Wednesday, August 15, 2012
8/28: Water Movie at NHCC: Screening - Last Call at the Oasis
Burque Bioneers hosts a monthly screening series focused on inspiring social and scientific innovation in our community that respects and fosters well-being for the web of life in the mid-Rio Grande valley. We partner with a number of local organizations and businesses to show thought provoking films and build an ongoing dialogue about the environmental, social and economic challenges we face and the creative ways we can address them.
Screenings are typically held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and are free of charge.
Last Call at the Oasis
On August 28th, 7PM At the National Hispanic Cultural Center in the Bank of America Theatre, 1701 4th Street
Less than 1 percent of the world’s water is fresh and potable—and no more will ever be available. Thanks to pollution, global warming, and population growth, water access is poised to become today’s most explosive global issue. No resource on earth is more precious—or more endangered—than water. Last Call at the Oasis is a powerful tool for learning about the water challenges we face as well as the remarkable solutions available to us—if we have the will to use them.
This event is sponsored by National Hispanic Cultural Center, La Montanita Coop and KUNM 89.9 FM
This screening is free and open to the public; donations for the Last Call at the Oasis and Burque Bioneers gratefully accepted.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Wild Wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico
The wildfires burning at 1.5 miles an hour in Colorado and New Mexico. Devastating. Barb and I loved Colorado. We took many many trips up into the mountains. In 2009 we went to the Cache La Poudre River canyon, just west of Fort Collins. We rented a cabin for a week and got our first up close view of the health of the forest with the bark beetle infestation. It was not on our radar at all but what we saw was forests mile after mile dead. Dead trees, millions of dead pine trees, rendering entire forests dead.
We had both heard of the Bark Beetle (Pine Beetle), we knew the Pine Beetle was wreaking havoc, but to see the full extent was shocking and sad. I can remember thinking this is as bad as the gulf coast disaster but in a different way. There is very little coverage of this disaster, the killing of whole forests happened fast, and it is already gone. These hundreds of square miles of standing ghost trees are a tinderbox waiting to happen.
Here is a link to an article from the NY times published in 2008. There is an excellent 6 minute video within the article describing the Pine Beetle infestation, how they infiltrate the tree, and kill the tree.
There are not many articles that tie the Pine Beetle's killing of entire forests to these very wild wildfires, burning intensely hot and very fast. But it does not take a rocket scientist to determine that forest that are full of dead trees will burn fast and hot.
The Pine Beetle has done much damage and it is not finished in some forests. It is clear the pine beetle has been able to survive because of warmer temperatures in the winter, more very cold below freezing days would kill the beetles off. In the natural past cold winters kept the forest in balance. We are watching more collateral damage of global warming, too much fossil fuel burned, too much living out of balance. Bye bye to the beautiful back forests along the Cache La Poudre river, see ya next life time.
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Bingaman, Udall & Luján Request Santa Clara Flood Preparation Assistance
In anticipation of the summer monsoon season, U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman, Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján are urging three federal agencies to commit resources to prevent catastrophic flooding in Santa Clara Pueblo that could occur as a result of the 2011 Las Conchas Wildfire.
In a letter to the Department of the Interior, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers the officials thanked the agencies for providing support in the aftermath of the Las Conchas Wildfire and asked them to quickly renew their efforts in order to protect the pueblo from this continued threat.
“Even a small rain event last summer led to intense flooding, the emergency evacuation of personnel in the canyon, the nearly complete destruction of the access road that runs up the canyon, and a Presidential Disaster Declaration,” they wrote. “A larger rain event would flood the pueblo itself, putting lives at risk, as well as hundreds of homes and the pueblo’s administration buildings.”
The Las Conchas Wild Fire stripped the Santa Clara Canyon of vegetation and hard-baked the soil, creating a dangerous funnel that routes surface water down the canyon toward the pueblo.
In the last 15 years, wildfires have burned more than 80 percent of the pueblo’s forest, resulting in the loss of natural resources, habitat and sacred sites.
- the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) Advance Measures program, authorized by 33 USC 701n and implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers, allows for the funding of flood control work in anticipation of post-fire related floods in northern New Mexico;
- the Bureau of Indian Affairs has the authority and should identify funds so that the Santa Clara Pueblo can engage in critical long-term planning for recovery from the fire and subsequent flooding; and
- funding for repair and renovation of water control structures in and out of the Santa Clara Canyon, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has under review, should be provided as soon as possible so that work can begin immediately.
