coalitions with other groups to protect our earth, our communities, and our culture. Although our identities are complex, we are aware of the benefits and devastation that nuclear colonialism has wrought on New Mexico.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Mountain View Coalition Action Today in Albuquerque

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 13:59

For Immediate Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022

Media Contacts:
Marla Painter, Mountain View Community Action, (505) 220-3969, marladesk@gmail.com

Lauro Silva, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, (505) 720-4539,  alcoatl944@gmail.com

David Barber Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, (505) 400-4381, david@friendsofvalledeoro.org

Nora Garcia, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, (505) 414-1621, ngarcia49@yahoo.com

Eric Jantz, NMELC Senior Staff Attorney, (505) 750-3027, (505) 989-9022 ext. 120, ejantz@nmelc.org

Maslyn Locke, NMELC Staff Attorney, (505) 989-9022, mlocke@nmelc.org

MOUNTAIN VIEW COALITION TO ASK THE ALB-BERNCO AIR QUALITY CONTROL BOARD TO SCHEDULE A PUBLIC HEARING ON THEIR PROPOSED “HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT & EQUITY IMPACTS REGULATION”

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—The Mountain View Coalition and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center invite community members to attend the ABQ-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board meeting which is to be held hybrid tonight, Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 5:30pm to comment on the proposed draft Health, Environment & Equity Impacts regulation. We are urging community members to ask the Air Board to schedule a PUBLIC HEARING ON THE PROPOSED REGULATION. 

The physical location is the basement of Plaza del Sol, 600 2nd Street NW. Masks and social distancing are encouraged.  Seating is limited. Spanish language interpretation will be available to those attending in-person as well as over zoom.

The Air Board meeting will also be held over zoom at the following link:

https://cabq.zoom.us/j/82856297862?pwd=OTJ3cXBLcGRRRTZZR0FvSFQ3MW1tZz09

Meeting ID: 828 5629 7862, Passcode: 325277

People can also access by phone by calling 346-248-7799 and following the prompts. 

Here is a link to the agenda: https://www.cabq.gov/airquality/air-quality-control-board/events/december-14-2022-air-quality-control-board-meeting

Public comment is item no. 4, and the proposed Health, Environment & Equity Impacts Regulation proposed by the Mountain View Coalition and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is item no. 5c.

This is a link to the petition and the proposed regulation: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/dzxzfu5lkenswc5/AADfoyX4nxQrAqoqjTFhdz6ta?dl=0

If that AQCB link doesn’t work, these documents can also be accessed on the NMELC website: https://nmelc.org/2022/11/21/mountain-view-coalition-nmelc-announce-filing-of-historic-health-environment-equity-impacts-regulation-to-abq-bernco-air-quality-control-board/

We created a FAQs handout:  

 Quotes:

“The Cumulative Impact Draft Regulation was drafted to resolve extensive pollution problems in the Mountain View area. Residents here suffer from disproportionate levels of health problems including cancer, asthma, cardio-vascular and other respiratory diseases related to excessive cumulative emissions from Industry, truck traffic exhaust and others. We are hoping this regulation will help stop the asphalt assault on our community.”

—Nora Garcia, 

President, 

Mountain View Neighborhood Association

“This regulation is a breakthrough for the people of the Mountain View Neighborhood. We have withstood years of the harmful impacts of industrial activity within a primarily Hispanic and Chicano community, once full of small farms, with a school that is more than 100 years old and on lands where Pueblo people have lived for thousands of years. More recently, the Mountain View community has resisted unjust industrial development in our neighborhood, but our voices have been ignored. Most elected officials turned their backs on us; they thought of us as a ‘throw-away community.’

With this regulation, our burden may begin to lighten. It is not the answer to all our environmental burdens, but it is a significant, important beginning. If we are protected from excessive air permits, we will also be saved from further water pollution, noise, excessive night lighting, and the ugly blight accompanying irresponsible industrial activity. And it will benefit all of the neighborhoods in Bernalillo County that suffer from disproportionate industrial and transportation-based pollution burdens, not just Mountain View. This is the first step toward justice and equity in the struggle for the health and well-being of all people in Bernalillo County.”

—Marla Painter, Chair, 

Mountain View Community Action

“All of us at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center stand proudly with our clients, the Mountain View Coalition, in filing our Health, Environment, and Equity Impacts Regulation to petition the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) to formally adopt this much needed regulation that will finally provide greater protection to all of the overburdened environmental justice communities throughout Bernalillo County who continue to be disproportionately impacted by polluting industries. The filing of this regulation is historic not just for Bernalillo County, but for our entire state. We are hopeful that the AQCB will do the right thing for our communities and ensure that this vital regulation be adopted in a timely and just manner.”

—Virginia Necochea, 

Executive Director, 

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

“The Friends of Valle de Oro is dedicated to environmental justice and health, not just for our human neighbors but also for our wildlife kin. Environmental justice and equity practices are ingrained in the daily activities, programs, and operations of our work here. This draft regulation is critical to the health and wellbeing of everyone in Albuquerque but especially those overburdened by a disproportionate concentration of toxic air emissions. We believe this regulation could have a tremendous impact on environmental and human health.”  

—Katie Dix

Executive Director

Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge

“We are proud to stand with community members who have been fighting against disproportionate environmental and health burdens for decades. Efforts to pass a cumulative impacts regulation began at least as far back as 2005 under the administration of Mayor Marty Chavez. A task force was created and after 3 years of work on a draft regulation,  the government actively undermined it, and it never went anywhere. Then in 2013 we worked with the SouthWest Organizing Project and East San Jose on a draft cumulative impacts regulation, but the Air Board refused to even hold a public hearing on it. So far the current Air Board has demonstrated an interest in equity, and this could be the most important equity regulation considered by the Air Board  in its history.”

—Eric Jantz, Senior Staff Attorney

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

“For multiple decades our communities in the South Valley have been subjected to racist policies that have seriously affected the health and welfare of our people. The lifespan of someone in the South Valley is 20 years less than someone who lives in the North East Heights as a result of multiple factors including the concentration of toxic chemicals in the air due to contaminating industry in the neighborhood and governmental policies. Eighty to 86% of the affected community in the South Valley is Chicano/Hispanic or Latino. However we all live in the same airshed in Bernalillo County. We are putting forward this Health, Environment & Equity Regulation to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board as a way to address this long history of injustice.”

—Lauro Silva

Board Member,

Mountain View Neighborhood Association

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Santa Fe Mountains Resiliency Landscape Project Open for Public “Objection” Once Again

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 08:59

Editor’s Note: As La Jicarita has covered in several previous articles,  on July 26 the Acting Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Duran  withdrew the Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact of the Santa Fe Mountains Resiliency Landscape Project (SFMLRP) four months after the decision was released, without consulting the Project’s partners, the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition.  The SFMLRP calls for the treatment of 36,680 acres of the 50,566 acres of the planning area over the next 10 to 15 years. As discussed in the La Jicarita articles, many believe that Duran withdrew the decision notice under pressure from a different coalition of Santa Fe-based environmental groups that have long been on record opposing large scale forest restoration projects that involve thinning and prescribed burning, and from the Santa Fe County Commission, which passed a resolution asking for Project delay and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) instead of an EA. Duran’s explanation was that while “the analysis in the final Environmental Assessment is sound,” the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire required so much of the Forest Service’s attention the agency failed to “fully engage with our partners and community during the Chief’s 90-day pause of the Forest Service prescribed fire program.”

The Forest Service has now reopened the 45-day “Objection Period” for the SFMLRP starting December 9. The press release doesn’t say whether this new EA has been revised or is being issued as a Supplemental EA so I contacted the SFNF to find out. According to a public affairs person, the EA was revised to adhere to the guidelines of the new Santa Fe Forest Plan, to incorporate the Prescribed Fire Review that was developed over the 90 day burn pause, and to incorporate climate change analysis.

I also asked the SFNF about what seemed to me to be new terminology in the use of “Objection Period” versus “Comment Period.” The Forest Service amended its NEPA regulations, effective November 19, 2020: “The Agency proposes these revisions to increase efficiency in its environmental analysis while meeting NEPA’s requirements and fully honoring its environmental stewardship responsibilities.” As best I can figure out, they require that one must submit a “”Comment” during the Scoping period of the NEPA process in order to have standing in what they term the “Objection Period” of a final draft decision on an EA or EIS.  “Objections” are subject to a predecisional administrative review before the final decision is released with no chance of an appeal. And as the press release states, previous “Objectors” will have to resubmit them.

 

Press Release

Media Contacts: Julie Anne Overton 505-414-6438 (cell)
Chantel Herrick 505-382-8061 (cell)
SM.FS.sfnfpao@usda.gov

SANTA FE, NM – Dec. 9, 2022 – The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) today reinitiated a 45-day objection period for the final environmental assessment (EA) and draft decision notice on a proposed forest restoration project in the mountains near Santa Fe. Publication of a legal notice in the Albuquerque Journal this morning officially starts the clock on the objection period.

