SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Morning Word: Gila River Project to be Evaluated

Study will evaluate proposed water management alternatives, costs and impact

Morning WordTuesday, November 24, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Gila Diversion Study Could Take Years
The US Interior Department has signed off on a plan that will study the controversial Gila River diversion plan. Susan Montoya Bryan reports: 
The department’s approval came despite opposition from environmentalists and others who are concerned that a proposed diversion project along the river could amount to a $1 billion boondoggle. Supporters argue that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation districts in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water.
Seeing Green
Lawmakers who blocked a proposed constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana maybe having second thoughts after seeing Colorado is on track to generate close to $1 billion in sales this year.

No Deal
Phaedra Hayword was in court on Monday when a state district court judge rejected a plea deal for Jason Wagner, the Santa Fe Police officer who is accused of lying on his timecard. District Judge T Glenn Ellington says the deal didn’t provide justice to the taxpayers who paid the cop’s salary and relied on him for protection. 

Aviation Chief Grounded
Marshall Katz, the longtime aviation police chief at the Albuquerque International Sunport, is on an unpaid suspension after responding to calls outside of the airport and other city policy violations.

APS Still Fighting Release of Investigation
Depositions in an open records lawsuit filed against the Albuquerque Public Schools district are shedding more light on what led to Winston Brooks' removal from the school district and huge payoff, but we still haven’t seen the taxpayer-funded investigative report.

GOP Candidates ‘Flunking’
The Associated Press did some fact checking and reports, “When it comes to climate science, two of the three Democratic presidential candidates are 'A' students, while most of the Republican contenders are flunking, according to a panel of scientists who reviewed candidates' comments.”

‘Let Them In’
Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George RR Martin says he disagrees with Gov. Susana Martinez’ stand on allowing Syrian refugees to enter the country. Matthew Reichbach reports Martin wants Santa Fe to welcome them.

Bishops Urge Driver’s License Compromise
Russell Contreras reports, “New Mexico Catholic bishops on Monday said they hope a proposed compromise among state lawmakers will continue to allow immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally to obtain driver’s licenses and also make the state compliant under the federal REAL ID act.”

Holm Shares Plans
Newly crowned UFC bantamweight champ Holly Holm is still on a big celebratory tour and talking to the media about her fight in Australia. Yesterday, she stopped into KRQE to visit with Van Tate. Holm shares some insights about the fight that shocked the world. Check out the extended interview here.

Welcome to The Fork

¡Que Viva Tequila!

The ForkMonday, November 23, 2015 by Rob DeWalt

Santa Fe is no stranger to great food, and its denizens have become used to top-level dining experiences. From the humble street taco to the swankiest white-linen establishment and one of the country's best farmers markets, Santa Fe is at the top of its game. We bring you The Fork, a newsletter that serves you upcoming events, restaurant news, recipes and so much more. We will also fill you in on interesting (and at times weird) food news from around the world. Do you have some Santa Fe-related food or restaurant news? We’d love to hear it and share it with our readers. Please send detailed information to

¡Que Viva Tequila!

For some reason, the tequila craze has hit Santa Fe like a ton of bricks lately, and really, who's complaining? On Saturday, Dec. 5, the Santa Fe Film Festival teams up with chef Eric DiStefano at Coyote Cafe for a five-course pairing dinner featuring 100 percent agave spirits from master distillery Patrón. And because we all might need a little more tequila before Christmas, chef Juan Bochenski hosts a four-course tequila pairing dinner at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi on Dec. 10. Ceviche, tacos al pastor, carne asada with mushroom chilaquiles and tinga poblana, and a tamarind sorbet with an "agave nectar-pressed melon" (whatever that means) are on the menu. The occasion celebrates the launch in Santa Fe of small-batch Casa Dragones tequila, and the Anasazi is the first destination in the state to serve it. At $115 a head, it may seem steep. But to be sure, this is one of those dinners that only comes around once in a blue agave moon.