The Santa Clara Pueblo has a long road ahead, but with your support, the lives and property of the people can be protected, while the mission of restoring the canyon and forest can go on.
Jeff Bingaman, United States Senator
Tom Udall, United States Senator
Ben Ray Luján, Member of Congress
Sunday, April 01, 2012
Governor Martinez Establishes New Task Force
Breaking news! Following the New Mexico State Engineer’s decision on March 30, 2012 [OSE File No. RG-89943] dismissing the San Augustin Ranch, LLC water rights application, Governor Susanna Martinez announced the creation of a new task force -- the Building Resilient Communities Task Force.
The stated goals of the task force are to examine the impacts of climate change on New Mexico communities (both urban and rural) and make recommendations by October 1 for building stronger, more resilient communities to be better prepared to adapt and respond to the serious impacts predicted by the scientific community. Governor Martinez will review these recommendations to determine what her administration can implement immediately and what might be appropriate legislation for the Legislature to take up in 2013.
“The Building Resilient Communities Task Force will pick up where Our Communities, Our Task Force left off in 2007,” Governor Martinez said. “We must not drop the ball. Under my predecessor’s leadership, New Mexico began to ask the tough questions. It is more important than ever to search for the answers today with the impacts of climate change, the economic meltdown, and other challenges confronting New Mexico.”
Lora Lucero, an Albuquerque land use attorney, city planner, writer, and climate activist, has accepted the role of leading the Building Resilient Communities Task Force which will be comprised of members from the previous task force. “I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Lucero responded. “Climate change is a non-partisan issue which impacts us all, and our children’s children, without regard to political affiliation. I look forward to working with everyone on the Task Force over the next six months and including the public in this very important work.”
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Energy Efficiency is Good for NM: Building A Better America
Energy Efficient Buildings Would Reduce Global Warming Pollution, Save New Mexican Families $309 Annually (photo to right by amerigreen, insert by dfnm)
New Mexican families could save $309 every year on their electricity bills by 2030 if the government invests in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a new report by Environment New Mexico. Saving energy in our buildings would also help New Mexico’s fight against global warming, reducing global warming pollution from buildings by 31 percent—the equivalent of taking more than 657,000 cars off the road.
“It’s time to build better,” said Sanders Moore, Director, Environment New Mexico. “Bold efficiency measures for buildings can cut energy use in our homes and businesses by almost a quarter by 2030, reducing pollution and saving consumers money.”
Right now, 40 percent of the energy used in America goes to heat, cool, and power our buildings. And because much of this energy comes from dirty and dangerous sources like coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, this accounts for nearly half of global warming pollution in the country. Furthermore, much of this energy is wasted, flying out of leaky doors and windows. This high level of energy consumption pumps billions of tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere and costs Americans nearly $400 billion every year.
Our report, Building a Better America: Saving Energy and Money with Efficiency, analyzes the benefits New Mexico would see if we committed to dramatically improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. The report uses government data to estimate reduced energy consumption, decreased fossil fuel use, money saved on energy bills, and global warming pollution prevented in 2020 and 2030.
Making our buildings more efficient would:
- Reduce the projected energy use of New Mexico’s buildings 28% percent by 2030
- Prevent the emission of 7.85 million tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, the equivalent of taking 657,000 cars off the road.
- Save the average New Mexico family of four $309 a year by 2030.
“That’s the best part about making energy efficiency improvements,” said Moore. “They pay for themselves as consumers enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year.”
Gary Goodman, Chief Executive Officer of Goodman Realty and owner of Hotel Andaluz stated that “energy efficiency is a ‘win-win’ proposition. There is a good payback on the investment, we promote our local economy, conserve resources and reduce pollution. In addition, there is a very real opportunity to make Albuquerque and New Mexico a national leader in the field of resource management.” (Photo above by treehugger, insert by dfnm.)
Environment New Mexico is calling for policies that will help us reach our efficiency goals, including:
- Steady improvements to building codes over time so that all new buildings are increasingly efficient, culminating in a zero net energy standard by 2030, when new buildings should be so efficient that they can produce all the energy they need on site using renewable energy like wind and solar.
- Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
- Supporting innovative financing mechanisms that will unleash public and private investment in building efficiency.