In July, the SFNF withdrew the draft decision notice and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project (SFMLRP) during suppression of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. The pause in the environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) gave the SFNF the opportunity to re-engage with partners and communities on the urgent need to make the forested landscapes around Santa Fe more resilient to the threats of climate change, drought and wildfire

Organizations or individuals who previously submitted comments specific to the SFMLRP during scoping or the comment period can submit an objection in the new objection period. Objections submitted in the earlier objection period that ended May 12 will have to be resubmitted to be considered.

Objections must be submitted within 45 calendar days from today or by Jan. 23, 2023. Objections, including attachments, must be filed via mail to Regional Forester, 333 Broadway SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102; by fax to 505-842-3173; or by email to objections-southwestern-regional-office@usda.gov.

The SFMLRP was developed in close coordination with partners in the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition, including other federal agencies, state, local and Tribal governments, and non-governmental and community organizations. The 50,566-acre project would use prescribed fire and small-tree thinning to improve the health of a priority landscape and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Santa Fe foothills and municipal watershed.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Remember “Inhabited Wilderness?” Now there’s “Peopled Wilderness”

Thu, 12/08/2022 - 11:39

Opinion by KAY MATTHEWS

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. She’s also a rather celebrated, if controversial, philosopher and activist who’s been involved in various political causes including animal rights.

An essay called “A Peopled Wilderness,” from her forthcoming book, Justice for Animals: Our Collective Responsibility, was recently published in The New York Review of Books. I found the essay particularly interesting because the arguments she makes about the management of animals in the “wilderness” lend themselves to the arguments we’ve been having for decades in northern New Mexico about forest “management” versus “Nature’s course.”

She starts with this: “The fascination of an idea of ‘wild’ Nature lies deep in the thinking of the modern environmental movement. The idea is entrancing, but also, I believe, deeply confusing.” In our norteño debates we often refer to this idea of wild nature as “deep ecology.” She goes on to provide a history of the Romantic idea of Nature as opposed to human society as “stale, predictable, effete.” The Romantics’ idea of “the wild,” that which “beckons something truer, deeper, something uncorrupt and sublime, a type of vital energy that can restore us, because it is the analogue of our own deepest depths.” Today, I still hear some enviros describe humans as a “scourge” upon nature rather than a component of it. The Romantic writers and poets often presented peasants and other poor people as being closer to Nature than the industrialized urban resident, atomized and alien. Nussbaum doesn’t buy this: “My point is that this is an idea by and about human beings, not about Nature or animals or what they require of us. And the wonder involved in the Romantic sublime is similarly egocentric. It is not the sort of wonder that really turns us outward.”

The rest of her essay expounds on her argument that this kind of thinking is egocentric and doesn’t do much for nature and its animals: “Even the time honored idea of the ‘balance of nature ‘ has by now been decisively refuted by modern ecological thinking. When humans do not intervene Nature does not attain a stable or balanced condition, nor does it attain the condition that is best for other creatures or the environment.” This “modern ecological thinking” is employed by those of us who argue that without human management of our forests and watersheds, which for decades have been degraded by human mismanagement (primarily the Forest Service), nature is not well served.

As I reported in a previous La Jicarita article discussing the need to continue to use prescribed burning despite the tragedy of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire, on July 26, 2022 the Acting Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Duran (he’s the Carson Forest Supervisor as well) withdrew the Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact of the Santa Fe Mountain Landscape Resiliency Project (SFMLRP), four months after the decision was issued. This Project proposed to treat 50,000 acres surrounding the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, the Pueblo of Tesuque, and the communities within and adjacent to its boundary “to increase the resilience of a priority landscape to future disturbances such as high-severity wildfire, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks.” The project was being developed in collaboration with the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition, comprised of 25 partners that represent Santa Fe local governments, Tesuque Pueblo, fire departments, state forestry, and numerous environmental and forest conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Forest Stewards Guild, the Sierra Club, Ecotone Landscape Planning, and the Rio Grande Water Fund.

Why did the Forest Supervisor pull the Draft Decision without consulting his partners in the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition? Unfortunately, the “partner” the Forest Service appears to be listening to is the same “deep ecology” community of activists that rejects the science that supports thinning and prescribed burning as tools to make our forests more resilient. At a recent “listening session” sponsored by Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, the author of a resolution passed by the commission asking the Forest Service to postpone the SFMLRP, the main voices heard were those of “scripted speakers” representing Forest Advocate, WildEarth Guardians, Wild Watershed, and the Santa Fe Forest Coalition. A featured speaker was Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at Wild Heritage, another forest ecologist who has worked with Chad Hansen, who, as I’ve reported on previously in La Jicarita, doesn’t support large-scale forest thinning and burning and speaks more to the idea of there being a “wild Nature” that will restore itself. To understand DellaSala’s position you can read his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, “Exploring Solutions to Reduce Risks of Catastrophic Wildfire and Improve Resilience of National Forests,” on September 27, 2017.

The philosophy these activists espouse is reminiscent of what Nussbaum speaks of in her article—leaving all “wild” animals to do the best they can even though humans dominate everything, everywhere. This, she believes, “would be, it seems, a gross abnegation of responsibility: we have caused all these problems, and we turn our backs on them, saying, ‘Well, you are wild animals so live with it as best you can.’ It is not clear what would be accomplished by this pretense of a hands-off policy.” Matt Picarrello and Esme Cadiente of The Nature Conservancy argued in a Santa Fe New Mexican opinion piece, that pausing the release of the SFMLRP “will not achieve the desired effect of reducing the risk of escaped prescribed burns,” as in any forest resiliency project there will be a prescribed burn plan.

Nussbaum’s essay speaks specifically about human intervention to save endangered animal species, even questioning whether we should act to prevent certain kinds of predation, as dangerous as that might prove to be (and as farfetched as many may think). But we can substitute “forests” for “animals” and her arguments about what defines “wild” and our Romantic notions that sustain it make sense. “If humans try to renounce stewardship, in a world where they are ubiquitously on the scene, shaping every habitat in which every animal lives, this is not an ethically defensible choice or one that promotes good animal lives [substitute ‘resilient forests’].” The environmental activists who helped shut down community based forestry in the 1990s to mid 2000s, and who are now trying to shut down forest restoration projects, might want to give Nussbaum a read and maybe, just maybe, allow an animal loving intellectual point out some fallacies in their thinking. 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Annual Congreso de las Acequias December 9 and 10

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 11:33

New Mexico acequias suffered a tragic year damaged by some of the state’s largest fires in history and the subsequent flooding brought by unprecedented monsoons. According to New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) executive director Paula Garcia, approximately 70 acequias, 10 percent of the state total, incurred severe damage from the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire, the Cerro Pelado Fire, and the Black Fire. The NMAA has been working diligently to identify and map these acequias while waiting for emergency funds, either through the state or the federal government, to kick in so work can begin or work that has already done be compensated.

Even before these disasters occurred acequia communities have been coping with changing demographics that impact the maintenance and viability of acequia systems. Many of the parciantes who’ve carried the load of serving as commissioners and mayordomos are too old to do so anymore, and many of their children have left the rural villages for job opportunities in towns and cities. While newcomers arrive, many aren’t well versed—or interested—in the duties and obligations required to keep the acequia waters running. For the first time ever, in my small community, many of the newcomers are part time home owners who must hire someone to irrigate their fields and clean their ditches or just let them lie fallow.

The NMAA has been working on these issues for many years, sponsoring youth oriented workshops, trainings on governance, and providing legal information to try to prevent litigation and loss of water rights. Every year an annual Congreso brings the public up to speed on all the many issues faced by the acequia community and provides a forum for parciantes to mingle and share stories. This year’s Congreso, scheduled for December 9 and 10 at Highlands University in Las Vegas, will focus on disaster recovery but also include information on all of its other policies and initiatives. The press release is included below. Click on the links provided to see a detailed schedule and to register for either in person or zoom participation.

Contact: Paula Garcia 505-231-7752, paula@lasacequias.org

ACEQUIA CALL FOR RECOVERY FUNDS AT LAS VEGAS MEETING

(Las Vegas, NM). – New Mexico’s acequias will gather on Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas, NM, for the annual Congreso de las Acequias, a statewide meeting of acequias. 

“Wildfire and floods have devastated our acequias. We are calling upon our leaders to mobilize resources to help us recover,” said Harold Trujillo, President of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “Our agricultural economy and way of life is at stake.”

The Congreso de las Acequias is the annual membership meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association where regional delegates take action on policy and budget priorities. “This year disaster recovery is at the forefront. Months after the fires and floods, we are still trying to navigate programs for disaster response,” said Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director.