An Apple a Day...

On Nov. 18, New Mexico Hard Cider opened its new digs in the Luna compound (505 Cerrillos Road, Ste. A105, 231-0632), which also houses Ta Lin Market. The two businesses have teamed up to offer food on certain days. An Asian noodle bar is available on Fridays and Saturdays, while Ta Lin's irresistible dumplings can be had on Mondays only. Of course, the Bang Bite Filling Station food truck has moved to the Luna compound, so your options aren't limited to Asian fare. The bar itself offers its own cider, as well as a handful of wines and craft beers.

Speaking of Cider 

You only have a couple of days left to check out the cider-pairing dinner at the Loyal Hound. Through Nov. 25, the gastropub offers a three-course feast paired with hard ciders from Washington and California. Apple pie made with Breton apples? Check. Cornish game hen with butternut squash stuffing and wilted chard? You bet. Potato-leek soup with house-smoked bacon? You had me at bacon. The dinner is $48 per person.

Food before Fracking? Let's Do This!

Matt Rembe, executive director of Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, says than in terms of boosting our economy, New Mexico is missing the boat on promoting its food and food culture. Perhaps the two FUZE SW Food + Folklore Festivals held on Museum Hill in 2013 and 2014, which were heavily attended by national media, chefs, authors, esteemed panelists, food producers and a ton of great food, slipped his mind. The festival, which relies on money from the state and other sources, is on hiatus, citing organizational and economic reasons. Still, Rembe's right: The message needs to be louder. That's why we're here.

My God, What Have They Done?

In an effort to further dilute the cultural significance of ethnic foodstuffs, the makers of Oreos have decided to release a cream-filled Oreo churro. Now, this isn't the first time Oreo has dipped its toes into churro waters. It launched its first line in Nov. 2014, and for some reason, so many people loved them that the company has now decided to cram something awful into their centers. There are many horrible ways to visually interpret the image of one of these things, which leaves us wondering why you would put it in your mouth

The Fork is setting the table in the Southwestern food scene, delivered to your inbox every Monday. Want recipes, restaurant reviews and tasty foodie news? Sign up here.

Morning Word: More Economic Woes for New Mexico

State has second highest unemployment rate in the country

Morning WordMonday, November 23, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Young People Moving Out 
It looks like the slowdown in the oil business continues to be a drag on the state’s economy. It has lawmakers concerned about new revenue and UNM regents considering what to do with the school’s budget plans next year. A report by US Bureau of Labor last week showed the state still has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. The poor job prospects in New Mexico continues to push young, educated people out. The economy and high unemployment numbers are just a few reasons Democrats say Gov. Susana Martinez, who was elected chair of the Republican Governors Association last week, should stay in state rather than hit the road during the upcoming 2016 election.

Cleared to Board 
So it turns out you don’t have to rush to get a US passport after all. According to the feds, your New Mexico driver’s license will still get you a boarding pass and into the friendly skies.

Martinez Won’t Seek Re-Election 
Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, the former speaker of the house, will not seek re-election to his seat in the Legislature after the upcoming session; he's been hired by Bernalillo County Commissioners to be their new county attorney.

WIPP Strike Looms 
It’s a last resort, but workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could go on strike before the new year if wage increase negotiations are not met, according to a report by Sarah Matott in the Carlsbad Current-Argus.

Corruption Still a Black Eye for New Mexico 
Milan Simonich, a reporter, editor and columnist for the Santa Fe New Mexican,  is encouraging the judge who will sentence former Secretary of State Dianna Duran next month to give her to at least six months in jail to send an example that the state doesn’t go easy on corrupt public officials. After all, in the past, Duran herself said corruption has given the state a “black eye.” 

On the Clock 
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, says he’ll reintroduce legislation to keep New Mexico on Daylight Savings Time year round.