As documented in this report, successful efficiency programs and incentives at the federal, state, and local level are already paying off, saving consumers money and dramatically reducing energy use. For example, Silver Gardens, a mixed-income, award-winning apartment building in downtown Albuquerque is helping tenants maintain low electric bills by reducing overall energy use by a minimum of 27% over conventionally constructed buildings. Shelly Capone with Romero-Rose, the developer and owner of Silver Gardens noted that they are “very proud to have produced a high energy efficient, mixed-income apartment complex on a former brownfield site in downtown Albuquerque.”
“There are already thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country, Silver Gardens apartment building and Hotel Andaluz are two examples right here in downtown Albuquerque” concluded Moore. “Most buildings last for decades, so investing in energy efficiency locks in savings for years to come and builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.”
Friday, March 16, 2012
One out of Two New Mexicans Live in Areas Hit by Recent Weather Disasters
Las Cochas Fire June 2011 Photo above from Sallie Bingham
Report from Environment New Mexico: Environment New Mexico is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to protect our air, water, and open spaces.
Interactive Online Map Shows County-by-County Weather-Related Disaster History
After a year that saw many parts of the country hit by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, severe storms and record flooding, a new Environment New Mexico report documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future. The report found that, already, one in two New Mexicans live in counties affected by federally declared weather-related disasters since 2006.
“Over 1 million New Mexicans have lived through extreme weather causing extremely big problems for New Mexico’s economy,” said Sanders Moore, Environment New Mexico Director. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”
The new report, entitled In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2006 through 2011 to determine how many New Mexicans live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available on Environment New Mexico’s website. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming such as sea level rise.
Key findings from the Environment New Mexico report include:
- Since 2006, federally declared weather-related disasters affected 23 counties in New Mexico – or nearly 1 of every 2 New Mexicans. Recent weather-related disasters include flooding in Cibola, Los Alamos, and Sandoval counties, severe winter storms in the Pueblos, and severe storms in Luna, Otero, and Mora counties.
- In 2011 alone, federally declared weather related disasters affected nine counties with over 364,000 residents. Nationally, the number of disasters inflicting more than $1 billion in damage (at least 14) set an all-time record last year, with total damages from those disasters costing at least $55 billion.
- Nationally, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected counties housing 242 million people since 2006—or nearly four out of five Americans.
- Other research shows that the U.S. has experienced an increase in heavy precipitation events, with the rainiest 1 percent of all storms delivering 20 percent more rain on average at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning. The trend towards extreme precipitation is projected to continue in a warming world, even though higher temperatures and drier summers will likely also increase the risk of drought in between the rainy periods and for certain parts of the country.
- Records show that the U.S. has experienced an increase in the number of heat waves over the last half-century. Scientists project that the heat waves and unusually hot seasons will likely become more common in a warming world.
- Other research predicts that hurricanes are expected to become even more intense and bring greater amounts of rainfall in a warming world, even though the number of hurricanes may remain the same or decrease.
Moore noted that global warming is expected to have varying impacts on different types of extreme weather events. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that it is “virtually certain” that hot days will become hotter and “likely” that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase worldwide, there is little scientific consensus about the impact of global warming on events such as tornadoes. In addition, every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather.
“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Moore. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”
The report was released as the Obama administration is finalizing historic new carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, and as the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to develop carbon pollution standards for coal-fired power plants—the largest single source of the carbon pollution that is fueling global warming. At the same time, some polluting industries and their allies in Congress are working to block these and other clean air standards.
Environment New Mexico applauded U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall for their continued efforts to hold polluters accountable by rejecting attacks on clean air standards.
“We applaud the Obama administration for the clean car standards they are finalizing, and urge EPA to move ahead with strong carbon pollution standards for coal-fired power plants,” said Moore. “The extreme weather we suffered through in 2011 is a frightening reminder of why we must do everything we can to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that is fueling global warming, and lessen the threat of even worse extreme weather in the future.”
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Environmental Improvement Board Gives Industry Everything, But It's The Public Who Pays
Image found at Corporate Carbon Burden
From the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.
As expected by proponents of the statewide carbon pollution cap and trade law (Rule 350), the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) unanimously voted today to repeal the controversial regulation. In deliberations that lasted about three hours, EIB based its decision on the belief that Rule would be too burdensome on the New Mexico economy and that the costs outweigh the benefits.