The event will include work sessions on policy priorities as well as workshops on acequia water rights, youth leadership, acequia governance, and disaster recovery. “We work hard on our policy advocacy, but the Congreso is also a celebration of our culture and resilience,” added Garcia. The theme of the gathering is “Tierra Querida, Beloved Land.”

The event will feature musicians and poets on both Friday and Saturday, including a piece by poet Olivia Romo entitled, “Tragedy of the Commons,” a reflection on decades-long adjudication battles. Also on the program is a song by Luisa G., which is a remembrance of the 2022 Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon fire that burned 340,000 acres of land in Mora and San Miguel counties. Lara Manazares will be performing as well as Teatro de las Acequias. 

The Congreso de las Acequias will be a HYBRID event with opportunities to participate in person or online. The event is open to the public.

WHAT:   Congreso de las Acequias

WHEN:   Friday, December 9, 10am-5pm, Saturday, December 10, 9:30am-1:30pm

WHERE:  NM Highlands University Student Union Building or via Zoom

To register go to https://lasacequias.org/congreso/. For more information, contact Paula Garcia at paula@lasacequias.org or 505-995-9644.

###

New Mexico Acequia Association

www.lasacequias.org

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Pojoaque Author Myrriah Gomez To Attend Special Book Signing Event For Her Book ‘Nuclear Nuevo Mexico’ At Fuller Lodge Tuesday Evening

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 06:09

Reprinted with permission from Los Alamos Reporter


BY MAIRE O’NEILL
maire@losalamosreporter.com

“The bean plants were this high,” Ruben ‘Ruby’ Shirley said, holding her hands about a foot apart, “when the government came in their jeeps and ran all over the plants.” At 92 year old, Ruby explains that her parents, Jose Maria and Delfina Serna, were one of the Nuevomexicana/o families who lost their ranch atop the Pajarito Plateau during the period of eminent domain that led to the development of Site Y of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. Before the atomic bomb, before Site Y and before Nuevomexicanas/os became alienated from the plateau in the name of science, Los Alamos had bean fields. During the 1920s and 1930s, New Mexico was the leading pinto bean producer in the country.” …. In 1943, with little warning, the federal government forced them to abandon their homestead, including their farm implements, and vacate the plateau.”

The above excerpt is from the book “Nuclear Nuevo Mexico” by Myrriah Gomez on colonialism and the effects of the Nuclear Industrial Complex on Nuevomexicanos. The book is being read by book clubs in Los Alamos and is selling well at Samizdat Bookstore and Teashop at 173 Central Square where owner Jill Lang is gearing up for a special book signing event Tuesday evening at Fuller Lodge. Lang has copies of the book at Samizdat and is accepting preorders online for readers to pick up at the event.

Author Myrriah Gomez, who is a graduate of Pojoaque Valley High School and serves as a professor at the Honors College of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The evening will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. which will include enchiladas from El Parasol. Gomez will speak about the book and answer questions from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Then at 7 p.m. she will sign copies of her book while coffee and biscochitos are served.

For more information, contact Jill Lang at admin@samizdatbookstore.com or call (505) 412-0238. Samizdat is located at 174 Central Park Square in Los Alamos.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Alert! Press Release for Mountain View Coalition Win

Mon, 11/21/2022 - 13:00

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Monday, November 21, 2022

MOUNTAIN VIEW COALITION & NMELC 
ANNOUNCES THE FILING OF OUR HISTORIC
“HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT & EQUITY REGULATION” 
TO THE ABQ-BERNCO AIR QUALITY CONTROL BOARD

WHAT: PRESS CONFERENCE

WHENMONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2022 AT 2PM

WHERE: MOUNTAIN VIEW COMMUNITY CENTER, 201 PROSPERITY AVENUE SE, ALBUQUERQUE NM 87105, (OUTSIDE). The press conference will also be live-streamed at https://www.facebook.com/NMELC

WHO: Organized by Mountain View Coalition & New Mexico Environmental Law Center, with support from community allies

WHYMountain View Coalition & New Mexico Environmental Law Center will announce their historic filing on Monday, November 21, 2022 of our “HEALTH,  ENVIRONMENT & EQUITY IMPACTS DRAFT REGULATION” to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County AIR QUALITY CONTROL BOARD.

____________________________________________________

Media Contacts:

Marla Painter, Mountain View Community Action, (505) 220-3969, marladesk@gmail.com

Lauro Silva, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, (505) 720-4539,  alcoatl944@gmail.com

David Barber Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, (505) 400-4381, david@friendsofvalledeoro.org

Nora Garcia, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, (505) 414-1621, ngarcia49@yahoo.com

Eric Jantz, NMELC Senior Staff Attorney, (505) 750-3027, (505) 989-9022 ext. 120, ejantz@nmelc.org

Maslyn Locke, NMELC Staff Attorney, (505) 989-9022, mlocke@nmelc.org

____________________________________________________

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Mountain View Coalition members—Mountain View Neighborhood Association, Mountain View Community Action & Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge—and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center will file their historic Health, Environment & Equity Impacts draft regulation to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board on Monday, November 21st. 

At 2pm on Monday, Nov. 21st, Mountain View Coalition, NMELC and community allies will gather at the Mountain View Community Center, 201 Prosperity Avenue SE, Albuquerque NM, to celebrate this historic moment in the long struggle for environmental justice in frontline impacted communities. 

NMELC Senior Staff attorney Eric Jantz and Mountain View Coalition members will be on hand to speak about the draft regulation and to answer questions from the media. Copies of the draft regulation will be available at the event. The draft will not be made public until after the filing to the Air Quality Control Board on Monday, Nov. 21st. Community members and allies have been invited to come in support with signs. See attached flyer.

Quotes

“The Cumulative Impact Draft Regulation was drafted to resolve extensive pollution problems in the Mountain View area. Residents here suffer from disproportionate levels of health problems including cancer, asthma, cardio-vascular and other respiratory diseases related to excessive cumulative emissions from Industry, truck traffic exhaust and others. We are hoping this regulation will help stop the asphalt assault on our community.”

—Nora Garcia, 

President, 

Mountain View Neighborhood Association

“This regulation is a breakthrough for the people of the Mountain View Neighborhood. We have withstood years of the harmful impacts of industrial activity within a primarily Hispanic and Chicano community, once full of small farms, with a school that is more than 100 years old and on lands where Pueblo people have lived for thousands of years. More recently, the Mountain View community has resisted unjust industrial development in our neighborhood, but our voices have been ignored. Most elected officials turned their backs on us; they thought of us as a ‘throw-away community.’

With this regulation, our burden may begin to lighten. It is not the answer to all our environmental burdens, but it is a significant, important beginning. If we are protected from excessive air permits, we will also be saved from further water pollution, noise, excessive night lighting, and the ugly blight accompanying irresponsible industrial activity. And it will benefit all of the neighborhoods in Bernalillo County that suffer from disproportionate industrial and transportation-based pollution burdens, not just Mountain View. This is the first step toward justice and equity in the struggle for the health and well-being of all people in Bernalillo County.”

—Marla Painter, Chair, 

Mountain View Community Action

“All of us at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center stand proudly with our clients, the Mountain View Coalition, in filing our Health, Environment, and Equity Impacts Regulation to petition the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) to formally adopt this much needed regulation that will finally provide greater protection to all of the overburdened environmental justice communities throughout Bernalillo County who continue to be disproportionately impacted by polluting industries. The filing of this regulation is historic not just for Bernalillo County, but for our entire state. We are hopeful that the AQCB will do the right thing for our communities and ensure that this vital regulation be adopted in a timely and just manner.”

—Virginia Necochea, 

Executive Director, 

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

“The Friends of Valle de Oro is dedicated to environmental justice and health, not just for our human neighbors but also for our wildlife kin. Environmental justice and equity practices are ingrained in the daily activities, programs, and operations of our work here. This draft regulation is critical to the health and wellbeing of everyone in Albuquerque but especially those overburdened by a disproportionate concentration of toxic air emissions. We believe this regulation could have a tremendous impact on environmental and human health.”  

—Katie Dix

Executive Director

Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge

“We are proud to stand with community members who have been fighting against disproportionate environmental and health burdens for decades. Efforts to pass a cumulative impacts regulation began at least as far back as 2005 under the administration of Mayor Marty Chavez. A task force was created and after 3 years of work on a draft regulation,  the government actively undermined it, and it never went anywhere. Then in 2013 we worked with the SouthWest Organizing Project and East San Jose on a draft cumulative impacts regulation, but the Air Board refused to even hold a public hearing on it. So far the current Air Board has demonstrated an interest in equity, and this could be the most important equity regulation considered by the Air Board  in its history.”