Faster Graduations
Maggie Shepard reports, “UNM’s efforts to increase graduation rates and streamline the start-to-finish path of students, including a total overhaul of remedial courses, more students than ever before are graduating and doing it faster with fewer wasted credits.” That’s good news, because it means students are paying less for their degrees prior to being forced to look for work out of state in order to pay off their student loans before collectors hone in on them with aggressive collections, as we posted in the Morning Word last week.

Fighter Remembered 
A week after Holly Holm won the UFC title belt, we got the sad news on the passing of former world light-heavyweight boxing champion Bob Foster in Albuquerque. The former sheriff’s deputy was 76.

Run to the Top 
The University of New Mexico’s women’s cross country team was crowned national champs this weekend. It’s the school's second national title (the school’s ski team was tops in the country in 2004). While everyone was cheering the women, the Lobo football team fell to Colorado State, 28-21. They’ll need to win at Air Force next week to have a shot at a bowl game. And at USC on Saturday, the Lobos men’s basketball team also came up short

El Paseo Owner Dies

Popular music venue closed for unknown period of time

Local NewsFriday, November 20, 2015 by Alex De Vore

The local service industry community was left reeling Thursday at the loss of El Paseo Bar & Grill owner, Matt Chavez, who was found dead in his home by longtime friend and employee Sara Chapman. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

“I’m still not really sure how or what happened, but I spoke with the family, and they are still trying to decide whether they want to keep it open or not, and I’m hoping they do since El Paseo is my family,” employee Leahi Mayfield says. “It’s all so surreal…I still feel like I’m supposed to go back to work on Tuesday."

News of Chavez’ death also struck a major blow for Santa Fe musicians, as the club had long been a live music venue and Chavez an ardent supporter of up-and-coming local acts.

“El Paseo was a labor of love for Matt, and a lot of us were really shocked,” local musician Mikey Baker (Gluey Brothers, Moby Dick) tells SFR. “He was a cornerstone of the Santa Fe music scene, and he always tried to take care of local musicians. So many of us built up a name there.”

A Facebook post on Saturday announced a memorial service for Monday, Nov. 23, at 5 pm. The public is invited to gather in front of the restaurant at 208 Galisteo St. Another Facebook post explained that El Paseo is closing its doors for an unknown period of time. 

Santa Fe police report they are investigating the death. 

Calling All Type 2 Diabetics

UNM searching for 30 more diabetic patients for a five-year study that will earn them free medication, reduce blood sugar

Local NewsMonday, November 23, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque is looking for more than two dozen Type 2 diabetics to participate in a five-year study whose objective is to determine the best pharmaceutical drug that lowers their high blood sugar.

In all, UNM has recruited 120 patients over the last year and now only needs 30 more to round off the study. A couple of prerequisites to qualify include being a Type 2 diabetic for fewer than 10 years and to currently take  Metformin, "the gold standard” for treating high blood sugar among diabetics.

That’s according to Elizabeth Duran-Valdez, who’s leading the study for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

“We know that people are a little bit leery about participating in health studies,”  says Duran-Valdez, a clinical research associate for the center. “But it’s going to be a great benefit: We’re going to pay you for your travel if you’re coming from far away, and you’re going to get free medication for the next five years.”

Plus, in addition to seeing your regular primary physician, which is required of all patients, you’re also going to reap the benefits of an hourlong, one-on-one consultation every three months, where the center's staff will take your A1C while reminding you of the changes in lifestyle and diet that will help lower your blood sugar levels, she says.

UNM isn’t the only school trying to get to the bottom of which drugs are best for Type 2 diabetes, an affliction that affects an estimated 204,000 New Mexicans and is increasing here at 13 percent every year, the center says in a press release.

Nearly 50 medical centers associated with universities in the country are joining forces, with a total 5,000 patients. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases is funding the comparative study under the National Institutes of Health—and two years ago UNM received a $2.8 million grant to participate until 2020.