“The hearing initiated by EIB and PNM et al. was a very expensive formality,” says Bruce Frederick, New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) Staff Attorney. “They essentially already agreed to repeal the regulations long before the hearings began. By law, EIB must be an impartial decision maker. In this case, however, it is not impartial.”
The NMELC and its client New Energy Economy (NEE), has fought for the protection of Rule 350 since the New Mexico Environment Department, the original champion for the Rule, began advocating for its repeal under Governor Susana Martinez.
"It's a shame that this administration is pandering to the few monied voices and leaving the public out in the cold,” says Frederick. "The regulations we support would have been an important regional solution to climate change at very little cost. What just occurred will cost tax payers much more - the public will pay higher rates for their energy and they will pay with their health.”
The NMELC plans to file an appeal for its client.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Youth Spend Day in Court Fighting for Climate Change Protection
From Wild Earth Guardians: Government’s failure to act is endangering the well-being of future generations
Today, New Mexico youth and WildEarth Guardians will go to New Mexico First Judicial District Court to defend their right to a healthy earth and sustainable future. They hope that Judge Sarah Singleton will rule in their favor in what experts have called one of the most remarkable legal actions that has the potential to halt human-induced climate change.
On May 4, 2011, seven young plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Governor Martinez and the State of New Mexico, No. D-101-CV-2011-1514, to compel the State to prevent further increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and to compel government action in reducing CO2 emissions. Though 16-year-old plaintiff Akilah is young, she has been fighting to protect the environment for many years through environmental service projects along the Rio Grande and educating the youth of the State about the imminence of the climate change crisis through her leadership role in Kids vs. Global Warming. WildEarth Guardians works to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy in order to safeguard public health, the environment, and the Earth’s climate for future generations.
Akilah’s and WildEarth Guardians’ drive in entering the lawsuit also comes from the alarming research of our nation’s top scientists. According to leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, “the science is crystal clear—we must rapidly reduce fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions if we are to have a chance of protecting Earth’s natural systems for these young people.”
The New Mexico lawsuit is part of a larger, innovative climate litigation strategy—the international iMatter Trust Campaign. As part of this campaign, youth plaintiffs launched legal actions in 49 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to a federal lawsuit.
The young plaintiffs have based their lawsuit on the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires sovereign governments to manage and protect vital, natural resources for the common benefit of its citizens. By evoking this doctrine, the plaintiffs are not asking for monetary or punitive damages. They are instead petitioning the court to require that the State of New Mexico fulfill its obligation to protect the climate from excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which will ultimately protect New Mexico’s resources for future generations.
There is evidence that New Mexico is particularly vulnerable to climate change and must develop and implement an informed plan to protect the State’s public trust resources. In its Statement of Reasons for adopting Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Provisions issued on November 10, 2010, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board acknowledged that “[c]limate change caused by anthropogenic emissions of GHGs will have a particularly severe impact o[n] the American Southwest, including New Mexico. The warming trends in this region are double the annual global average.”
According to Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, attorney for the plaintiffs, “our State has an obligation to our youth to ensure the protection of natural resources on which their security and livelihood depends. That is the essence of the public trust, and it is broken when it comes to climate.”
In July of last year, the State of New Mexico and Governor Martinez filed a motion to dismiss the case.
To protect Earth’s natural systems and our way of life, the consensus among scientists is that average global surface heating must not exceed 1 °C and CO2 concentrations must decline to less than 350 parts per million this century (we are currently over 390 ppm). To accomplish this reduction, Dr. James Hansen and other renowned scientists conclude that carbon dioxide emissions need to peak in 2012 and decline by 6% per year starting in 2013.
If this is not accomplished, the predicted human-induced impacts of climate change in New Mexico are severe. In a recent report by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation predicted a temperature increase of 5-6°F for the Upper Rio Grande Basin in the 21st century, accompanied by a decrease in precipitation. Consequences of increased temperatures include decreased snow pack, decreased water availability for agriculture, and reduced habitat for riverine species. Hotter temperatures coupled with decreased precipitation will pose challenges to human health and increase the risk of wildfires, which threaten the State’s forests, ecosystems, and rural populations.