—Eric Jantz, Senior Staff Attorney

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

“For multiple decades our communities in the South Valley have been subjected to racist policies that have seriously affected the health and welfare of our people. The lifespan of someone in the South Valley is 20 years less than someone who lives in the North East Heights as a result of multiple factors including the concentration of toxic chemicals in the air due to contaminating industry in the neighborhood and governmental policies. Eighty to 86% of the affected community in the South Valley is Chicano/Hispanic or Latino. However we all live in the same airshed in Bernalillo County. We are putting forward this Health, Environment & Equity Regulation to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board as a way to address this long history of injustice.”

—Lauro Silva

Board Member,

Mountain View Neighborhood Association

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Public Comment by Suzanne Schwartz of Norteños for Peaceful and Sustainable Futures

Sat, 11/19/2022 - 08:55

Dear Editor:

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) held a public hearing in Santa Fe on November 16, with the goal of gathering information regarding legacy cleanup activities, nuclear safety, and increased production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

The DNFSB is an independent organization within the executive branch of the US Government chartered with the responsibility of providing recommendations and advice to the President and the Secretary of Energy regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.

Although the Board does not have policy-making authority, it is an extremely important agency. Some of us remember the Trump administration’s failed efforts to eviscerate the Board. The public was invited to comment at the meeting or by submitting written comments. My comment to the Board is as follows for anyone who may be interested.

Thank you!

November 16, 2022

Dear Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board:

I want to express my appreciation for the work the DNFSB conducts as the only independent agency with access to the United States National Laboratories. Thank you for conducting this hearing. I hope there will be more frequent hearings as Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) attempts to expand its plutonium missions.

As a United States citizen, and taxpaying member of the public, I am writing to express my concerns about the safety of ongoing and planned expansion of nuclear weapons activities at LANL.

These activities include multiple shift industrial-scale plutonium pit production, surplus plutonium disposition, and receipt and packaging of large amounts of heat source plutonium, all to take place at PF-4 (Plutonium Facility).

From time to time, newspapers publish articles about numerous kinds of safety breaches that are of concern, often well after the fact. Sometimes letters to the editor are published in local media on safety issues at the laboratory as well.

The New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee meets at least annually for briefings on LANL activities. The most recent meeting was on Monday, November 14. The Committee heard testimony on many of the same concerns that have been recently voiced by the Safety Board, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), and from independent experts such as the Los Alamos Study Group.

In June 2022 the GAO issued the second of two reports citing improvements in safety and other areas and also outlining challenges that still remain since the new contractor, Triad LLC, took over operations back in 2018. The challenges that remain do not inspire confidence nearly four years into a ten-year contract. The GAO report states that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) cited numerous operational incidents, such as injuries and a flood in a nuclear facility, indicating that lessons learned from errors under the prior contractor have not been fully integrated into laboratory operations.

The report summary goes on to cite challenges Triad LLC is facing in attracting new staff and small businesses due to Los Alamos’s remote location and the “unique nature” of LANL’s work. The report summary also mentions LANL’s need to expand its workforce due to NNSA’s planned expansion of plutonium pit production and other operations at LANL.

On the workforce problem, LANL is partnering with Northern New Mexico universities, colleges, and high schools to build what it calls its “nuclear workforce pipeline.” According to the Glassdoor website, LANL currently has 965 job openings. It seems as if LANL is struggling to recruit the people it needs to build the infrastructure, work the gloveboxes, and handle the radioactive and toxic waste resulting from plutonium operations.

Additionally, in reading a number of employee reviews, both pro and con, written by current and former LANL employees from many different departments, I noticed numerous references to the remote location, various housing and commuting difficulties, and upper management problems. I feel it is very important to closely examine how these types of factors affect the safety of expanding plutonium operations at LANL at all levels, from construction to waste generation and handling.

As you know, the Safety Board wrote a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Granholm on August 11, 2022 that outlined its concerns about heat source plutonium operations and cited plans for triple missions operations at PF-4. This informative report is alarming and indicates how little we see reported in the news media.

An example I find particularly worrisome in your letter is that NNSA has, as far as a layperson can tell, downgraded plans for upgrading a ventilation system that seems a crucial component of fire prevention techniques, as described here: “NNSA has recently changed its strategy to upgrade the active confinement ventilation system to achieve a ‘robust’ system rather than a safety class, seismically qualified system, contrary to the Board’s advice.” (Emphasis added) The best possible ventilation system seems like it should be a no-brainer for NNSA in the interest of the workers, the public, and its national security missions.

Finally, I just discovered an October 20, 2022 letter from the Safety Board to Secretary Granholm informing her of several overdue reports and stating that DOE hasn’t consistently provided reports by the Board’s requested due date or even given written notice requesting additional time for reporting by the due dates, thereby affecting the Board’s safety oversight. Included in the list of overdue reporting are:

• A report on analysis performed by LANL on Board Technical Report 44, Plutonium Facility Leak Pathway Factor Methodology, which was due on Sept. 12.

• A written response on implementation of the un-reviewed safety question process following a probabilistic seismic hazard analysis update, originally due August 1, 2022 and extended by a DOE letter for 45 days on August 20, 2022. This is from a Board letter dated way back on June 16, 2022.

The letter concludes very reasonably: “The Board requires the requested information to determine whether further Board action is needed to fulfill its safety oversight mission.”

These kinds of delays that compromise the Safety Board’s assigned mission should not happen frequently, or at all, given the dangerous nature of all plutonium operations including cleanup of legacy waste and new waste resulting from expanding plutonium operations.

Factors such as these are extremely relevant to the safety of LANL workers, public health, the environment, and the national security mission, especially in light of the fact that LANL, in spite of the billions of our taxpayer dollars poured into it, has never maintained any kind of consistent production of plutonium pits over the decades since it was tasked with pit missions.

I hope DOE, NNSA, and LANL will clean up their act prior to embarking on the unbelievably dangerous missions of industrial-scale plutonium pit product, Surplus Plutonium Disposition, and receiving and repackaging heat source plutonium, all in the elderly and inadequate PF-4 building.

Again, I am very appreciative of the crucial work the Safety Board performs on behalf of the public and of LANL.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Schwartz
Norteños for Peaceful and Sustainable Futures
El Prado

https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105412 

https://ehss.energy.gov/deprep/2022/FB22G11B.PDF https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/26836/Outstanding%20DOE%20reporting%20requirements%20%5B2023-100-002%5D.pdf

https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105412

https://ehss.energy.gov/deprep/2022/FB22G11B.PDF https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/26836/Outstanding%20DOE%20reporting%20requirements%20%5B2023-100-002%5D.pdf
Categories: G2. Local Greens

A Close Look at LANL Colonialism and Economic Injustice

Tue, 11/08/2022 - 11:39
By KAY MATTHEWS Lucie Genay is a French professor who wrote Land of Nuclear Enchantment in 2019 to focus on the New Mexicans, not the scientists and PhDs, who worked to make the nuclear weapons industry a driving economic force as well as suffer the consequences: the Native Americans, the Hispanos or Nuevomexicanos, the ranchers, the farmers, and the miners. This is the first page of her chapter “The Socialcultural Impacts of a Scientific Conquest “:

“The power elite theory of sociologist Charles Wright Mills designates a triumvirate of powers that dominate US society: the corporate, the political, and the military (The Power Elite). In the 1950s, the increase in militarism was profitable to each power as it enabled the government to put forth a strong vision, the military to thrive, and the corporations to make bigger profits. Caught in this mechanism were those Mills calls ‘the masses.’ This triumvirate was the foundation of the nuclear weapons complex defined by Peter Hales as a ‘powerful consortium of institutions ranging across the worlds of business, government, and the military, devoted to self-perpetuation and eventual colonization of the American democracy (Atomic Spaces). The theory thus mirrors the pillars of the scientific conquest: the nuclear golden goose, the federal sponsor, and secrecy imposed by national security. By putting their faith and fate into the hands of corporate and government interests, New Mexicans looking for jobs from the largest employers were integrated into ‘the masses.’ The mining corporations, SNL [Sandia National Laboratory], LANL [Los Alamos National Laboratory], the government, and the military nourished the mechanisms of economic growth and crisis to maintain control over a social structure relying on this labor force. At the same time, the state lacked a solid economic development strategy to compensate for growing inequalities. As the ups and downs in the nuclear industry drew peaks and valleys in the region’s economic line graph, local workers were the first to suffer the consequences.”

I somehow missed the release of this book—UNM Press—but it made me look back at all the books that La Jicarita has reviewed that address these same issues of colonialism and economic injustice. Once the Manhattan Project produced the first atomic bomb and the US military dropped it over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were on a collision course of just what Genay references: the triumvirate of corporate, political, and military that have led us to the brink of nuclear annihilation. She mentions Peter Bacon Hales, whose book Atomic Spaces, Living on the Manhattan Project, rates as one of the most in depth accounts of nuclear weapons development ever written. As he explains in his book, which La Jicarita co-editor Mark Schiller first reviewed in 2007, we headed down this road as early as 1940 when the atomic program devolved into a hierarchical military industrial bureaucracy under the aegis of National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) and restricted research to military goals rather than atomic energy’s broader potentials. The NDRC signed contracts with research academic institutions and then enlisted the corporate elite—Standard Oil, Union Carbide, Westinghouse, and others to join its Planning Board. These companies then became contractors as well and scientific research was commodified and limited to the agenda of the military-corporate decision makers.