Called Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness, or GRADE, the study hopes to help Type 2 diabetic patients get their blood sugar under control in what is essentially an epidemic whose costs are said to exceed $240 billion per year in medical costs across the country.

That's the price paid when your pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin to lower the blood sugar or it’s producing it just fine, but your cells are failing to take the insulin in.

“A lot of people aren’t even aware they have diabetes, and they don’t go to the doctor until they’re sick with something else, and that’s when they find out,” Duran-Valdez says.

Common symptoms include an increase in blurred vision, thirst, frequent urination and either a sudden weight gain (or loss). The four medications that will be added to the regimen of patients in the study are all FDA-approved: Glimepiride, Sitagliptin (Januvia), Liraglutide (Victoza) and Glargine (Lantus).

One quick way to test yourself is by buying a glucose monitor at any pharmacy and prick your finger, and if your blood is under 116 after eight hours of fasting, you're in great shape. If your blood exceeds 116 or reaches the 150-160 or even the 200 mark, then it's not so good and you'd better see a doctor.

An A1C is a three-month test that gives you an average of what your blood sugar has been. If the results are between 5.6 and 5.8, you're not diabetic. If it's above 6.2, then you are considered a diabetic. All diabetics try to stay below 7.0 to avoid complications that, when left unchecked over a long period of time, can cause kidney failure, congestive heart failure and eye problems.

If interested, call Duran-Valdez at 272-5454 or email her at

A Choice of One Out of One

Three of four Santa Fe City Council candidates assured victory due to lack of challengers

Local NewsFriday, November 20, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Santa Fe’s upcoming March municipal election has about as much excitement to it as an ice cream shop that only serves vanilla. With the city clerk having certified petitions and released those results this week, we can now see the field of candidates shows a stunningly small turnout, the lowest in at least 20 years. Three of four City Council races are uncontested. 

“It’s very depressing to see only one of four races in play. Somebody is going to become a councilor because nobody else is running and the incumbent is retiring, so there’s no competition,” says Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, an advocate for transparent and accountable governing.

Few candidates equates to low voter turnout, as demonstrated by a recent municipal election in Albuquerque, which saw a turnout of just 8 percent.

“If the guy is already going to be my councilor, what is motiving me to go vote for him?" Harrison asks. "When people don’t have a choice, they’re going to become disengaged, they’re going to say, what does my vote count? It’s not good for democracy.”

In elections held from 1996 to 2006, all four districts saw multiple candidates, but declining participation has particularly led to District 4’s candidate running unchallenged. That area, with 12,411 registered voters as of Nov. 12, also historically reports low voter turnout. Councilor Bill Dimas, who has decided not to seek re-election, won the seat in 2012 with just 1,757 votes. That year, every district had at least two, if not three, candidates to choose from. 

But options of that kind have been low in supply, particularly in the last decade. Just one person ran for District 4 in 2008 and in 2010, both Councilors Carmichael Dominguez and Ronald Trujillo were unopposed in Districts 3 and 4, respectively. 

With a governing body comprised of citizens—councilors are paid stipends, but not enough to give up their day jobs—and in a city where public campaign financing was meant to make these seats and the costs of running for them more accessible, there’s also a need for some kind of educational resources. And namely, how far to going above the baseline requirements is really required to get the job done.

New Mexico has seen both state and now City Council elections where the field was narrowed because although a candidate turned in a petition with enough signatures, the number disqualified knocked that person out of the race. That was the case with Donald Ramon Vigil, who sought to challenge incumbent Councilor Christopher Rivera for his seat representing District 3. Vigil needed 33 valid signatures, turned in 41 and only 27 proved valid, the New Mexican reported earlier this week. 

Elections have also become more intimidating in the face of heavy involvement by independent groups and political action committees, as the 2014 mayoral race saw.

“When I talk to people who have thought about running, they’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know if I want to do that now, because we’ve got all these independent groups and PACs who are going to trash me and my family,’” Harrison says. “People aren’t even worried that much about the candidates they’re running against anymore. They’re worried about outside groups and what they’re going to do.” 