Despite the plaintiffs’ formidable scientific and legal claims, the state is asking that the public trust case be dismissed. Today, state attorneys will raise jurisdictional defenses in an attempt to prevent the court from hearing the substance of the case. Ultimately, it will be Judge Singleton, who will consider the arguments and decide whether to give New Mexico youth a chance to state their case on the merits and move one step closer to a real climate recovery plan.
“If our government doesn’t act quickly to plan for my future, fossil fuel emissions will dictate the future of my entire generation,” says plaintiff Akilah Sanders-Reed. “I’m not old enough to vote yet, but I have rights. I hope the court will do the right thing and hear our case.”
Friday, November 11, 2011
NEW MEXICO EIB RECEIVES TESTIMONY EVALUATING PUBLIC COSTS OF CARBON POLLUTION RULES’ REPEAL
From the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and New Energy Economy:
Measures to Reduce Carbon Pollution Will Address Threats for Public Health, Drought and Wildfires
New Energy Economy yesterday filed expert testimony with the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) that highlights growing threats posed by increasing rates of carbon pollution to New Mexico’s public health and economy.
“We’ve heard a lot from industries about the costs of reducing pollution, but they never acknowledge that their corporate profits are obtained at the expense of our health and well-being. PNM profits because it does not have to pay for the damage they cause to our health and the environment,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director of New Energy Economy. “Asthma rates are rising and the historic drought and wild fires we see now have enormous costs and will continue to rise as climatic change intensifies. We must address this clear and present danger with policies to reduce carbon pollution.”
The expert testimony filed yesterday includes Dr. Robert A. Goldstein, former Chair of the Division of Pulmonary Disease at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, provided testimony on the negative health impacts of coal pollution. The largest sources of carbon pollution in New Mexico are PNM’s coal-fired power plants. And testimony from Dr. David Gutzler, a well-respected climate scientist and professor at the University of New Mexico, provided testimony on the scientific consensus that increasingly severe climate change is being caused by rising levels of carbon pollution.
• One in four New Mexico high school students has asthma.
• Direct health care costs for asthma in the US total more than US $11.5 billion annually.
• Health effects linked to coal combustion emissions damage the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems and contribute to four of the top five leading causes of death in the US: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
Highlights from Dr. Gutzler’s testimony include:
• Adverse effects of climate change include increased frequency and severity of drought, less snowpack and streamflow, and more heat waves.
Bruce Frederick, staff attorney with the New Mexico Law Center, said “Last year, the EIB said climate change is expected to result in large economic costs, which for New Mexico, are estimated at $3.2 billion per year, or $3,430 per household in 2020, rising to $5,410 per household in 2040. The costs will only rise the longer we wait to act.”
Frederick added: “We’ll also present the very recent confirmation by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project that confirms the fact that surface temperatures have increased significantly over the last 100 years. BEST is a group of scientists, including Professor Richard A. Muller from U.C. Berkeley, who were partially funded by the Koch Brothers, climate change skeptics.”
New Energy Economy and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center led a two-year public process that led to the creation of New Mexico’s landmark carbon pollution reduction law. The rule requires facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon pollution per year to reduce these emissions by 3 percent per year from 2010 levels starting in 2013.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
PRC Commissioner Jason Marks to Speak at Upcoming National Energy Events
This month, Jason Marks, District 1 Commissioner for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC), is taking New Mexico’s progress in energy development to the national stage as an invited speaker at several energy events around the United States.
His first engagement -– the Solar Power International convention and exhibition in Dallas, Texas -– will feature Marks talking to engineering firms and utility companies about the Southwest’s maturing solar markets. Next, Marks travels to Chicago to speak to utility executives from around the country about regulatory issues at an Electric Utility Consultants, Inc. conference titled, “Electricity Pricing: The Impact of Regulation, Renewable, Distributed Resources and Enabling Infrastructure.”
On October 27, Marks serves as a panelist at a joint meeting of the Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation and the State Provincial Steering Committee on the Federal Energy Regulation Commission Order 1000, which lays out new requirements for regional transmission planning and cost allocation. FERC Commissioner -- John Norris -– will speak at the same meeting.
During his time on the PRC, Marks has become a sought-after speaker on energy policy and regulation in the US. The Commissioner’s involvement in regional and national efforts on regulatory issues and renewable energy has benefits for New Mexico and businesses interested in coming to our state for energy development projects. Commissioner Marks’ travel expenses are generally paid by conference organizers or grants, and he is known for having a very modest state funds travel budget.
