« May 2009 | Main | July 2009 »

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bravo: Rep. Heinrich Signs on to Co-Sponsor Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

MartinHeinrich1CrGreat news! As of Friday, Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-01) is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, which would repeal the U.S. Department of Defense’s policy commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). There are currently 150 co-sponsors of the bill -- and they now including Rep. Heinrich as well as Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), who informed us of his support last week. Every single member of Congress who is publicly supportive of DADT repeal provides a powerful stimulus to the movement to get it passed.

Rep. Heinrich just released the following statement about the bill:

“Serving in the military is one of our most honored and sacred traditions as Americans. To ban someone from serving their country because they are gay only weakens our nation’s security and jeopardizes the prosperity of our country. Thousands of loyal Americans are currently being told that they cannot fight for their country that they love. The current policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is unfair, counterproductive to the advancement of the armed forces and gays and lesbians, and simply must be changed.”

Yesterday, President Obama held a reception at the White House to celebrate LGBT Pride Month and had this to say about repealing DADT:

... I want to say a word about "don't ask, don't tell." As I said before -- I'll say it again -- I believe "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security.

Someday, I'm confident, we'll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst, but as Commander-in-Chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term. That's why I've asked the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal.

I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy -- patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well. But what I hope is that these cases underscore the urgency of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our national security.

Nice words, but many of us want the President to freeze discharges under DADT until new legislation is passed to repeal it. We also want the President to strongly advocate on behalf of the House bill and get things moving on the Senate side. As we've learned by now, the Senate is where so many necessary and progressive pieces of legislation meet their doom. It's up to the President, once again, to push.

Take Action: Please urge President Obama to be more proactive in pushing this and other initiatives aimed at obtaining equal civil rights for all. And be sure to thank Rep. Heinrich for co-sponsoring the bill to repeal DADT.

June 30, 2009 at 02:01 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Latest Greenpeace Sustainable Seafood Scorecard: Whole Foods Slips, Trader Joe's Worst of National Chains Surveyed

In the third edition of Greenpeace’s seafood sustainability scorecard --Carting Away the Oceans -- released today, more than half of the leading supermarket chains in the U.S. have now made some sign of progress in increasing the sustainability of their seafood operations. You can see the full Greenpeace report and details here.

The supermarket chain Wegmans received top ranking followed by Ahold USA, while Whole Foods dropped to third place from its December 2008 first place ranking. Trader Joe’s remains ranked at #17, the worst ranking of the national supermarket chains surveyed. Also trailing behind are Smith’s at #9 and Albertson’s at #13. Surprisingly, Target has the #4 rank, Walmart is #7 and Costco comes in at #10. Trader Joe's and Costco have not many any progress since the last Greenpeace scorecard was issued.

Despite the progress of many companies, all continue to stock “red list” seafood like orange roughy, swordfish, or Chilean sea bass – some of the world’s most critically imperiled species. None of the companies featured in the report guarantee that they won’t sell seafood from fisheries that are harming sea turtles, dolphins, seals, sea lions, or other marine mammals.

"The good news is that seafood sustainability is now on the radar of many major retailers so we are seeing a shift in practices, but much more progress is needed," said Greenpeace’s Senior Markets Campaigner, Casson Trenor, in a press release. "Unfortunately, our oceans remain in crisis and retailers that ignore this fact are contributing to the collapse of our marine ecosystems.”

Of the 20 largest retailers in North America, nine remain that have made no visible effort to increase the sustainability of their seafood operations and continue to ignore scientific warnings about the crisis facing global fisheries and the marine environment. These include: Aldi, Costco, Giant Eagle, H.E.B., Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Winn Dixie.