The project was orchestrated by General Leslie R. Groves, who Hales refers to as “the invisible presence”—whose name didn’t appear on official documents—but who set priorities for the project: “The first priority lay with production, then with prevention of liability or bad publicity, and last of all with health or safety.” Hales goes on to lay out this chilling scenario as Groves sought to “supersede” medico-ethical concerns related to the production of the atomic bomb by making sure the medical program owned “unconditional allegiance to the military-industrial culture and to Groves.”

As Mark wrote in his review, “Atomic Spaces also presents a devastating critique of the rigid class, race, and gender biases that pervaded the MP and which current employment and wage statistics demonstrate continue today. Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanos, and women were all discriminated against and relegated to low paying, menial jobs.” Just as Genay points out in her book, Hales speaks to the condescension of the scientists and professionals towards the Native American and Hispano people who worked construction, maintenance, and as domestic servants in households. He also chronicles the abuse of many of the scientists’ wives who were coerced into working as secretaries and clerks doing the “mind numbing” work about which they were kept ignorant.

La Jicarita reviewed another book in 2007 that critiqued LANL culture, this time Jake Kosek’s Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico . While the bulk of the book is dedicated to an exploration of the contentious 1990 battles over environmental justice in el norte’s land based communities, the last chapter, “Nuclear Natures: In the Shadows of the City on the Hill,” Kosek details the startling contrasts between Los Alamos and the rest of northern New Mexico, which in some ways mirrors the dysfunctional relationship between the Forest Service, environmentalists, and the communities. It is clearly a colonialist relationship, particularly with regard to race. Kosek cites Frantz Fanon, noted psychiatrist and Algerian social commentator: ” . . . for Fanon racism endowed colonialism with cohesion, attributing poverty and lack of education to a natural state rather than to injustice, thus enabling the colonialist to espouse Western ideas of civilization and democracy while violently exploiting native workers. For Fanon, colonialism was inseparable from production and internalization of racial inferiority, which were justified and reproduced by dehumanizing economic conditions that served as a pretext for continued exploitation.”

Kosek also extends this colonist relationship to the aftermath of the Cerro Grande Fire, when LANL irradiated the norteño woods. Ash from the fire fell on thousands of acres of northern New Mexico, layering gardens, fields, and houses with a gray covering of grit. He quotes Max Córdova: ” . . . I know I swallowed a lot of smoke from the fire. I ask myself do I feel bad from a cold or from the fire? Should I no longer eat meat from this area because it might be contaminated? How about piñon nuts from the mesa, chiles from Chimayó, the wild turkey [that he shot the day before], the elk from the Baca [near Los Alamos]? Am I going to be sick in the future from the fire?”

Also in 2007 La Jicarita printed an excerpt of historian Malcolm Ebright’s article, Hispanic Homesteaders on the Pajarito Plateau: An Unconstitutional Taking of Property at Los Alamos 1942-1945. This is the ugly story of how the Manhattan Project ended up on the Pajarito Plateau through the eviction of the Hispano homesteaders by condemnation of their land. Most New Mexicans know the story of MP director Robert Oppenheimer’s role in choosing the site because of his familiarity with the Los Alamos Ranch School located there and his own family cabin in the Pecos. But Oppenheimer and Groves both ignored, along with Army Corps of Engineers, the existence of Hispano homesteaders and the history of Native American occupation. According to Ebright, “By the time the government decided to take over the Pajarito Plateau, the area was covered with homesteads operated mostly by Hispanic farmers/ranchers. These homesteaders were paid only a fraction of what the Ranch School was paid for its land. In fact, one of the reasons the Los Alamos site was picked over the competing choices was ‘ease of acquisition.’ Of the 54,000 acres to be acquired, only about 8,900 acres were in private hands, and aside from the Ranch School, the Corps of Engineers considered this land to be largely unoccupied grazing land that could be acquired at little expense to the government.”

The Army Corps of Engineer’s eviction of many of the homesteaders is “a shameful chapter in U.S. history.” One of the homesteaders, Marcos Gomez. testified in 1998 as follows: “What I remember is that they came and they decimated everything . . . buildings, corrales, and homes. And from there they had us under guard. . . . They took us to where the school is.” Other family members recalled that the buildings were bulldozed away and the animals, like those of many of the other homesteaders, were shot by M.P.s. To add insult to injury, “misrepresentation of the valuation process and willful failure to notify the homesteaders of the condemnation proceedings reveal a flagrant disregard for the homesteader’s rights.” (The Pajarito Plateau Homesteaders Association filed lawsuits over the takings in the late 1990s and eventually, on October 28, 2004, Congress passed an act entitled “Compensation Of Pajarito Plateau, New Mexico, Homesteaders For Acquisition Of Lands For Manhattan Project In World War II.” 

A new book just out documents what happened to the Pajarito Platueau homesteaders and their descendents. Nuclear Nuevo Mexico: Colonialism and the Effects of the Nuclear Industrial Complex on Nuevomexicanos, is by Myrriah Gomez, whose grandparents were removed from the plateau in 1943. Published by the University of Arizona Press, Gomez “demonstrates how earlier eras of settler colonialism laid the foundation for nuclear colonialism in New Mexico.” La Jicarita will review the book once we get a copy. She will have a book signing on Tuesday, November 22, 2022 at the Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos at 6:00 pm.

We continued our 2007 exploration of LANL’s mission that was quickly extending beyond original Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship, which was supposed to research, largely through computer models, how aging effects on any single component of nuclear weapons might alter safety and performance over decades of storage. Now we were looking at the possibility of increased production of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads and consolidating U.S. nuclear projects. This 2007 prediction has become our 2022 reality as LANL prepares to produce 30 plutonium pits per year.

In The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico author Joseph Masco’s introduces an interesting concept called the “technoaesthetic” of the Los Alamos scientists who “self-consciously devote their careers to engineering the bomb so that it will never actually be used as a bomb. As the bomb becomes increasingly abstract, it has become an increasingly aesthetic-intellectual project.” For the Native American and Nuevomexicano communities, however, the bomb is something quite different. His chapter on the relationship of the Nuevomexicano community with LANL is subtitled “A Nuclear Maquiladora?” Just as Jake Kosek did in his chapter on LANL in Understories, Masco explores the complex and often contradictory relationship between the Lab and Nuevomexicanos as one that posits the question, “Does LANL destroy the past by contaminating the future, or does it enable new kinds of futures by stabilizing the present?” For many Nuevomexicanos LANL has destroyed the land and culture that sustained their communities for hundreds of years. For others it has provided jobs that have enabled people to stay on the land and feed their families. But like the maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border that activist Devon Peña describes as “postmodern factories,” LANL produces a product that is meant for a global, not local market. Not until the mid-1990s, after employee lay-offs, did norteño groups organize to challenge the hiring and promotion practices by the Lab, just as they were fighting the U.S. Forest Service and environmentalists over access to the forests of northern New Mexico.

Masco also goes on to explore the development of antinuclear NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in Santa Fe that are more “resolute in their condemnation of the laboratory.” They were able to focus on the Lab as the source of pollution and radioactive contamination, as the origin of the bomb, and as the center of the post-Cold War U.S. nuclear project. Scientists at LANL told Masco that they regarded Santa Fe-based antinuclear groups “the single greatest threat to the implementation of LANL’s post-Cold War nuclear mission.”

In 2012 we got a first hand account of LANL worker organizing and the effect LANL has had on norteños from long time LANL employee and anti-nuclear activist, Chuck Montaño.  His book, Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths: A Whistleblower’s Diary, is a blow by blow account of Montaño’s tenure at LANL, and, as you can discern from the book’s title, an indictment of the mismanagement, discrimination, and retaliation he experienced, and witnessed, while there. A native of Santa Fe, Montaño got an accounting degree and landed a job at the Lab but failed to get promotions with many years of seniority: in the early 1980s, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) determined there was systemic bias in LANL employment practices, but the ruling did little to effect change.

In the mid 1990s, LANL threatened massive RIF’s (Reduction in Force) despite windfall funding for the stockpile stewardship program. The Department of Energy was assured $3 to $4 billion a year to “replace nuclear weapons detonation testing with dramatically improved diagnostic and computer modeling capabilities, utilizing new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facilities.” Under the radar, plans were also being developed for LANL, previously dedicated solely to Research and Development, to take over production of plutonium pits after the Rocky Flats, the DOE facility in Colorado, closed. Montaño was instrumental in organizing Citizens for LANL Employee Rights, or CLER, which in turn eventually led to the right of LANL workers to collectively bargain, overturning a University of California (manager of LANL) policy that precluded UC workers outside the state of California labor protection. Eventually, the University Professional and Technical Employee (UTEP) Local was established at LANL.

