Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) Dec. 2010 eNews

For those concerned about the upcoming legislative session, excerpt from the NMELC December 2010 eNews (Link to full NMELC eNews issue link>>>>):

"There have been significant gains for communities and the environment in New Mexico during the past eight years but, based on

NM Legislature
The sixty-day session begins
Jan. 18th
statements made by Governor-elect Susana Martinez during her campaign, and on statements by industry groups, it is clear that many of those gains will be under attack during the 2011 legislative session that begins on January 18th.

Some of the most important issues that may be considered during the session are nullifying newly-adopted climate change regulations, weakening oil and gas regulations, and challenging local authority to regulate oil and gas development and uranium mining.

We, along with other organizations, will continue to advocate for strong protections for our natural resources and environment. To get involved, please be in touch with your legislators about critical issues by email or by telephone. You can learn more about these and other particular pieces of legislation via the NMELC website. There, you can get timely information via email alerts, follow us on Twitter and "like" us on Facebook."

by Douglas Meiklejohn, Executive Director

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brazil to replace oil rigs with 'underwater cities'

The Telegraph

"Traditional oil rigs will be replaced with “underwater cities” within a decade under ambitious plans being drawn up by Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned energy group. "

"Petrobras plans to turn science fiction into reality to extract oil from the vast pre-salt oil fields discovered off the south east coast of Brazil.

The plan is to construct 'cities’ more than 2,000 metres under water, containing machines, giant pieces of equipment and robots that could inspect the systems being used to extract millions of barrels of oil. Many operations would be fully automated while others would be controlled by humans at a distance." More>>>>

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Workshop

EPA recently announced the Hydraulic Fracturing Study technical workshops occuring in February 2011. According to the flyer, "EPA is seeking subject-matter experts to participate in technical workshops for the Hydraulic Fracturing Study. Experts will contribute to the workshops as presenters and provide technical knowledge during workshop discussions."

The deadline is January 3, 2011. See pdf flyer at the following link>>>>.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Fe's water consultant said to have altered earlier water study in California


Listen at

"Exclusive: KSFR News has learned that the private consultant hired by the Buckman Direct Diversion Project to assess the safety of water from Rio Grande allegedly altered scientific information in a similar study of water done more than a decade ago in California.

The study was about the toxin and carcinogen Chromium-6. The issue comes to light as the environmental advocates named theEnvironmental Working Group release results of a nationwide study of Chromium-6 found in tap water in Albuquerque and other big cities. The story is potentially germane to Santa Fe's water because the private consultant, named ChemRisk, in the earlier water-study allegation has recently given Rio Grande water a clean bill of health for Santa Fe.

Was the carcinogen Chromium-6 found in Albuquerque water during the past year? That's when Albuquerque started dipping into the Rio Grande for its own water supply. Renee Sharp of the Environmental Working Group says that's precisely when her organization took the water samples.

Buckman project chief Rick Carpenter tells KSFR he has just become aware of the allegations but is convinced the work by the ChemRisk consulting group in Santa Fe's case is valid. " To listen online, go to link>>>>.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Official: Audit of state Land Office a 'joke'

The New Mexican
Staci Matlock

"The general counsel for lame duck New Mexico State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons called a recent special state audit of the State Land Office "a joke."

"Either they (state auditors) are incompetent or this is just a political witch hunt, which is a shame," said Robert Stranahan on Monday.

The 71-page special audit, released Dec. 8, included 15 "findings" on 100 state trust land transactions conducted by the State Land Office from 2002 to March 11, 2010.

The report concluded that the New Mexico State Land Office had weak internal controls, arbitrarily changed appraised land values and failed to follow the public bid process.

The State Land Office oversees 8.5 million acres of surface lands and 13 million acres of mineral rights in New Mexico. Revenue from the sale or lease of those lands for grazing, mining and energy development benefit public schools and other institutions.

State Auditor Hector Balderas looked at land exchanges or leases statewide, including a controversial exchange of land around White Peak in northeastern New Mexico and a land deal with Rio Rancho and Lions Gate Entertainment, (.)" More>>>>

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Richardson dumps plan for wild-horse haven to help shore up budget

Santa Fe New Mexican
by Kate Nash
Dec. 15, 2010

"The state won't buy a private ranch to expand the Cerrillos Hills State Park and establish a wild-horse sanctuary south of Santa Fe, Gov. Bill Richardson's office said Wednesday, calling the move "unfeasible."

Richardson had been heavily criticized for the idea, which would draw millions of dollars from a pot of federal economic-stimulus funds that are being spent at the governor's discretion.

Instead, Richardson will use $3.1 million to help stave off additional state-employee furloughs and layoffs amid a projected state budget shortfall of $400 million.