The rankings:

  1. Wegmans
  2. Ahold USA (Stop & Shop, Giant)
  3. Whole Foods
  4. Target
  5. Safeway (Dominicks, Genuardi's, Pavilions, Randall's, Von's)
  6. Harris Teeter
  7. Walmart
  8. Delhaize (Bloom, Food Lion, Hannaford Bros., Sweetbay)
  9. Kroger (Baker's, City Market, Dillon's, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Ralph's, Smith's, Quality Food Center - QFC)
  10. Costco
  11. Aldi
  12. A&P (Food Emporium, Pathmark, Super Fresh, Waldbaum's)
  13. Supervalu (Acme, Albertson's, Bristol Farms, Jewel-Osco, Save-A-Lot, Shaw's)
  14. Giant Eagle
  15. Publix
  16. Winn-Dixie
  17. Trader Joe’s
  18. Meijer
  19. Price Chopper
  20. H.E. Butt (H.E.B., Central Market)

To help ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems, Greenpeace advocates the creation of a worldwide network of marine reserves and fisheries management based on a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach. Today, supermarkets can help the oceans and meet consumer demand for sustainable products by refusing to sell seafood from fisheries that:

  • exploit endangered, vulnerable and/or protected species, or species with poor stock status;
  • cause habitat destruction and/or lead to ecosystem alterations;
  • cause negative impacts on other, non-target species;
  • are unregulated, unreported, illegal or managed poorly, and
  • cause negative impacts on local, fishing dependent communities

For more information, contact Greenpeace's New Mexico Field Organizer Joe Smyth at joe.smyth@greenpeace.org.

If you really want to get scared about the state of our oceans and the horrible impacts of overfishing and irresponsible fishing, check out the website for the new documentary film, The End of the Line. Also this this commentary on the film by Casson Trenor of Greenpeace.

June 30, 2009 at 11:14 AM in Environment, Oceans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Catch Up With Rep. Heinrich During Independence Day Recess

MartinHeinrichPodiumCrU.S. Representative Martin Heinrich will be back in New Mexico's First Congressional District during Congress' Independence Day recess and will be meeting with constituents and participating in several public events. A commute with constituents on the Rail Runner and a town hall on preserving Social Security and Medicare are on the schedule. See below for details.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

4:15-5:33 p.m. MDT “Commuting With Your Congressman”

Rep. Heinrich will hold office hours on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express to give constituents the opportunity to meet with their U.S. Representative while utilizing mass transit. Rep. Heinrich will answer commuters’ questions and hear about the issues most important to them.

Schedule:
New Mexico Rail Runner Express
Albuquerque Downtown Station to Sandoval County/US 550 Station:

Depart ABQ: 4:15 p.m., Arrive US550: 4:43 p.m. (Train #516)
Depart US550: 5:05 p.m., Arrive ABQ: 5:33 p.m. (Train #511)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

10:00 – 11:30 a.m. MDT
Town Hall: National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

Rep. Heinrich will host a town hall to discuss issues facing New Mexico’s seniors and their families, such as Medicare, health care, and Social Security.

Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center
501 Elizabeth St. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87123

Panelists include:

  • Secretary Cindy Padilla, New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department
  • Ellen Costilla, Manager, City of Albuquerque, Senior Information Programs
  • Mike Wilson, District Manager, Social Security Administration
  • Max Richtman, Executive Vice President, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
  • Dr. Luciano Baca, Public Policy Volunteer, AARP

Rep. Heinrich will also be participating in several events not open to the general public. These include a keynote address to Sandia National Labs employees, the kickoff of a health care listening tour with stops at Case de Salud, Los Griegos Health and Social Service Center and the UNM Department of Emergency Medicine and a tour of the UNM Science & Technology Park.

June 30, 2009 at 08:56 AM in Events, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Social Security | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sen. Tom Udall's Public Events During 4th of July Recess

TomUdallCrU.S. Senator Tom Udall will hold a series of public events in New Mexico this week including town hall meetings in Albuquerque, Socorro, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces where he will discuss and take questions about the challenges and achievements of the first six months of the 111th Congress and distribute his new GI Bill Resource and Application Guide to post-9/11 veterans or their family members in attendance. The Veterans’ Administration will begin distributing these benefits to post-9/11 veterans and family members who qualify on Aug. 1. Staff from Udall’s office will also be on hand to help anyone needing assistance with a federal agency.