While Rivera, Councilor Peter Ives (who runs unopposed for District 2) and Michael Harris, the only candidate running for Dimas' District 4 seat, are clear winners here, there’s a long list of people who lose when elections play out this way. 

“The citizens are the ones who are losing by not having competition, because they don’t have a couple candidates coming to their door, asking their opinions and finding out what’s important to the voters,” Harrison says. “And it’s not the candidates' fault. It’s the fault of system that has no competition.”

What Harris, Ives and Rivera undertake in the way of campaigning between now and the March 1 election remains to be seen. Practically, there’s little justification for doing anything at all. 

The only competitive City Council race is the one to replace longtime District 1 Councilor Patti Bushee, who decided to retire this year, citing family concerns. Running to replace her are Kathryn Kennedy, a partner at Skylight Santa Fe; Renee Villarreal, a former planning commission member; returning candidate Marie Campos, who was recently redistricted from District 3 to District 1; and Frank Montaño, a former city councilor and school board member. Villarreal has Bushee’s endorsement.

One other competitive race is an unsung hero position—municipal judge. With Judge Ann Yalman retiring this year, Ignacio Gallegos and Virginia Vigil are running for the job. Vigil is a former county commissioner, and Gallegos is a lawyer who for the last year has been an administrative law judge at the Motor Vehicle Department, hearing license revocation appeals. Few candidates for City Council will likely affect turnout for that race as well. 

This Weekend

Creative fun for your weekend

Weekend PicksFriday, November 20, 2015 by SFR

Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival

Gallery-worthy art pieces created from at least 75 percent recycled materials demonstrate the resourcefulness and creativity of the artists at the market. Starting with a fashion show Friday night at 7 pm, the weekend-long event is the perfect opportunity to find a unique holiday gift.

More Info >>

SF Spirits Cask Strength Release Party

Celebrate the release of Colkegan Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey and bottle your own Colkegan directly from the barrel.

More Info >>

Friedrich Geier

German artist Geier combines figurative and abstract imagery in his work, which is on display in the US for the first time.

More Info >>

Voices from Israel and Palestine and New Mexico

Students get in free to see this performance by local teens, who share their life stories together with those of girls from the Middle East; each summer, Creativity for Peace brings a group of teens from Israel and the Palestinian Territories to Santa Fe to explore themes of conflict, identity and belonging.

More Info >>

Tab Hunter Confidential

Hollywood’s heartthrob from the 1950s had a secret: The “boy next door” was gay. This documentary explores how Hunter survived the pitfalls of American celebrity. Oh, and Hunter himself appears at the screening, so get psyched.

More Info >>

Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico

The most comprehensive exhibition to celebrate and study the living tradition of flamenco opens with live guitar and dance performances, and a book signing by the curator, . The exhibit continues through Sept. 11, 2016.

More Info >>

Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: RGA Picks Martinez

Governor becomes first Hispanic chairwoman by acclimation

Morning WordFriday, November 20, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
RGA Picks Martinez
Dan Boyd, the Albuquerque Journal’s capital bureau chief, traveled to Las Vegas, Nev., to watch Gov. Susana Martinez be elected 2016 Republican Governors Association  chairwoman. Boyd reports Democrats plan to discuss an ongoing investigation into Martinez’s media adviser wherever she travels nationally. Joe Monahan, over at ABQ Free Press, suggests the high-profile post will debunk the myth that Martinez “is a strong leader engaged in the running of state government.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the 2016 presidential race in September, was elected vice chair.

City of Immigrants
TS Last reports, “Mayor Javier Gonzales referred to Santa Fe as 'a city of immigrants' on Wednesday when disagreeing with Gov. Susana Martinez’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s stance in favor of accepting refugees from war-torn Syria.”