"While the purchase of the ranch was a great opportunity for the state, and would have been a big boost to tourism and the local economy of the Galisteo Basin, moving forward at this time is unfeasible," Richardson said in a statement. The governor is in North Korea on an unofficial diplomatic mission." More>>>>

U.S. Sues Companies for Spill Damages

The New York Times
by John Schwartz
Dec. 15, 2010

"The Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in New Orleans against the oil giant BP and eight other companies over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although the complaint does not specify the damages that the administration is seeking, the fines and penalties under the laws that are cited in the complaint could reach into the tens of billions of dollars.

“We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference.

Mr. Holder said the department was “making progress” on a criminal investigation of the companies involved in the spill.

The Deepwater Horizon rig burned and sank in April, killing 11 workers and leaving the well it was drilling to gush out of control on the gulf floor. Millions of gallons of crude oil spilled before the well was capped in July.

The government is alleging violations of federal regulations concerning the operation and safety of oil rigs, including the failure to take necessary precautions in securing the rig before the explosion and the failure to use the safest drilling technology.

The nine defendants include BP and its partners in owning the well, Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX Offshore 2007, as well as BP’s operating partners, including Transocean, the owner of the rig, and insurers. The 27-page complaint was filed in Federal District Court in New Orleans, where thousands of spill lawsuits have been consolidated.

A leader of the group of plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case, James Roy, welcomed the newest litigant, saying, “We look forward to continued cooperation with the U.S. government in pursuit of justice for all victims of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.”

Halliburton, the contractor for the cement work on the well, was not named as a defendant, but Mr. Holder said the complaint could be amended later. The complaint specifically cites failures of cementing as a factor that contributed to the spill." More>>>>

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wind power versus vistas: Residents want 3-mile setback for utility-scale project

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 12/13/10

"The San Miguel County Commission is scheduled to vote on a revised ordinance governing wind-energy farms this week in Las Vegas.

A proposed wind farm by Chicago-based Invenergy, on mesa-top trust land leased from the New Mexico State Land Office, prompted an immediate backlash from nearby villages and a call for more space between the farm and private homes.

The residents living near and on Bernal Mesa, where the wind farm is proposed, want a three-mile setback from the closest residences.

Invenergy has proposed a 1,500-foot setback.

San Miguel County was the first in the state to approve a wind ordinance seven years ago when the wind industry was in its infancy. But it wasn't designed for utility-scale projects. The Invenergy project would involve up to 50 turbines each standing more than 350 feet tall and capable of producing 1.5 megawatts of energy.

The ordinance, which applies to any wind farms in the county, will dictate how the Invenergy project ultimately looks, according to Mark Jacobsen, the company's director of business development.

Unlike public utilities such as Public Service Company of New Mexico, wind farms aren't governed by the state's Public Regulation Commission unless the facility is larger than 300 megawatts. Since wind farms are technically free of any emissions, they aren't overseen by the state Environment Department. But wind farms have to follow county ordinances. " More>>>>

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NM judge hears first pit rule challenge

For background, go to:

Pit Rule Appeal Hearings on December 10th

Some citizens attended the hearings. Some of the issues raised by industry lawyers were interesting. For example, OCD (Oil Conservation Division) is charged with protecting waste and one definition of waste is to obtain every last drop of hydrocarbon from a well or then there would be waste, industry claims. Another industry argument is that if there are competing concerns such as economic versus environment, then economic trumps. So, according to industry, the OCC (Oil Conservation Commission) and the OCD violated these by adopting the pit rule.

Such reasoning could lead to the conclusion that the regulatory charge of OCD is promote for the well interest owners' benefit the maximum amount possible extraction from wells and to not promulgate rules that could have adverse economic impacts, great or small, to those interests even if there were adverse impacts to the environment.

Another way to look at the apparent industry point of view, whatever is in the interest of the oil and gas industry is good for New Mexico. Evidently, the oil and gas industry has decided that the pit rule is not good, thus it is not good for New Mexico.

For a brief Associated Press article about the hearing, click here>>>>.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beyond Fracking: Experts Challenge Safety of Exploratory Wells, Vertical Drilling

"For more than two years, the natural gas drilling debate has focused primarily on the use of hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells. But expert testimony submitted for a government hearing next month challenges long-held assumptions about the safety of deep vertical drilling and exploratory wells, which operate in many states with limited regulatory oversight.

The administrative hearing will be held by the Delaware River Basin Commission [1], a federal agency that regulates a variety of water and land activities in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. At issue is the commission’s June 2010 determination that companies that drill exploratory wells—wells that are drilled to test theories about where gas might be found—must obtain the agency’s approval before drilling within its jurisdiction, and whether or not 11 exploratory wells in Pennsylvania that have already been approved should be exempt from the regulation.