Tuesday, June 30, Udall will hold Town Hall meetings in Albuquerque and Socorro followed by Town Halls in Truth or Consequences on Wednesday, July 1, and Las Cruces on Thursday, July 2.

Also in Las Cruces on Thursday, Udall will talk to youth at the Boys and Girls Club of Las Cruces about the dangers of smoking. Congress recently passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of which Udall was a co-sponsor and advocate. As New Mexico Attorney General, Udall successfully sued the tobacco industry, and in Congress he has been a strong proponent of legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products.

Schedule of Events:

Tuesday, June 30

Udall joins the Los Lunas 4th of July Celebration and Dedication of the Fred Luna Senior Center as Keynote speaker

10:30 – 11:15 a.m. Fred Luna Senior Center, 197 Don Pasqual, Los Lunas

Udall Town Hall

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. VFW Post 401, 2011 Girard Blvd. SE, Albuquerque

Udall joins Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Job Corps Tour

1:15 – 2:45 p.m. Albuquerque Job Corp., 1500 Indian School Rd NW, Albuquerque

Udall Town Hall

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Disabled American Veterans, 200 N. 5th St., Socorro
***

Wednesday, July 1

T or C and Williamsburg Town Hall

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. VFW Post 3317, 720 Veterans Way, Williamsburg

Thursday, July 2

Udall Town Hall

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. Boys and Girls Club, 330 W. Las Cruces Ave., Las Cruces

Udall Takes on Tobacco with Boys and Girls Club SMART Living Class

11:00 – 11:30 a.m. Boys and Girls Club, 330 W. Las Cruces Ave., Las Cruces
Saturday, July 4th

Tom and Jill Udall serve Pancakes on the Plaza

7 a.m. Santa Fe Plaza

Udalls Celebrate Independence Day in Rio Rancho, Corrales Parades

Rio Rancho and Corrales

June 30, 2009 at 08:16 AM in Events, NM Congressional Delegation, Sen. Tom Udall, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Two Clean Energy Events on July 1 in Taos with Rep. Luján

BRLEnergyPressConf
Luján at DC press conference last week urging passage of Waxman-Markey bill

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) will hold two events related to clean energy on Wednesday, July 1, in Taos. From Noon to 1:30 PM, the Congressman will participate in the groundbreaking of a solar array at the University of New Mexico Klauer Campus located at 1157 SR 570. From 5:00 to 6:00 PM that day, Rep. Luján will host a town hall at the Rio Grande Hall at the Taos Convention Center located at 120 Civil Plaza Drive. The town hall will focus on the work he's doing to promote renewable energy development and encourage a growing green economy in New Mexico. Residents are invited to provide their input on building a clean energy economy.

“Our country’s dependence on foreign oil threatens our economy and security,” said Rep. Luján. “We need to take bold steps to become energy independent by growing a clean energy economy. With investments in renewable energy, we can create new jobs in a variety of industries across New Mexico. I look forward to bringing this discussion directly to the people of Taos, so we can talk about the steps we need to take to build a clean energy economy in our state.”

Last week, Rep. Luján joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote for H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which he says will create clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and save billions of dollars long term. The Act included language that Rep. Luján worked on to provide funding for clean energy job training and include Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges as Innovation Hubs for clean energy research.

Rep. Lujan views the bill as an important step as we transition to a clean energy economy, and he pushed for stronger requirements in a number of areas.

In May, prior to the beginning of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s markup of the bill, Rep. Luján sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. The letter outlined his priorities for job training and education, a 25 percent Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), investment in smart grid advancement and transmission infrastructure, and comprehensive climate change legislation to reduce green house gas emissions.

This week, Rep. Luján wrote another letter to the Chairmen Waxman and Markey, highlighting three areas in the bill that he believed should be strengthened. His letter called for a higher RES, increased energy efficiency incentives for utilities, and broader net metering requirements to make net metering available to homeowners and other markets.