Since being elected to the PRC in 2004, Marks has helped pass renewable energy rules to create targets in New Mexico for solar energy and distributed generation. He has also been an advocate for addressing climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Marks is an elected member of the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) governing board and the Scenario Planning Steering Group for the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC). Marks also serves on the DOE-sponsored State and Provincial Steering Committee for Western Transmission Planning, the Advisory Committee for New Mexico State University’s Center for Public Utilities, and the State of New Mexico Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. He has also chaired reliability compliance hearing panels for WECC.
Photo by M.E. Broderick.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Lora Lucero Guest Blog: Climate Perspectives
This is a guest blog by Lora Lucero, a long-time resident of Albuquerque, NM and an adjunct professor of law at UNM. Climate change is a major focus of her research and writing, and she serves as the Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.
Tempers got hot Sunday during the panel discussion at the Albuquerque Jewish Community Center. An estimated 150-175 people attended the “Perspectives on Climate Change” presentation organized by the New Mexico Chapter of the Fulbright Association. The University of New Mexico’s Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and the League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico co-sponsored the event.
Senator Jeff Bingaman opened with pre-recorded remarks about the seriousness of the climate change threat.
Retired PNM-CEO Jeff Sterba shared the business perspective with his considerable experience working on the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a national group of businesses and environmental organizations that unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to pass climate change legislation in 2009.
Sterba was followed by UNM Professor David Gutzler who can aptly be described as New Mexico’s resident science expert on climate change. He shared the science behind global warming with lots of charts and graphs. Although scientists acknowledge that any single data set might be limited and have flaws or errors, Gutzler made the point that all of the data sets, taken together, point in the same direction. The earth is heating up and humans are a contributing factor to the steep rise we see in all of the data sets since about the 1950s.
Many scientists don’t know how to translate their field of science for public consumption, and the gulf between what the scientists believe and what the policy makers understand appears to be growing. Professor Gutzler is an excellent bridge between the two. His take-away messages were (1) the “increased CO2 concentration is human-caused, no doubt about it” and (2) we are “long past the time to question the science.”
Mark Boslough, a physicist with Sandia Laboratory, discussed the potential consequences of climate change. His presentation raised my blood pressure and I think added a palpable tension to the room. Sandia Labs does a lot of risk assessment work, and Boslough spoke about climate change in terms of the risks we’re facing, using the phrase “global catastrophe.”
He noted there is a range of opinions falling between climate deniers on one end and climate alarmists at the other. He effectively used the analogy of the game of Russian roulette when he talked about the risks versus the consequences, and said that “nobody can say there is NO chance of global catastrophe.” All climate risk assessment models point to some risk.
Boslough went through several global warming predictions made by scientists as far back as the late 1800s up to the current work of James Hansen from NASA, who believes that it’s “game over” if the Keystone XL Pipeline is built to open up the Alberta Tar Sands. The point is that this climate change discussion is not new, but it may be more urgent now than ever before; it certainly is more controversial today.
Jeff Sterba, representing the business perspective, said it was “far better to believe there is a problem and address it now, and be wrong; than do nothing and be wrong.”
He blamed the climate naysayers, the “extreme” environmentalists, the public distrust of financial markets and even President Obama for Congress’s failure in 2009 to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). The legislation might not have been “perfect” he admitted, but at least it set us in the right direction. Sterba predicts that no progress will be made in DC before 2014 or beyond, but he encouraged the audience not to wait for Congress to act. He wants to see a price on carbon, but climate change is off the public’s radar now. Individuals’ demand and patterns of consumption are what drives business, he noted. We can make a big difference by our individual purchasing decisions.
All three speakers shared a sense of urgency about addressing climate change. The audience appeared to be in agreement, with the exception of one outspoken critic. I didn’t expect tempers to fly, but at one point during the Q & A, a shoving match ensued and security was called into the room. No doubt, climate change provokes passion on all sides, as it should when we’re talking about the risks of a global catastrophe.
As Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, I asked Mr. Sterba to respond to the fact that PNM is fighting against a carbon cap in New Mexico, while he advocated in DC two years ago for a carbon cap. Full disclosure: the LWVNM is actively supporting the carbon cap rule adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board in late 2010. The newly-appointed members of the EIB will consider overturning that rule in December 2011.
