Happy 2021, everybody!! May we all have the opportunity to hug and kiss all of our loved ones at some point this year.

There is so much to talk about today, but we wanted to start by acknowledging a mistake. In December, we suggested you read an anthology of essays called All We Can Save written by female leaders in the climate movement and co-edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, the co-host of the podcast How to Save a Planet. What we did not mention is that the anthology is also co-edited by Katherine Wilkinson, a climate strategist who is the principal writer and editor-in-chief at Project Drawdown and was named one of 15 “women who will save the world” by Time magazine in 2019.

As we learned after correcting the omission, Wilkinson is ALSO the co-host of an incredible climate podcast that we highly recommend called A Matter of Degrees (her co-host on the podcast is environmental policy academic Leah Stokes). As soon as we listened to the first episode we were hooked, and binged on the rest of the season in short order. Our favorite episodes are those that lay bare the corruption of the fossil fuel industry in America. In one episode, for instance, Wilkinson and Stokes discuss how an Arizona public utility spent years undermining pro-solar legislation championed by a Republican public utilities commissioner who has been one of the state’s greatest advocates for a renewable future (just want to point out, again, that saving the planet DOES NOT need to be a partisan issue.) The utility went so far as to finance the campaigns of politicians who would do its bidding and spent huge sums on ads that spread misinformation about the “dangers” of transitioning to solar power.

Another episode reveals the massive multi-billion dollar bailout of fossil fuel companies that was hidden in the COVID-19 stimulus package passed last summer.

Perhaps the most important episode, though, is called “Give Up Your Climate Guilt.” Wilkinson and Stokes talk about how the fossil fuel industry has had a hand in encouraging us to think of ourselves as consumers rather than as political actors. Many of us have come to think that our power lies in buying better products, when if fact, our power as the people lies in demanding better legislation and accountability from our elected officials. No amount of paper straws and compostable take-out containers will save us as long as it’s still legal to make the same products out of plastic and fossil fuel companies are operating with little regulation and massive hand-outs from the government. That doesn’t mean your personal choices to buy used and compost don’t matter—they are part of a necessary cultural shift. But alone, Wilkinson and Stokes argue, they are not enough.

If you want to have a say in New Mexico’s current legislative session that began this week, there are a lot of bills to choose from including community solar, electric vehicle tax credits, a New Mexico green amendment, produced water regulation, and more. Check out what’s on the agenda at nmlegis.gov.

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 leah@sfreporter.com.

From Around the Web:

President Joe Biden took several important steps on his first days in office to combat climate change. He signed executive orders to block the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, and reverse many of Trump’s environmental regulation rollbacks. He also picked former EPA chief Gina McCarthy as the new national climate adviser. Going forward Biden’s climate agenda includes reestablishing an interagency working group that determines the “social cost of carbon,” imposing a moratorium on oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, passing COVID stimulus bills that direct billions into renewable energy infrastructure development and green jobs, and so much more.

New analysis shows that fossil fuel companies “stockpiled” oil and gas drilling permits on federal lands during the last few months of the Trump administration that could allow them to keep drilling for many years regardless of new state and federal drilling bans like the one Biden announced late Thursday and tighter climate regulations. Most of those permits are in Wyoming and New Mexico.

A federal court struck down Trump’s EPA Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule the day before President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Trump’s rule was intended to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that mandated utilities move away from coal-powered electricity generation. It would have allowed the continued use of coal and resulted in additional air pollution deaths in the US based on the EPA’s own estimates.

Elon Musk promised to give a $100 million prize to the developer of the best carbon capture technology. While carbon capture technologies are often bashed by environmental groups for giving fossil fuel companies an excuse to keep drilling, the UN has said we might not be able to achieve global carbon neutrality without removing some carbon from the atmosphere. 

On Monday, world leaders will meet virtually for a Climate Adaptation Summit where they will discuss how to mitigate the impacts of climate change and how communities can develop forward-thinking strategies about how to adapt to rising sea levels, devastating fires, massive waves of new climate refugees and other impacts of climate disasters.

Regional News

The state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation reached a $21 settlement with the mining companies responsible for the Gold King mine spill that sent 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage into the Animas and San Juan rivers in 2015. Both the state and the Navajo Nation have also filed lawsuits against the EPA; the state’s is expected to go to trial next year.

Santa Fe will release 200 acre-feet of water from Nichols Reservoir into the Santa Fe River this week in order to comply with its obligations under the Rio Grande Compact and a request from Texas to release as much water as can be spared as soon as possible.

Santa Fe City and County drafted a new water sharing agreement that would allow the city to use the some of the county’s allocation of water from the Rio Grande throughout the year. At times when the Buckman Direct Diversion—the city- and county-owned plant that pumps and treats water from the Rio Grande—has to be shut down because water levels in the river get too low, the county would be retrieve the amount of water it had lent the city from the city’s other sources.

This month, the New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department heard 10 days of testimony at a public hearing on its proposed new methane regulations. The department’s Oil Conservation Commission will reconvene on Feb. 11 to deliberate on which of the proposed changes to adopt.

SFR’s Environment News

Forever Pollutants

New PFAS study reveals contamination persisting in NM’s waters, including above Santa Fe’s river diversion

The Southwest’s Race Against the Climate Clock

New Mexico is facing a drier than normal winter, with reservoirs nearly tapped out and predictions for worse conditions

New Mexican Economists Warn: Change Course Now

More than 40% of New Mexico’s income relies on oil and gas, leaving the state vulnerable to the industry’s boom and bust cycle

Garbage to Gas

Monte del Sol wins prize in Governor’s STEM Challenge for a biodigester project to turn cafeteria food scraps into fuel

The Case for Compost

Residential composting service becomes an unexpected result of the pandemic