Next, the U.S. Senate will tackle their version of the bill. Many House members hope the legislation can be toughened in the Conference Committee that will take it up if and when the Senate passes a bill. The fear is that the Senate bill will be even more watered down than the House version. Not good. Many view passage of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House as a big political victory but one that's sorely lacking in many areas needed to effectively counter global warming at the fast pace that's needed.

June 29, 2009 at 04:50 PM in Energy, Events, Green Economy, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Strong Support in NM's 2nd Congressional District for Reforming 1872 Mining Act

In a poll conducted from May 31 thru June 9, 2009 by Harstad Strategic Research for the New West Project, 67% of voters in New Mexico’s Second Congressional District reportedly favored modernizing the 1872 Mining Act. Click for the key findings (pdf) of the survey.

Mining reform has been a hot topic in New Mexico since Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act (S.796) in April, with Sen. Tom Udall as a co-sponsor. According to the poll results, a majority of New Mexicans believe that mining companies should now pay their fair-share for clean-up of the land and water pollution created from their activities.

“Currently, taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of protecting our communities from the danger of abandoned mines,” NM House Majority Leader Ken Martinez said in the press release about the survey. “Senator Bingaman understands that our economic and environmental interests don’t have to be mutually exclusive. This bill strikes a careful balance between protecting a vital part of New Mexico’s economy and ensuring that New Mexicans no longer pay for all the clean-up expenses.”

"We're looking for smart, sensible stewardship of our public lands and we can't have that until the 1872 Mining Law is updated," said John Cornell, campaign coordinator with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. "We need to be able to balance mining with other uses of the land, and make sure our water supplies are protected."

Discussions about reforming our mining laws center focus on:

  • Allowing the mining companies to lease the land they are mining instead of buying it from the federal government for prices as low as $2.50 per acre;
  • Requiring mining companies to pay royalty fees, similar to fees paid by coal, oil and gas companies, that are based on the value of the minerals extracted from the land. Currently mining companies, even foreign-owned companies, get publicly owned minerals for free;
  • Giving state and local governments a say in where mines are located in order to protect tourism revenue, water supplies or other concerns. Currently mining activity is granted automatic priority over all other uses of public land;
  • Strengthening the air and water pollution standards, and hold mining companies responsible for clean-up of any damage they cause to the land and water.

In the recent NM-02 poll, reforming the 1872 Mining Act received overwhelming support from cross-sections throughout the District -- Democrats and Republicans, women and men, Hispanics and Anglos, and across all age groups:

Results

Democrat Republican Independent
71% 61% 65%
Women Men
69% 61%
White Hispanic
71% 63%
18-44 Yrs 45-59 Yrs 60 Yrs +
68% 71% 64%

The June 2009 New Mexico Mining Law Survey was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., a national public opinion research firm in Boulder, Colorado. The results of this survey are based upon 409 random telephone interviews in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. A random sample of 409 voters has a worst-case 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 4.8% about any one reported percentage.

June 29, 2009 at 03:49 PM in Environment, Mining, NM Congressional Delegation, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lt. Guv Candidate Greg Solano Announces Ethics Reform Proposals

GregSolano
Greg Solano on a recent ride

Greg Solano, the Democratic Sheriff of Santa Fe County, announced back in August of 2007 that he would be a primary candidate for the 2010 New Mexico Lieutenant Governor race. The Sheriff comes off as a determined, friendly, down-home kinda guy so I thought I'd forget about the official campaign photo this time and show him in a more informal setting. A relative unknown in statewide political circles, Solano has been working hard at grassroots networking to connect with voters, showing up in many parts of the state at events, meetings, gatherings and more. As he said on Twitter recently, "I will show up to the opening of an envelope." He definitely wants the job and he's obviously willing to work hard to get on the ballot.

Solano is also running one of the most net-savvy campaigns in New Mexico right now. He's long had a personal blog, and now he's accessible on Facebook and Twitter -- where he's a frequent and enthusiastic participant -- as well as on his formal campaign website and campaign blog. Solano encourages folks to post comments, ask questions and interact with him personally using his website and social media, in person, on the phone and via email. Clearly, he believes openness in the political arena starts at the personal level.