Sterba’s response was a disappointment, but predictable. He believes a statewide cap on carbon emissions will “disadvantage” New Mexico when other states do not have a similar regulation. The League’s opinion? New Mexico’s carbon cap may not be “perfect” but at least it sets us in the right direction.
This is a guest blog by Lora Lucero. All photos by Lora Lucero. Click on images for larger versions.
If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Guest Blog: Out with the Good, In with the Bad? Don't Let ABQ City Councilors Scrap 2009 Energy-Saving Building Code!
Rational and sane policymaking is like an endangered species in today’s hostile, polarized political climate, at the national level as well as in New Mexico under Governor Susana Martinez. Sadly, this means common-sense rules like energy-saving building codes for new construction, are under attack after years of hard work to develop the best safeguards for New Mexico.
Energy-saving building codes can help New Mexico save consumers money on their electric and gas bills, improve public health by cleaning up the air we breathe, and meet the challenges of climate change. But earlier this year, the Construction Industries Commission appointed by Governor Martinez scrapped the statewide energy conservation building code that was adopted by their predecessors in 2010, before it went into effect. While challenging this ill-advised decision in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, proponents of energy efficiency are now battling to maintain Albuquerque’s city building code, which has been in place since December 2009.
Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis introduced a bill on August 1 to scrap the 2009 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code (AECC) and replace it with the state’s energy-wasting code that has yet to be finalized. That’s right -- City Council is considering adopting a building code that hasn’t even been finalized! Councilor Jones managed to pull the bill from the Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Committee (LUPZ), and the misguided measure is now before the full City Council. A vote on the bill could come as soon as Monday, October 17, but may be deferred until an updated Economic Impact Analysis is completed.
Maintaining Albuquerque’s 2009 energy code is essential for all Albuquerque residents, not just tenants of new buildings, who will enjoy lower monthly electric and gas bills. By cutting both overall and peak demand on the PNM electricity generation system, all ratepayers benefit from energy conservation codes. Energy-saving codes also reduce the need for utilities to build expensive new power plants, acting as an insurance policy against future rate hikes.
Energy-saving building codes also make homes and apartments more affordable for residents, by lowering building operating costs. This is especially important for low income households and seniors on fixed incomes, who cannot afford higher energy bills. We saw the terrible consequences when people are unable to afford to heat or cool their homes during extreme weather, in February of this year when temperatures reached record lows.
Energy-efficient commercial buildings would also give businesses a competitive advantage over others saddled by excessive energy costs, freeing up more money to invest in communities and in creating jobs. Businesses could spend more of their hard-earned revenue on training and hiring employees, buying equipment, contracting with other businesses for services -– core business expenses that are vital to economic growth for our city.
With the rates for electricity and natural gas on the rise, Albuquerque’s energy conservation code prepares the city for the future and provides us with a strong return on the up-front investment in energy efficiency.
It makes no sense to scrap the Albuquerque code for the state plan, given that the 2009 template is outdated, and will need to be updated in 2012. The 2012 national template reaches the same level of energy savings as Albuquerque’s code -– 30% more energy-efficient than the baseline code. If Albuquerque scraps its current code, only to revise it to return to the same level of energy savings within a short time, that would put Albuquerque builders on a rollercoaster ride and cause massive confusion in the construction industries.
Currently, Albuquerque’s energy-saving building code is an asset and an opportunity for local economic development. We are in an excellent position to build a “green building materials” industry that can supply builders with energy-efficient windows, doors, and insulation that meet Albuquerque’s code. When other states and locales adopt the 2012 IECC, they could turn to Albuquerque for the energy-efficient products and supplies.
Mayor Richard J. Berry and City Councilors Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis’ attempt to roll back Albuquerque’s energy-saving building codes is a capitulation to special interests like NAIOP-NM and the Central NM Home Builders Association. For the majority of Albuquerque homeowners, residents, commercial building tenants, and businesses, there's no good reason to follow Governor Martinez's backwards march to scrap common sense energy-saving building codes.
Join us in defending Albuquerque’s energy conservation code and preparing Albuquerque to be leader in an energy-efficient, 21st Century economy.
Call City Council President Don Harris (505-768-3123) & Urge him to Vote NO on scrapping the 2009 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Shrayas Jatkar, Sierra Club-NM Field Office
Tammy Fiebelkorn, e-Solved Inc.
This is a guest blog by Shrayas Jatkar and Tammy Fiebelkorn. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.