The commission rarely holds hearings, and the progress of this one is being followed closely by industry and environmental advocates because of its implications for the drilling boom in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale rock formation, which underlies much of the basin." More>>>>

The Pledge to Protect New Mexico

During her campaign to become Governor, Governor-elect Susana Marinez promised environmental rollbacks, such as to the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) "pit rule." Please note, the OCD is under the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) and the head of EMNRD is a cabinet position. According to the New Mexico Independent, the oil and gas industry dominates Martinez's energy (EMNRD) and environment (NMED) search team. According to Democracy for New Mexico (DNM), "Martinez's campaign was heavily supported by people in the oil and gas industries." So, who is beholden to whom?

Again, according to DNM, the Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) "CVNM today (12/2/10) announced the release of a new website that tracks the responses of New Mexico state legislators to a pledge to protect New Mexico’s environment. The Pledge to Protect New Mexico, which was sent to all 70 state representatives and representatives-elect and 42 state senators, affirms that the signee agrees not to weaken any existing environmental protections in the state of New Mexico."

DNM further states, "New Mexicans can visit the Legislative Pledge website,, to find out if their state legislators have signed the pledge. Visitors to the website can then contact their legislators to let them know that they care about environmental issues by thanking them for signing the Pledge or encouraging them to sign if they have not already.

“As transparency and accountability of elected officials have become more important” said Buffett, “New Mexicans deserve to know which legislators are committed to ensuring that we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”

Visit the Pledge to Protect New Mexico Website: Visit CVNM Education Fund:"

Related posts:

Susana Martinez and the Oil & Gas Industry Talking Points

NM: Oil and gas industry dominates Martinez’s energy & environment search team

Pit Rule Appeal Hearings on December 10th

Buckman Direct Diversion: Groups say river-toxin report deficient

Watchdogs want more work on water-quality study as city, county project prepares to draw from Rio Grande

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Sunday, December 05, 2010

"In January, the first gallons of river water from the Rio Grande will be diverted through the new $216.3 million joint city and county project, treated, commingled with other waters and sent through a pipe to customers' taps.

A 317-page draft technical report by two companies skilled in analyzing water quality and health risks of nuclear-weapons materials is supposed to answer the fundamental question: Is that water from the Buckman Direct Diversion project safe to drink in the short term and the long term, since it is downstream from Los Alamos National Laboratory waste sites?

The two companies — ChemRisk and AMEC Earth and Environmental — were hired by the Buckman Direct Diversion Board to conduct the analysis." More>>>>

Headwaters Economics: The Economic Benefits of Southern New Mexico’s Natural Assets

From the Headwaters Economics newsletter:

"Conserving one of southern New Mexico’s greatest assets, the region’s enchanting natural areas, is a foundation for economic vibrancy and quality of life. Tourism alone is the state’s second largest industry, bringing more than $5.7 billion to New Mexico annually. A sustained effort to protect wildlife, increase outdoor recreation, and restore watersheds and forests provides direct benefits, including new jobs in local communities..

This report examines how investments in conservation and restoration can provide not only an immediate return through employment and revenue, but also help promote long-term economic growth and development that extends far beyond tourism. In today’s economy, the greatest value of southern New Mexico’s natural amenities and recreation opportunities lies in their ability to attract and retain people, entrepreneurs, their businesses, and the growing number of retirees who locate for quality of life reasons." Newsletter>>>>

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mining Firms Race to Bulk Up

Commodities have had nice price run up. Gold is well over $1,400 an ounce. West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil ($WTIC) continuous contract prices ended just shy of $90 per barrel yesterday. In December 2008, it traded as low as $35.13 -- a 254% high/low price increase. Unleaded Gasoline continuous contract ($GASO) has increased from a December 2008 $0.82 low to close yesterday at $2.35, a 286% run up. So what does this mean for the extractive industries? See the following WJS article:

Wall Street Journal


"Tom Whelan, a partner at Ernst & Young's mining and metals practice said that the these deals stem in part from a cash buildup among mining companies. Commodity prices for iron ore, copper, zinc, coal and other metals and minerals recovered quickly after the economic downturn in 2008.

"We've had 18 months of spectacular earnings," he said. "Major and mid-tier producers are getting cashed up quite nicely."

Moreover, building a new mine is becoming more difficult due to political and social concerns, as well as worries about fickle foreign governments changing rules.

"Getting a social license to cooperate has become so difficult," says Glenn Ives, chairman of Deloitte & Touche in Canada and head of its North American mining group. Still, he said, mining companies are willing to take risks because of strong prices.

The high commodity prices "are making every region, no matter how dangerous, attractive," including Afghanistan." More>>>>

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pit Rule Appeal Hearings on December 10th

New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC)

"On December 10, 2010, the NMELC and its clients, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), will go to court to defend the hard-won Oil & Gas Pit Rule. The hearing will be held in Santa Fe, NM in State District Court beginning at 2:00 pm. Both the industry's appeal of

Gila River
Gila River, Silver City, NM

the Pit Rule and the politically-motivated rollback of the chloride standard will be argued at the same proceeding. The hearing is open to the public." More>>>>