On Friday, he released his proposed ethics reforms on his campaign website. In a press release, Solano said he realizes that ethics reforms are needed in New Mexico to protect tax dollars and ensure transparency in State Government, and that he believes true ethics reforms come from the top down and by setting an example in the highest offices of state government.

Sheriff Solano's recommendations, which you can read here in their entirety, stress the importance of transparency and openness in government. He advocates for the creation of an independent ethics commission, as well as public campaign financing and adequate program funding for the offices of Attorney General and State Auditor. Solano also supports providing additional funding and technical assistance for the Office of the Secretary of State to ensure complete and easy access to campaign finance reports.

Another proposal calls for a state-level department of web casting that would be responsible for getting as many state government meetings and press conferences broadcast on the web as possible. Solano suggests that NMStateGov_TV.com or something similar should be created to ensure a one-stop shop to find such web casts.

Solano also promotes the concept that political office is a full time job and should be compensated as such in order to attract candidates who are ordinary working people.

According to Sheriff Solano, “Our citizens need to have faith that their government is open, honest and transparent. While I believe great strides have been made in the last few years, more can be done. These proposals would go a long way to ensuring confidence in state government."

Sheriff Greg Solano
Candidate for Lieutenant Governor
1068 Willow Way
Santa Fe N.M. 87507
Phone: 505-990-1850
Email: solanoltgov@aol.com
Website: www.solanoltgov.com
Blog: www.solanoltgov.blogspot.com

June 29, 2009 at 12:35 PM in 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Ethics & Campaign Reform | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tonight: Champagne & Manicures Fundraiser for Denish for Guv (Only $25)

From Diane Denish for Governor: Please join us tonight, Monday, June 29, for a Champagne & Manicures Fundraiser in Support of Diane Denish for Governor from 6-8 PM at The Spa at Isleta Resort at 11000 Broadway SE in Albuquerque (map/directions).

If you've never been to one of these Denish spa events, they rock. You get all sorts of spa services like a mini-manicure, massage, mini-facial or hairstyling (plus champagne, snacks and desserts) for just $25. Attire is casual.

You may have heard that the suggested contribution for this is $100 -- ignore that. For young professionals it's only $25. (Menfolk -- please pass this info on to the ladies in your life. Or come get manicures & facials with us!) Make checks payable or mail donations to Committee to Elect Diane Denish, P.O. Box 30561, Albuquerque NM 8719.

June 29, 2009 at 10:38 AM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Diane Denish, Events, Local Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obama Online Town Hall on Health Care Reform Wednesday, Submit Question or Comment

President Barack Obama will hold a national discussion on health care through an online town hall meeting in Annandale VA on Wednesday, July 1st, at 11:15 AM MDT. In addition to the live audience, questions will come from online communities such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Click for more information and instructions for submitting a video response to the President. Hint: robust, national public option!

You can also access an online discussion about health care today with the Obama administration's Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle at 3:00 PM MDT at the White House Facebook page. You can also follow the administration at the Twitter account http://twitter.com/whitehouse.

June 29, 2009 at 10:15 AM in Events, Healthcare, Obama Administration, Obama Health Care Reform | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sierra Club to Host Week-Long Environmental Training for NM-TX Youth

From the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club and Sierra Student Coalition are hosting a week-long environmental training program, known as “Sprog,” with youth from all over New Mexico and Texas. The program takes place at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu NM from June 28th thru July 5th. More than 25 students from around the region will convene to participate in an intensive, educational and energizing week-long residential program, designed to provide participants with grassroots advocacy and organizing training. Students will also take part in challenging and rewarding outdoor activities and hear from environmental leaders from across New Mexico.

“The Environmental Youth Leadership Training will help create future environmental and community leaders by introducing, inspiring and educating young people, especially underrepresented minorities,” said Kristina Ortez, the Southwest Representative for Building Bridges to the Outdoors, Sierra Club’s National Youth program. “The students will build on their knowledge about environmental issues facing their local communities and will learn how to become actively involved in the providing solutions.”