Conflict of Interest
Steve Terrell is reporting a new lawsuit contends that an East Coast law firm hired to assist the state recover money it lost in “pay to play” investment schemes had a serious conflict of interest with some of the banks and firms the state was pursuing.

Pueblo Services Dispute
New Mexico’s Pueblos are exempt from paying county property taxes. KRQE's Larry Barker discovered that means they’re not helping pay for public safety services, like fire and rescue. Bernalillo County estimates it's costing them tens of thousands of dollars, and one commissioner says it’s not right, considering the Pueblos’ casinos are raking in millions.

Access Dispute Settled
Staci Matlock reports the State Game Commission voted to pay the State Land Office $1 million for access to good hunting on state trust property, ending a long dispute.

Machine Gun Stolen
Curators at a military museum in Albuquerque are heartbroken after discovering their vintage World War II M1919 Browning machine gun was stolen from a display case on Veterans Day. Gun thefts are on the increase, and police are advising owners not to leave their weapons in their automobiles.

Increased Security
Mark Smith, the Albuquerque Journal’s assistant sports editor, reports UNM and NMSU will be increasing security measures ahead of football and basketball games this weekend, in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and new threats around the world. You’ll probably have to wait in longer screening lines at some of the state’s high school football games, as well. A week after the French tragedy, House Republicans passed legislation essentially barring refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq from entering the United States until tougher screening measures are implemented. New Mexico Democrats Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rep. Ben Ray Luján voted against the measure. After the vote, Lujan Grisham sent an email to the Morning Word, saying the matter shouldn’t be a partisan issue: 
I will work with congressional leaders and the administration to pass legislation that enhances our nation’s ability to verify and support the most vulnerable refugees while also upholding our solemn obligation and first priority to improve our security at home and abroad. 
At the same time, Luján is calling for immediate action on immigration reform.  Meanwhile, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump shocked the nation when he confirmed a news report that he’s open to the idea of requiring Muslim Americans to register their names in some sort of national database and carry special identification.

New Rep Sworn In
We missed this yesterday, but Matthew Reichbach reports Idalia Lechuga-Tena has been sworn into the New Mexico House of Representatives after winning a controversial Bernalillo County Commission appointment last week. Before she was named to the replace Rep. Stephanie Maes, who resigned the District 21 seat after her son was charged with murdering a Manzano High School student, Lechuga-Tena admitted she voted twice before becoming a US citizen.

Hitting the Slopes
If you’re like us, you can't wait to hit the slopes. Wolf Creek opens this weekend, and several New Mexico resorts, including Taos Ski Valley, plan to open on Turkey Day next week.

Morning Word: Watchdogs Urge Reforms

Gigantic holes found in state's campaign finance reporting system

Morning WordThursday, November 19, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Watchdogs Propose Solutions
Last night, KOB investigative reporter Ryan Luby wrapped up the station’s four-part series that identified even more problems with the state’s campaign system. Luby talked to Common Cause New Mexico’s Viki Harrison, the interim secretary of state, and others about ways to fix the inconsistent reporting problems.

Papen’s Account Investigated
Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, told the Las Cruces Sun-News investigators are trying to figure out who siphoned money from her senate campaign fund account and who stole personal items from her home. Carlos Andres López reports: Although the suspect has not been officially identified, Papen said she strongly believes that her former assistant, Stephen Siddall, 43, may be responsible for the missing funds. Siddall, who is accused of fraudulently using Smith’s credit card over the summer, was arrested last week in Roswell on credit card fraud charges.

Sooner than Later
The Association of Commerce and Industry, according to Deborah Baker at the Albuquerque Journal, wants Gov. Susana Martinez and state lawmakers to develop a plan to comply with federal Real ID requirements now, rather than wait for the Legislature to convene in mid-January.

Tribes Warned about Pot
After federal raids on tribal marijuana farms in other states, legal experts here are urging New Mexico’s Pueblos to be cautious and “weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.” 

Aggressive Student Loan Collections
People with outstanding student loan debts who stop paying down their loans are being sued by lenders more often. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the Associated Press story this morning.