But Montaño soon added “whistleblower” to his activist resume and suffered the consequences. His colleague Tommy Hook recruited him to join in a new job as auditors of all LANL business operations, including accounting, budgeting, and property management. Hook was the former whistleblower officer at the Lab whose auditing career had also been derailed by “relentless retribution” since he, too, had testified in connection with the 1995 layoffs. But when they tried to report that “In total, millions of dollars of questionable and unallowed expenditures were identified through our assessments of the laboratory’s procurement processes,” they were stripped of their assignment and Montaño spent nine months in “cubicle detention,” as he calls it, with no work. He filed a whistleblower’s suit—something he had always advised others to avoid because of deep Lab pockets that assured every lawsuit would be litigated—and convinced Hook to join him in the suit. They were represented by a Washington D.C. law firm that also represented other LANL whistleblowers. Montaño eventually settled received a settlement from the Lab in 2011.

In 2017 Peter Malmgren published Los Alamos Revisited: A Workers’ History (I am coauthor), which tells the stories of many workers, like Montaño, who suffered discrimination and retaliation. But the stories these workers tell are as complex as the Lab itself: the desire to help the war effort of the early recruits; the dangers of the bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada test site; the near-fatal accidents they helped prevent onsite; the horrible illnesses they contracted as a result of their exposure to radiation and toxins; the financial ability to send their kids to college; and the retaliation they endured to expose mismanagement and corruption. The book came to fruition via the 2000 El Rio Arriba Environmental Health Association at Northern New Mexico College oral history project to tell the story of the creation of Los Alamos from the point of view of the people who helped build it into the behemoth it is today: the technicians, engineers, welders, machinists, truck drivers, secretaries, and contractors. Peter volunteered for the project and ended up interviewing over 150 people throughout northern New Mexico. The interviews were transcribed and placed in the New Mexico State Records Center and Archive.  

All these authors acknowledge there is never going to be internal LANL accountability. While members of Citizens for LANL Employee Rights and watch dog groups like Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the Los Alamos Study Group, Amigos Bravos, and TEWA Women United have slowly forced the Lab to deal with workers’ rights organizations, clean-up, and access, the bombs are still being made, chromium plumes are still headed down the canyons, and workers must come to terms with why they worked there, as Leo Vigil does in Malmgren’s book: “We were the ones that stopped the war but look at how many innocent people it took to do it. Of course, they killed a lot of us. If I had to have my work life to do over again, I would never be involved in anything having to do with war. I hate the killing. What does the first commandment tell us? Thou shalt not kill! Oh, I’m such a good Christian. What kind of a Christian kills, for whatever reason?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

A Visual Look at El Norte Snow Patterns, 2017-2022

Mon, 10/24/2022 - 09:33

While browsing through my iPhone photos looking for stuff to send to the Trash (periodic cleanup to save space) I realized I’d kept a pretty good record, from 2017 to today, in El Valle, of when the first snow fell in the fall (or late summer, occasionally), how much fell over the winter, and the last snows of the spring. What appears evident, even in the erratic climate crisis we’ve been experiencing for a decade now, are some patterns: snow falling later in the fall; smaller amounts of it; and more storms in the spring. In the larger scheme of things it means that the snow line is rising in elevation, even from the 8,000 foot elevation of El Valle, where instead of snow we have rain. Last night, October 23, we had our first hard frost and light snow began to fall. While we used to get two feet or more of snow at least once or twice a winter, from November to March, now 18 inches is a blessing. 

This is what things looked like on January 8, 2017. Nada. We went hiking up the Las Trampas Trail in December with no snow three miles in. Here’s the Snotel link showing the Upper Rio Grande Seasonal Snowpack comparison where you can see the patterns from 2009 to present and the abysmal 2017-18 year. 

Finally, in the spring, we got hit with a major snow storm. This is March 24, 2017.

Conditions were looking much better for the next year. Here’s Jicarita Peak on October 1, 2017.

 

Things then slowed down as the next photo I have is of my wood pile, taken on December 27, 2017. Not much of a storm.

Thankful for some snow on November 12, 2018, if only around 6 inches.

January 3, 2019, a good storm; Las Trampas Canyon

January 11, 2019 my house looking like a cupcake according to Mary Steigerwald.

January 13, 2019 in Las Trampas Canyon.

April 11, 2019; amaryllis blooming in early spring snow storm.

May 20, 2019; storm hits just as lilac blooms.

May 21, 2019. This was a very good year.

November 7, 2019 at Sipapu that boasts of being the first New Mexico ski area to open. Not open yet, however.

January 5, 2020 brought over a foot of snow; Las Trampas Canyon with Badash/Dyer family and Marty Peale.

April 13, 2020 before the orchard bloomed.

December 4, 2021; total dearth of snow. We all went swinging on the neighbor’s ropes.December 20, 2021 at the Kachina Basin. This was right after the winds blew down thousands of trees all over el norte.

January 15, 2022; finally enough snow to ski at Sipapu.

February 2, 2022; a modest amount of snow.

February 17, 2022; this time over 6 inches.

March 6, 2022; a decent amount of snow for the season if you only count from January on. 

It’s been raining in el norte since mid-June, the longest monsoon I’ve ever experienced. The burned areas in Mora and San Miguel counties have flooded multiple times; I think we’re all ready for that rain to turn  to snow.  Over the last two weekends hunters reported eight inches up in the Pecos peaks at 11,000 feet. Eight inches at 8,000 feet would be good, too.  

The Santa Barbara Divide
Categories: G2. Local Greens

60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis another nuclear crisis looms

Sat, 10/15/2022 - 12:28

This is the weekend of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, who many regard as the closest the world ever came to nuclear war, when the Soviet Union and the US threatened each other with annihilation over Soviet missile installations with nuclear warheads in Cuba. For 13 days the two countries faced off with a US Navy blockade of Cuba.

On Friday, Santa Fe Veterans for Peace rallied in front of the offices of New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan and Representative Theresa Leger Fernandez to protest the delegation’s (including Senator Martin Heinrich) complicity in the nuclear arms race. When Peace Veteran Bob Josephs took to the microphone he told a story about the Cuban missile crisis that most of us were unaware. Josephs was posted in Turkey with the US military where his job was to maintain three operational missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. On duty for five days curing the crisis there was no alert at this military post. Josephs didn’t know until much later that the missiles he was guarding were part of the settlement reached by the Soviet Union and the US: in exchange for the Soviet Union taking the missiles out of Cuba the US agreed not to invade and to remove our secret missiles from Turkey and Italy (see this article in Pressenza for a more detailed explanation of how nuclear war was averted). 

Santa Fe Veterans for Peace Bob Josephs

Now, as President Biden invokes the possibility of nuclear Armageddon in the crisis created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and western expansion of NATO, 100 organizations have come together to call on elected officials to de-escalate tensions between the superpowers. At the Santa Fe Rally Jean Darling of Nonviolent Santa Fe, a retired Unitarian/Universalist minister, told the crowd, “We all want peace but we don’t know how to get there—especially our government and military.”

Jean Darling, Nonviolent Santa Fe

The Raging Grannies entertained with their version of “Take me out of the bomb game.” Someone in the crowd called out, “Everyone back in the 60s on the streets were young and now we’re all old!”

https://www.dropbox.com/s/po8hvdmmxuco3lf/Video%20Oct%2014%202022%2C%2012%2029%2051%20PM.mov?dl=0

Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, read excerpts from a statement released on Friday by the Archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, “Eliminate the Nuclear Danger by Eliminating Nuclear Weapons.” Wester debunks the delegation’s touting of nuclear weapons production as a jobs program by citing figures on the abysmal conditions of child welfare and poverty in the state. He calls upon the New Mexico delegation to “reverse course” and “end their support for unneeded, exorbitantly expensive plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons [to be manufactured at LANL]. This future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpiles but is instead for speculative new design nuclear weapons that could push the U.S. back into testing. All this can help fuel the new nuclear arms race, which is tragic folly 60 year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Greg Corning, President of Santa Fe Veterans for Peace

Here is the entire Statement from Archbishop Werner. It is well worth the read.

STATEMENT

Reflection on the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis: Eliminate the Nuclear Danger by Eliminating Nuclear Weapons 

ALBUQUERQUE – Friday October 14, 2022 – IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

We are now marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis, regarded as the closest that humanity has ever come to global nuclear annihilation. But now, 60 years later, even President Biden is invoking that dreaded name of Armageddon to describe what could potentially occur in the crisis over Ukraine. 

Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary under President Kennedy, said that we survived the Cuban Missile Crisis only by plain dumb luck. In my own childhood, I had to practice the futile exercise of “duck and cover” in school. It deeply pains me to think of young boys and girls growing up today with renewed nuclear threats that should have been decisively dealt with and resolved 60 years ago. 