“There is no opportunity quite like Sprog,” said David Bronstein, the New Mexico Environmental Youth Leadership Program’s director and a student at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. “It takes students that want to confront the climate crisis we are in right now, and gives them the skills to do so effectively, the mindset to do it strategically, and the supportive community to do it with."

The New Mexico program is one of eight youth leadership summer programs happening around the country. The training will provide students a context and tools to combat issues like climate change and environmental justice in their own communities.

About Sierra Club: The Sierra Club's members and supporters are more than 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is to explore, enjoy and protect the planet. You can find out more about Sierra Club activities in New Mexico at the Rio Grande Chapter webpage.

June 27, 2009 at 10:14 AM in Energy, Environment, Events, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Guest Blog by Laura Paskus: Western Lawmakers Must Support Real Progress on Climate Change Policy

LauraPaskus140So, just a preliminary note to readers: I’d really hoped to get this commentary into print newspapers because I wanted it clutched within the hands of people who might not already understand the severity of climate change issues.

I was hoping that out-of-the-loop grandmothers and conservative middle-aged businessmen would read it, instead of people who already think a lot like me. But after hustling for three days, trying to find a newspaper that would run this, I’ve given up that it will make it into print in a timely manner.

That said, and with the House vote occurring today—and the Senate vote likely soon—I’m asking all you well-connected Internet readers to do me a big huge favor. Waste a little paper for me, would you? Print this out and hand it to someone who might not choose to click on a commentary about climate change. (If you’re really worried about the paper: You can paste it into a word document and use really small font.)

Our challenges are great right now. Only by standing up, reaching out, raising our voices in loud protest will tomorrow’s generations have a chance at lives even half as sweet as ours have been.

Driving west from Grants, New Mexico toward Zuni Pueblo, the morning’s clear light stretches shadows across the desert; lone juniper trees and sandstone outcrops dot a familiar landscape. But as I approach the Continental Divide, stands of dead ponderosa pines line the road; these are trees whose needles were green when I last drove this route five years ago. Today, their brown needles stand stark as stark proof against the blue sky that climate change has indeed come to the southwestern United States.

Later that day, the governor of Zuni tells me they have been experiencing the effects of climate change for about a decade. Rains are unpredictable, he says, as is the growing season. People have long eked a living from this arid landscape by using water wisely and paying attention to the signs offered up by both land and sky.

A month later on the Navajo reservation, I’m struck by haze from coal-fired power plants and oil and gas development; the skies are noticeably less clear than when I worked there in the late 1990s. On reporting trips from New Mexico to northern Arizona and throughout southern Colorado, I spot patches of dead ponderosas and dried-out grazing lands. And everywhere, I find people anxious to talk about climate change.

In Santa Fe, a former burn boss on the Santa Fe National Forest explains that wind patterns in northern New Mexico have changed—and most of the people living within those fire-prone forests realize that: “They say, ‘It wasn’t so windy before,’ or ‘We were supposed to get rain now, and we’re not getting it.’ They started realizing there’s a big change ahead.”

In May, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that without “rapid and massive action” climate change will be at least twice as severe as predicted six years ago—that means a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The U.S. Global Research Program also released its first comprehensive report on the issue; key findings show changes are already underway across the United States—and their impacts are expected to increase.

Unfortunately, climate change is occurring more quickly than political change.

On Tuesday, NASA climate scientist James Hansen and former West Virginia congressman Ken Hechler were arrested along with 29 others for protesting mountaintop removal in West Virginia. Citing the connections between coal burning and climate change, they were blocking traffic to a plant owned by Massey Energy.

Hansen first appeared before Congress more than 20 years ago, urging that body to take action on climate change. For his part, in the 1960s Hechler helped gain rights for coal miners sickened with Black Lung; later, he opposed strip mining. “You are in politics whether you like it or not,” Hechler once said. “If you sit it out on the sidelines, you are throwing your influence on the side of corruption, mismanagement and the forces of evil.”