Retaking PARCC
Nearly 3,000 Albuquerque Public Schools seniors are having to retake segments of the PARCC test this week in order to graduate next spring.

No Change
A recount in one of the Nov. 3 City Council races in Las Cruces won’t change the outcome. That means Kassandra Gandara will retain her District 1 seat, and Jack Eakman will be the representative for District 4.

Berry Gets Big Thumbs Down
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry isn’t very popular these days, according to a poll published by the ABQ Free Press. More than 89.4 percent of the people who responded to the unscientific online poll said they were "unlikely" or "extremely unlikely" to vote for Berry again.

Tax Climate
The 12th annual edition of the State Business Tax Climate Index ranks the competitiveness of  New Mexico’s tax code as 35th in the country, but first for our property tax structure.

Staying Put
Daniel J. Chacón reports Santa Fe’s landmark red caboose has finally been saved and will stay in the City Different. Keep Santa Fe Beautiful has signed a 25-year lease to keep the train car in place at St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road.

Clean Energy Costs
The New Mexico Environment Department is seeking public input for a plan on meeting federal requirements for cleaner power plants. Elizabeth Miller reports: The EPA gives the state the option to craft its own plan and choose the rate by which to set emissions, based on total tons of carbon dioxide emitted each year, known as a mass-based plan, or on pounds emitted per megawatt of electricity generated, a rate-based plan. New Mexico emitted just under 18 million short tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, and was given a goal of 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions total, or 1,146 pounds per megawatt hour, by 2030.

Costs of Keeping the Lights On

New Mexico seeks input for a plan on meeting federal requirements for cleaner power plants

Local NewsWednesday, November 18, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Faced with the demand to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generators, the single largest source of those emissions for the state, the New Mexico Environment Department is seeking public input.

The US Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year laid out the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon dioxide emissions from power generated through coal, oil and natural gas. It will affect 10 of the facilities in the state that generate electricity, with potential ramifications on both greenhouse gas emissions and ratepayers’ wallets.

“We want to develop a plan that makes sense for New Mexico,” Rita Bates, planning section chief for the NMED air quality bureau, tells SFR.

“That is why we’re developing a state implementation plan rather than having a federal implementation plan imposed on the state, which is one of the other alternatives if we don’t comply,” says Michael Vonderheide, Environmental Protection Division director. “That’s not a risk we’re willing to take.”

NMED is hosting a series of public meetings, the first of which was held at the Southside Public Library in Santa Fe on Wednesday afternoon, in which New Mexicans can ask questions and voice their priorities. It’s taken some time to get to the point of seeking public input, as state staff have sifted through the 1,500-page rule, which was accompanied by technical support documents and spreadsheets. They’re specifically seeking opinions on questions of reliability, cost and fairness.

“When you do reliability and cost, that’s exactly what we can’t say, because it’s a spectrum, and we’re learning from the public about where to land on that spectrum. We’re definitely in the input and data-gathering phase of it,” says Allison Scott Majure, the department spokeswoman. “Fairness, of course, we want to land smack dab in the middle. It can be subjective depending on which special interest group you’re a member of, though.”

The EPA gives the state the option to craft its own plan and choose the rate by which to set emissions based on total tons of carbon dioxide emitted each year, known as a mass-based plan, or on pounds emitted per megawatt of electricity generated, a rate-based plan. New Mexico emitted just under 18 million short tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, and was given a goal of 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions total, or 1,146 pounds per megawatt hour, by 2030.

“I think some options could be higher or lower cost, depending on how you write them into your plan, and I think we need to be cognizant that New Mexico is not a wealthy state,” Bates says. “We’ve got a lot of vulnerable populations. so we need to be aware of that in writing plans and in whatever we do.”

The bulk of the state’s emissions come from the San Juan Generating Plant in the northwestern corner of the state, which emits some 13 million tons of carbon dioxide each year—more than the entire state will be allotted after 2022. There are already plans in place to take two of the four units off-line by 2017.