We still have not learned the essential lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is that the only way to eliminate the nuclear danger is through careful, universal, verifiable steps to eliminate nuclear weapons. It is the very nature of these weapons that the possession of any nuclear weapons is an existential danger to all. And Pope Francis has been explicitly clear that “the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.” 

That the nuclear weapons states have no intention to honor their pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons is made abundantly clear yet again by the failure of the recent Review Conference of the NonProliferation Treaty to make any progress whatsoever toward global nuclear disarmament. Yet the U.S. and other nuclear weapons powers sternly denounce the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the Vatican was the first nation-state to sign. 

But what do the nuclear weapons powers have to offer as an alternative when they so intentionally ignore the Non-proliferation Treaty’s 50-year-old obligation to enter into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament? Their answer is instead trillions of dollars invested into so-called “modernization” programs that will keep nuclear weapons forever. This does more than just help fuel a new nuclear arms race. It also robs society of resources that could help humanity achieve its full potential through better educational and health systems, wildfire protection, repair of critical infrastructure and addressing new climate change threats. 

Many will no doubt say that it’s naïve to believe that nuclear weapons can be abolished. Yes, it will be extremely hard work, which must be concretely verified. But isn’t it the height of naiveté to believe that humanity can continue to survive with nuclear weapons? Counting on luck is not a sustainable strategy given the history of accidents, near misses and nuclear saber rattling by volatile and threatening world leaders. 

No dictator lasts forever, and some day Putin will be gone. But do we have to live with the threat of nuclear weapons forever? We need to pray for peace in Ukraine and to begin working in a determined, deliberate manner towards a future world free of nuclear weapons. More money is spent on nuclear weapons research and production in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe than any other diocese in the country because of the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. Therefore, this Archdiocese has a special responsibility to help lead humanity toward nuclear weapons abolition. And our Labs could help us toward that end by providing new verification technologies that could help underpin a future world free of nuclear weapons. 

The New Mexican congressional delegation frequently touts expanding nuclear weapons production programs as jobs programs. Yet New Mexico remains mired at the bottom of numerous socioeconomic indicators, such as the most children living in poverty and declining per capita income relative to the other 49 states. The Department of Energy plans to spend $9.4 billion in the Land of Enchantment this fiscal year, more than the entire State’s operating budget of $8.5 billion. Yet the economic benefits appear to stay in privileged enclaves such as Los Alamos County (which is the fourth richest county in the USA), while some of the poorest communities in the nation are contiguous to the Lab. 

Because of this and more, I call upon the New Mexico congressional delegation to reverse course. Congress should have the courage to begin to help lead us toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. In particular, I call upon the New Mexican congressional delegation to end their support for unneeded, exorbitantly expensive plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons. This future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpiles but is instead for speculative new-design nuclear weapons that could push the U.S. back into testing. All this can help fuel the new nuclear arms race, which is tragic folly 60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

I again renew my call for dialogue on the existential issue of eliminating nuclear weapons, in which the New Mexico congressional delegation should help lead. 

Yours in the Peace of Christ, 

The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe 

For further reading and suggested actions, please see my pastoral letter Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament at https://archdiosf.org/documents/2022/1/220111_ABW_Pastoral_Letter_LivingintheLightofChristsPeace_Official_Reduced.pdf

A summary is available at https://archdiosf.org/documents/2022/1/In%20Summary_Final_Header_Legal.pdf

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Citizens Protest New Mexican Congressional Delegation’s Complicity in New Nuclear Arms Race

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 09:44

MEDIA AND PUBLIC ADVISORY

Citizens Protest New Mexican Congressional Delegation’s Complicity in New Nuclear Arms Race

Contacts:         

Greg Corning, President, Santa Fe Veterans for Peace, cogreg@gmail.com, 510-206-9767

Bob Josephs, Santa Fe Veterans for Peace, rajosephs@msn.com, 505.466-3081 or 505. 610-6111

Joni Arends, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety jarends@nuclearactive.org, 505-986-1973

Rev. Jean Darling, Nonviolent Santa Fe, jdarling@sandwich.net, 312.405.9470

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, jay@nukewatch.org, 505.989.7342

What:  On the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, citizens protest New Mexican congressional delegation’s complicity in a new nuclear arms race. Santa Fe Archbishop releases statement calling for verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons. Veterans for Peace present congressional offices with an alternative “Nuclear Posture Review.”

When:  Friday October 14, 2022, 12:00 – 1:00 pm.

Where: 120 S. Federal Place, Santa Fe, NM, outside of main post office and offices of Senator Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (and by extension Senator Martin Heinrich’s office on Marcy St).

Why: The world is again on the precipice of nuclear disaster.

Background: This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis – widely regarded as the closest the world has ever come to nuclear Armageddon. The dangers of nuclear war have risen sharply in recent months. In response, a nation-wide coalition of nearly 100 organizations has come together to educate the public and call on elected officials to de-escalate tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

Protesters are calling for specific actions by the U.S. government, including: 

•  Rejoining arms control treaties that the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of;

•  Dealerting nuclear weapons from their immediate ready-to-launch status;

•  Declaring an explicit policy of “No First Use” of nuclear weapons;

•  Eliminating dangerous intercontinental ballistic missiles;

•  Supporting congressional action to avert nuclear war (H. Res. 1185); 

•   Canceling expanded plutonium “pit” bomb core production since it is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile, but instead is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons that could prompt a return to testing; and

•   Diverting the planned $2 trillion dollars for nuclear weapons “modernization” to real pressing social security needs, such as wildfire and environmental protection and better schools. 

This protest will be one of several dozen taking place on the same day across the country as part of a growing Defuse Nuclear War campaign. The local organizers will meet with Senator Martin Heinrich’s office earlier in the day to discuss these issues. In addition, the Raging Grannies will perform at the protest. 

“Few Americans realize we’re closer to nuclear war than ever,” said Greg Corning, the President of the Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans for Peace. “This is tragically serious, even pathetic 60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet here we go again. When will we learn to get rid of genocidal nuclear weapons?”

Veterans for Peace’s Bob Josephs recounted, “As a young Air Force officer near Izmir, Turkey during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was in charge of three nuclear-armed Jupiter missiles kept on hair-trigger alert. I later learned that these missiles were the provocation for Khrushchev stationing Soviet missiles in Cuba. Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary under Kennedy, said we avoided nuclear war only by luck. A better plan than just plain dumb luck is to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons as we pledged to do long ago in the 1970 NonProliferation Treaty.”

The New Mexican congressional delegation frequently touts expanding nuclear weapons programs at the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories as jobs programs. Yet New Mexico remains mired at the bottom of numerous socioeconomic indicators, such as the most children living in poverty and declining per capita income relative to the other 49 states. The Department of Energy plans to spend $9.4 billion in the Land of Enchantment this fiscal year, more than the entire State’s operating budget of $8.5 billion. Yet the economic benefits appear to stay in privileged enclaves such as Los Alamos County (the fourth richest county in the USA), while some of the poorest communities in the nation are contiguous to the Lab. The protesters’ question: what good does all that DOE money do for the average New Mexican? 

Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety invited everyone to join the protest to express their concerns about the escalation of tensions between the nuclear superpowers and to oppose expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She asked, “Someday Putin will be gone, but do we have to live with nuclear weapons forever? We need to avoid the tit for tat of an ever spiraling nuclear arms race that can end in Armageddon. Instead of chasing nuclear weapons pork, our congressional delegation should instead lead us with wisdom toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. We are calling on them to do just that and to begin now.”

# # #

Concurrent events are being organized by Veterans for Peace in Albuquerque, NM. Contact Bill Tiwald at tiwaldbill@gmail.com or Charles Powell at crpowell5@gmail.com

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Forestry partners lay out reasons to continue prescribed burns

Tue, 10/11/2022 - 12:01

By KAY MATTHEWS

I recently spoke with two northern New Mexicans involved in critical forest restoration projects about the fallout over prescribed burning as a restoration tool after the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire burned over 370,000 acres of forests, homes, fields, and acequias. Matt Piccarello is the New Mexico Forest Watershed and Health Manager for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and J.R. Logan is the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) coordinator for Taos County and board member of Cerro Negro Forest Council, a restoration project near San Cristobal. Matt is currently working on Community Wildfire Defense Grants that are being dispersed through the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 for watershed restoration, fire management, utility corridor safety, reforestation, urban forest restoration, and economics. J.R. is working to implement the Taos Valley Watershed Coalition and Tres Rios Watershed Coalition (the Embudo watershed) projects with funding already available.

