While Monsoon season has already started (and that was a good one yesterday), the dark and heavy rain clouds seemed to skip over Santa Fe more often than not so far this July. We can only hope the rains will come heavier in August. This is one dry, hot summer—one that likely feels even drier and hotter since Santa Fe's swimming pools have remained closed due to the pandemic.

The Southwest is the fastest-warming region in the US—since 1970, the average summer temperature in Albuquerque and Santa Fe has risen by 2.4 degrees and this July several regions in the state broke monthly and daily record highs.

The impacts of hotter drier summers are perhaps most visible in the dry river bed of the Rio Grande where the water has stopped flowing completely for months at a time—the dry patch consuming larger stretches of river bed and lasting longer into the summer each decade since 1990. This month, environmental journalist and contributor to SFR, Laura Paskus, shares a cover story that explores the changing flood and drought patterns of the Rio Grande over the last hundred years as a chronicle of human impact on the environment.

Memory of a River is a beautifully written, self-declared love letter to the Rio Grande. It is also a warning, and a call to action.

Read on for more environment reporting from SFR and others. If you love our environment newsletter, we'd love your help spreading the word! If you've got a story about something happening on the local environmental front that we should know about, write leah@sfreporter.com.

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Regional News

  • The New MexicoEnergy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department takes the next step towards curbing methane emissions in the state with the release of a draft for a new methane capture rule. The draft rule proposes 98% natural gas capture from the oil and gas industry by 2026 and authorizes the state to take enforcement action. EMNRD will take public comments on the new draft rule until August 17.
  • New Mexico PBS started a new initiative documenting PFAS groundwater contamination around the state. Find ongoing coverage and special reports of the issue led by Laura Paksus and in partnership with Frontline on the new Groundwater War website.
  • By the end of the month, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission could come to a decision about what mix of resources will be used to replace power generated by the San Juan Generating Station. Hearing Examiners have outlined two alternative approaches, one of which emphasizes priorities of the Energy Transition Act to move towards renewables as soon as possible. The other approach prioritizes costs and reliability, with environmental concerns coming second.
  • However, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the PRC does not have the authority to force companies to shut down power plants. The ruling will not change the closure of the San Juan Generating Station, but could apply to similar situations in the future.
  • Local watchdog groups call for more public input as Los Alamos National Laboratory is preparing to ramp up plutonium pit production without resuming semi-annual public meetings held between 2005 and 2012, when the Obama administration canceled a nuclear expansion project. Meanwhile, the Rio Grande Sun finds that LANL edited negative financial impacts of the labs out of a recent report.

Around the Web

  • Scientists studied 93 million housing units across the US and found that rich Americans’ homes produce nearly 25% more greenhouse gases than poorer people’s. In a comparison of residential carbon levels by state, New Mexico ranked within the 10 cleanest states.
  • A new report estimates that by 2040, there could be enough plastic pollution to cover an area 1.5 times the size of the UK. This plastic scourge is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. "Plastic has kept many frontline workers safe through this," says one scientist, "But PPE waste over the next decade could be horrendous."
  • Thinking about how to stop climate change can feel utterly overwhelming, and at times, deeply discouraging. After all, just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988, and at the top of the list are oil companies such as Exxon Mobile and Chevron. Besides biking and walking to work more often, there is one way that individuals can directly fight back against these mega corporations: through your bank. If you have a checking account, a savings account, or a retirement account, its highly likely that your money is being used to finance climate change. Together, big banks such as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citi Bank are responsible for pouring trillions of dollars into the oil and gas industry. But there are other banking and investment alternatives, as two teen activists explain this month in an op-ed for TeenVogue.
  • Bank of the West started a new checking account that donates 1% of the profits the bank makes from the account to environmental causes and includes an estimate of the carbon footprint of each of your purchases on your statement. The San Francisco-based bank has a strong track record of divesting from companies and industries responsible for climate change. Bank of the West is owned by European bank, BNP Paribas, which has pledged to divest completely from coal by 2040.