As a nation, we are facing an emergency—and yet the climate change legislation pending before Congress is woefully inadequate to greet that new world with much beyond empty rhetoric and delayed promises. Throw in a few boondoggles, concessions to the energy industry and the pet projects supported by lawmakers bowing to industry influence, and it’s obvious that the current Waxman-Markey bill serves as a great disservice to the generations ahead who will suffer diminished water resources, agricultural challenges, rising sea levels and increases in diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.

This spring, storms blew tons of Utah’s red soil into western Colorado. As winds picked up in the afternoons, people would emerge from their homes to look up at the coral sky. Twice I stood beneath red mud spattering down from the sky in rainstorms.

Until it melted off, the snowpack on the mountains visible from my front porch was tinted red. That dust hastened an early snowmelt and turned the river that runs through town a murky shade of red.

Such signs do not portend well for the future, and I wonder if my own daughter—three years old now—will grow up believing Colorado’s mountain snows were always red in the spring. Given her curious nature, I know she will challenge me when I say it wasn’t always so—and I imagine she will also ask why we did nothing, even when the signs of change were so obvious before us.

To echo Hechler’s words from decades ago: It is time to stop sitting it out on the sidelines.

This is a guest blog by Laura Paskus. May I say amen, sister? Laura is a freelance environmental journalist who has written for The Progressive, Z Magazine, High Country News, Orion, Santa Fe Reporter and Audubon. A former archaeologist and tribal consultant, she splits her time between Albuquerque, New Mexico and western Colorado and has been covering western environmental issues since 2002. She blogs occasionally at http://environmentalnewsfornewmexicans.blogspot.com/.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

June 26, 2009 at 12:39 PM in Climate, Corporatism, Energy, Environment, Guest Blogger, NM Congressional Delegation | Permalink | Comments (10)

EMILY's List Endorses Diane Denish for Governor

DianeDenish1300

EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest financial resource for women candidates, today announced its endorsement of Diane Denish for Governor of New Mexico -- more than 16 months before the gubernatorial election in November 2010. That means her campaign will be getting early financial support from all over the nation via the EMILY's List network.

“Diane Denish has long been an effective and dedicated leader for the people of New Mexico,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List, in a press release. “As New Mexico’s first woman Lt. Governor, Denish has made children and families a top priority, working to expand pre-Kindergarten programs and planning for economic opportunities for the future workforce. Denish has also worked closely with small businesses across New Mexico to help them connect to public and private programs to foster economic growth. EMILY’s List is proud to support Diane Denish in her bid to become the first woman Governor of New Mexico.”

“I am honored to receive the support of EMILY’s List and its members in New Mexico and across the country,” said Denish. “As Governor, I’ll continue my fight for a brighter future for New Mexico families.”

A lifelong resident of New Mexico, Diane Denish operated a successful small business before becoming Lieutenant Governor in 2002. As chair of the state’s Children’s Cabinet, Denish has worked tirelessly to make sure that the state government fulfills its commitment to support education and ensure the health and safety of children across the state. As a former small business owner, Denish understands that small businesses are the backbone of New Mexico’s economy. Denish has held numerous forums across the state in order to better assist local entrepreneurs and help create a better future for the next generation.

EMILY’s List supported Denish in her campaigns for Lieutenant Governor in 2002 and 2006 through our Political Opportunity Program (POP) that helps women win down-ballot and state legislative races.

EMILY’s List is the nation’s largest financial resource for women candidates. In the 2007-2008 cycle, EMILY’s list raised more than $43 million to support its mission of recruiting and supporting women candidates, helping them build strong campaigns, and mobilizing women voters to turn out and vote. With more than 100,000 members across the country, EMILY’s List is one of the largest political action committees in the nation. Since its founding in 1985, EMILY’s List has worked to elect 79 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House, 15 to the U.S. Senate, nine governors, and hundreds of women to the state legislatures, state constitutional offices, and other key local offices.

June 26, 2009 at 11:35 AM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)