I first met Matt in 2018, then working for Forest Stewards Guild, a Santa Fe based forestry management non-profit, when he came to Peñasco to see if there was local interest in resurrecting the contract stewardship program that the Carson National Forest’s Camino Real Ranger District, under the direction of Forestry Tech Henry Lopez, managed for many years in the 1990s to mid 2000s. Henry and his staff identified overstocked forests around communities like El Valle, Chamisal, Ojito, and Ojo Sarco, divided them into approximately one-acre blocks, marked the “leave trees,” or those trees that wouldn’t be harvested, and then assigned the blocks to community members who cut everything but the leave trees, creating a healthier, less dense forest and large firewood piles for themselves.

J.R. Logan had already helped start the Cerro Negro Forest Council that replicated Lopez’s stewardship program on the Questa Ranger District: a hired mayordomo oversees the forest restoration project, leñeros, or wood cutters, thin their acre blocks under Forest Service specifications, and are paid $300 upon completion of their blocks. Cerro Negro is supported from a special US Forest Service fund called the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP).

After months of public meetings, Matt and the Las Trampas Land Grant put together a pilot project, the Rio de Las Trampas Forest Council, a stewardship program located between El Valle and Las Trampas, within the Wildland/Urban Interface. We (I’m on the Forest Council board of directors) set up the program much like Cerro Negro, with a mayordomo and leñeros, but were funded by the Rio Grande Water Fund. The Nature Conservancy initiated this fund back in 2012 by recruiting partners—public land agencies, state and local governments, and private businesses—in the upper Rio Grande corridor, from Colorado to Albuquerque, to contribute towards maintaining the integrity of the Rio Grande and its adjacent watersheds and forests.

That was four years ago. The Rio de Las Trampas project has grown in size to over 200 acres, now funded by a CFRP. Matt left the Forest Stewards Guild to work at TNC and jumped into another collaborative restoration project that exemplifies what fallout from the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire prescribed burn may look like as other projects face implementation.

The Santa Fe Mountains Landscape Resiliency Project (SFMLRP) of 50,000 acres surrounding the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, the Pueblo of Tesuque, and the communities within and adjacent to its boundary proposes “to increase the resilience of a priority landscape to future disturbances such as high-severity wildfire, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks. Resilience is the ‘ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbance while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organization, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change’ (Forest Service Manual 2020.5).” This US Forest Service (Española and Pecos/Las Vegas ranger districts) project is being developed in collaboration with the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition, comprised of 25 partners that represent Santa Fe local governments, Tesuque Pueblo, fire departments, state forestry, and numerous environmental and forest conservation groups such as TNC, Forest Stewards Guild, the Sierra Club, Ecotone Landscape Planning, and the Rio Grande Water Fund.

The Santa Fe Mountain Landscape Resiliency Project, analyzed under the auspices of the National Environmental Policy Act, released a Final Environmental Assessment (EA)  on March 28 of 2022. The Preferred Alternative calls for the treatment of 36,680 acres of the 50,566 acres of the planning area over the next 10 to 15 years. Restoration activities will occur in “mixed conifer-frequent fire forest, ponderosa pine forest, pinyon-juniper woodlands and grasslands, and riparian areas. Restoration activities would focus on vegetation thinning and prescribed fire treatments to improve forest resiliency by reducing stand density, stand continuity, and stand homogeneity (sameness of forest structure and species composition), and increase heterogeneity (diverse forest structure and species composition) at a landscape scale, mid-scale, and fine scale.” “Conditions based management” will use a wide range of restoration methods on each of these scales. These methods include:

  • Vegetation Thinning using Thin from Below: Hand thinning, Manual harvesting using chainsaws, and Mechanical methods such as mastication on 18,000 acres.
  • Use of Prescribed Fire: Fire Broadcast burning, Pile burning, and Jackpot burning on 38,000 acres.
  • Riparian Restoration: Conifer and non-native species removal on 680 acres, Indirect use of prescribed fire, Native tree planting, and Fencing on acres17 miles of stream.

Page 2-23 of the EA lays out the comparison of a No Action Alternative to the Preferred Alternative in terms of “Fire and Fuels:” Without implementing the treatments, forest conditions would continue to depart from desired conditions and the existing conditions would persist, if not decline further. Fuel loading, particularly in the understory, would continue to increase, elevating the wildfire hazard of overstory woodland and forest species. The risk of fire with uncharacteristic fire severity and intensity would continue to increase within the project area. Modeling of very high wildfire behavior shows that most of the project area is currently at risk of sustaining high-intensity, widespread, damaging fire and the risk of fire with uncharacteristic fire severity and intensity would continue to increase within the project area.”

Just as Matt transitioned to TNC, on July 26 the Acting Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Duran (he’s the Carson Forest Supervisor as well) withdrew the Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact, four months after the decision was issued. In his letter Duran acknowledged “the analysis in the final Environmental Assessment is sound.” So why did he withdraw the Decision Notice? One obvious answer is that the Santa Fe County Commission passed a resolution on July 12th requesting that the Forest Service redo the NEPA assessment as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that requires more analysis than an EA and that all prescribed burning on the SFMLRP cease until an EIS is completed. “

Duran’s explanation in the letter is that because the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire required so much of the Forest Service’s attention the agency failed to “fully engage with our partners and community during the Chief’s 90-day pause of the Forest Service prescribed fire program.” Ironically, though, the “partners” who Duran failed to engage with in pulling the EA are the very Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition partners in SFMLRP that were not consulted in his decision. In delaying the decision Duran also terminated all the public “objections” included in the EA (public comment that is incorporated in the NEPA process) and will now consider any new “objections.”

Many of these “objections” are, of course, motivated by what happened in the recent fires, but it’s demoralizing for the partners that all the work that has been put into developing the SFMLRP EA resets an exhaustive and time consuming NEPA process. As La Jicarita has reported repeatedly over the years (and in the August 30th issue of the paper), there is also a community of activists that rejects the science that supports thinning and prescribed burning as tools to make our forests more resilient. Is this the “community” that Duran references in his letter?

Matt co-wrote an opinion piece with Esme Cadiente of Forest Stewards Guild, in the September 24 issue of the New Mexican in which they argue that pausing the release of the SFMLRP “will not achieve the desired effect of reducing the risk of escaped prescribed burns,” as in any forest resiliency project there will be a prescribed burn action (see the EA language above concerning “Fires and Fuels.”) They also explain that the NEPA process analyzes the effects of the proposed thinning and burning in the project, not the risk of an escaped prescribed burn, in either an EA or an EIS. These effects would be addressed in any burn plan, protocols for which are being reassessed by the Forest Service as a result of the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire. NEPA doesn’t analyze risk as comprehensively as burn plans.

I asked J.R. Logan if he, too, was seeing fallout from the fires as he works to implement his projects. His perception is that the Forest Service is now working in a climate of fear and uncertainty, due to understaffing and bureaucratic hurdles. The Agency is very scared of blowback and everyone in leadership is nervous. After the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire, which burned through the town of Los Alamos and parts of Los Alamos National Laboratory, public momentum built to implement restoration projects through collaborative efforts, many of which have demonstrated to people in Taos County that communities and watersheds can be protected with careful use of prescribed fire. There is less of a history of opposition to these projects than in the Santa Fe area, where activists such as WildEarth Guardians and Wild Watershed and Santa Fe Forest Coalition opposed thinning and burning projects in the Santa Fe Watershed and now in the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed. To turn back the clock now on projects ready for implementation would set us up for more destruction of unchecked wildfire.

On a practical level J.R. worries that if he is able to proceed with the projected work and the FS fails to follow through with prescribed burns of the generated slash we’re going to exacerbate an already dangerous situation. The FS has to realize that “a cut unit is only a half completed unit.” For instance, the contract thinning near the village of Ojo Sarco that I referenced in the August 30 issue of La Jicarita was thinned over a summer with a follow up burn planned for the fall or winter. Other thinning projects near El Valle, Ojitos, and Las Trampas are ready to be cut and the FS must be ready to follow up with a prescribed burn plan.

J.R. used the example of the McGaffey Ridge EA that’s been completed as part of the Taos Watershed Coalition as a litmus test of the Carson’s commitment to moving forward with these projects. The decision notice has yet to be signed and if the FS fails to do so it would be a breach of trust, as in the Santa Fe Mountains Fireshed Project, with the many partners who are doing much of the work that the FS has failed to accomplish.

So what’s the take away from all this? The Forest Service suppressed fires for over 100 years and has been playing catch up ever since. The National Environmental Policy Act was enacted 52 years ago to “encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment . . .” That is interpreted in numerous ways, but Matt and J.R. and their like-minded colleagues believe it is crucial that the “mismanagement” of our forests be mitigated by science-based, community driven restorative management. As J.R. put it to me, “We can’t thin and burn our way out of this mess, but we can at least salvage areas of forests from wholesale destruction.”

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Free Erosion Control Workshop

Sat, 10/08/2022 - 11:59

Categories: G2. Local Greens

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