States are given until September 2016 to draft a plan, with an optional two-year extension as long as progress and outreach efforts can be demonstrated. Then, they have until 2022 to begin implementing interim goals by 2029 and final goals by 2030. Should New Mexico fail to come forward with an acceptable plan to meet these goals by the deadline, the federal government will craft one for the state. That kind of plan would, Majure said, “lose the nuances.”

“The only decision we have already made is that we’re going to develop a plan,” says Bates. “So we will be writing a plan for New Mexico. We haven’t decided yet what’s going to be in that plan.”

NMED has set up a Clean Power Plan team to head the effort. They're charged to craft a plan specific to the state’s wants and needs, and expect to submit information on where the state is headed by the 2016 deadline, but would likely request an extension for the final plan. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board and the US EPA also both have to approve that final plan.

The federal guideline allows for “trading” emissions with other states to approach the balance, or even develop a multistate plan, and for the use of energy efficiency measures to help meet the goal. How states will sort out questions like who gets credit for renewable power generated in one state but used in another remains to be seen. So far, Bates says, it seems the EPA is simply suggesting states work it out amongst themselves.

Various stakeholders will have a chance to participate in the process by requesting meetings, submitting their own analyses of the information available and commenting on drafts.

“As you go through this process, do certain parties that are stakeholders in this process have a closer position at the table?” Positive Energy Solar’s Regina Wheeler asked during the Wednesday meeting. She clarified: Specifically, does PNM have a closer seat to the table?

“Obviously, we’re talking to the utilities,” Bates said, adding, “We’re not listening to just one opinion on this, absolutely not. We’re listening to everyone.”

They’ll also be aiming their efforts so compliance happens when it counts—reductions in emissions that could occur well before the plan is even finalized by 2018 or 2019, if the EPA takes the full 12 months allotted to approve the plan, might not even count in meeting the goal.

Of course, there’s murkiness on the horizon just looking as far as state-level planning for energy through the end of Gov. Susana Martinez’ term.

“It’s just hard to understand how the state is approaching this, particularly in the context of the state energy plan, in a way that’s going to really result in meeting the Clean Power Plan,” says Ben Shelton, political and legislative director for Conservation Voters New Mexico, a statewide nonprofit. “It’s going to be very, very difficult if a lot of the things that the governor outlined in the state energy plan get executed.”

That's especially true, considering that the governor is calling for more from the extractive industries. 

“The state energy plan certainly props up coal heavily, which is, frankly, a dying resource,” says Liliana Castillo, communications and outreach manager for Conservation Voters New Mexico and CVNM Education Fund. “So the question becomes, how can we both comply with the Clean Power Plan as well as implement things that are in the state energy plan?”

There’s also work to be done in reaching out to low-income communities that often live much closer to where natural resources are mined and burned.

“Carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants disproportionately impacts New Mexico’s Latino, Native, low-income and rural populations,” Demis Foster, executive director of CVNM, said in a statement. “Communities in western New Mexico continue to experience negative health effects from legacy uranium mining waste.”

Foster points to the CPP’s effort to engage low-income communities and communities of color as they develop plans, adding that there are incentives for those efforts.

There’s also a question of the cooperation businesses will or will not promise the state.

“If, for instance, San Juan decides to do something like re-up, sign a new purchasing agreement because that could potentially knock us out of compliance,” Shelton says. “The onus falls on the PRC to put something in place that will grant some certainty to folks in the Environment Department to know that, OK, we’re not going to put together a compliance plan that’s rate or mass based that’s going to be thrown out of alignment based on PNM’s next business decision.”

The next public-input meeting is at 4 pm Thursday, Nov. 19 in Albuquerque. View more information at or email questions to or call 476-4300. Subsequent meetings are planned for Las Vegas, Roswell, Las Cruces and Farmington.

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