We are only 10 days away from an incredibly fraught election that will have a major impact on the environment. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have two very different approaches to the environment. Trump’s track record has been all about deregulation in the name of “energy independence,” with rollbacks of nearly 100 environmental rules over the last four years. He’s also pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and does not have a plan to tackle climate change. Biden has a $2 trillion plan to bring the US to net-zero emissions by 2050, putting the US back on track to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement.Dare we say the fate of the planet is on the ballot this year?
Congressional and local races matter for the environment too, though things get a bit muddier in this arena. In the US Senate Race between Democratic US Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Republican TV meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, for example, the campaign websites for both candidates fail to offer concrete ideas about what kind of legislation they would pursue when it comes to the environment. Instead, Ronchetti states that he is generally against the “Green New Deal” and “dismantling our energy economy,” while Luján is generally in favor of “clean energy policies” and renewable energy innovation.
For more info, check out NM Political Report’s interviews with New Mexico’s federal candidates about the environment. Not all candidates responded to the publication’s interview requests, but the ones who did are Ben Ray Luján and Independent Bob Walsh for the US Senate; Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland for the 1st Congressional District; Independent Steve Jones for the 2nd Congressional District; and Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez and Republican Alexis Johnson for the 3rd Congressional District.
There’s also a question on the ballot about whether the Public Regulation Commission should remain an elected body or become an appointed one. Those in favor of gubernatorial appointments argue that it would reduce corruption and increase the likelihood that the people in charge of our utilities would be experts in the field. Those against argue that appointments would further concentrate power over utilities and our energy future in the hands of the governor and take power away from voters, which could be bad for the environment if a governor gets elected who is not in favor of environmental protections.
Here’s a list of all the Election Day Voting Convenience Centers that will be open on Nov. 3 from 7am to 7pm. Keep reading for local 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 email@example.com.
Want to receive this monthly news roundup? Sign up to get it in your mailbox.
From Around the Web:
The East Troublesome fire burning in Colorado burned 170,163 acres as of Friday morning, making it the second largest fire on record in Colorado and leading to evacuations of several towns. The three largest fires on record in the state have all happened in 2020. As it turns out, most states do not require sellers or landlords to disclose wildfire or flood risks to new homeowners or renters and most people have no idea their homes are in the danger zone.
This year, climate change is getting air time in national presidential debates for virtually the first time ever. We say, it’s about time. However, the results were more anxiety-provoking than anything else. Trump unsuccessfully pushed for the topic to be removed from Thursday night’s debate in the weeks leading up to the event. Highlights: When asked how he would protect communities of color near chemical plants and refineries who suffer disproportionate climate impacts, he said those communities have benefited economically from those industries. Biden, meanwhile, said he would get rid of oil and gas subsidies.
JP Morgan Chase, the world’s largest oil and gas financier, became the latest big bank to declare climate commitments that align its lending program with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, including net-zero emissions by 2050. For the bank to go from lofty ideals to real-world change, however, takes a lot more than a pledge.
US cities are the perfect example of this gap—only 45 out of 100 of the country’s largest cities have set climate goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and of those 45, most are failing miserably to meet them. Woop.
Now, for the good news: Restoring sea grass in lifeless bays is proving to be an effective method for restoring the wider ecosystem and can lead more fish and other aquatic life to recover as well.
PNM Resources, the parent of Public Service Company of New Mexico, announced that it has been purchased by the national utility company Avangrid for $4.3 billion. Avangrid is, in turn, owned by the Spanish international conglomerate, Iberdrola. The company is well known for its investments in wind and other renewable resources. PNM claims the merger will help it to achieve the renewable energy standards adopted in New Mexico last year with the Energy Transition Act.
On Oct. 5, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments the case, New Mexico v. Texas, regarding a dispute about water allocation between the two states under the 1947 Pecos River Compact. The conflict has to do with whether New Mexico owes water to Texas due to the evaporation of 8.6 gallons of water from a reservoir near Carlsbad. State officials held back the regular flows from the reservoir to avoid flood damage following a major storm in 2014. The decision could come at any time before the end of the Supreme Court term in June 2021.
The US Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), located near Carlsbad, is one of only three deep geological repositories for nuclear waste in the world. This month WIPP announced plans to expand to eight new underground chambers, which officials from the plant say will allow it to continue taking waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear facilities indefinitely.
New Mexico-based agricultural education and advocacy group the Quivira Coalition will open the application for its New Agrarian Program on Nov. 1. The program offers an 8-month paid apprenticeship in regenerative agriculture with ranchers and farmers across the West who are skilled in regenerative land management practices. New Mexico mentors include grass-fed beef producer C4 Farms. Check out SFR’s coverage of their new meat processing facility from last summer.
SFR’s Environment News
Dead in the Water
Gila River diversion is off the table after a decade of battles and millions in federal funds. Now, New Mexico needs to dredge up a new plan.
After the Burn
Lessons from the Medio Fire, a tribal perspective, and questions about what comes next.
A Cry for Critters
WildEarth Guardians sues feds for killing thousands of coyotes and other critters.
New Mexico Senators Push for Dutch Salmon Act
Bill would protect stretches of the Gila River in New Mexico from development and protect habitat for endangered species, while preserving irrigation and ranching.
Fracking’s Fall in the San Juan Basin
As the fossil fuel economy craters in northwestern New Mexico, will departing drillers clean up after themselves?