The LANL Plume Update & New Energy Economy Scores a Rare PRC Win

Lots to share today. I can’t stress it more strongly: You need to take seriously the NM Environmental Department’s permit hearing on Nov 7. Details from Retake and TEWA within. We end the blog with a song from one of our friends, David Berkeley with an invite to a post-election celebration on Friday, Nov 16.

Protest LANL Approach Remediation of Toxic Plume & Permit Process That Excludes the Public.  DP 1793 is the permit that will be discussed at the NM Department of the Environment on Wednesday, Nov 7 at 9am. Permit 1793 was actually approved by NMED in 2014 without there ever being a public hearing. Last week I wrote a detailed post on the toxic plume issue and what Communities for Clean Water and TEWA Women’s United are trying to do to voice concerns both about the remediation being proposed and the process used to exclude stakeholder involvement in the problem-solving process that was conducted behind closed doors.  Click here to review the post from last week. If you haven’t read it already, it will give you the important background information. And, dear friends, this is a very big deal. The water supply for Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Espanola and beyond are threatened by the three toxic plumes and it is criminal the degree to which the public is being kept in the dark. For example, I wonder how many of our readers even knew that this hearing is being held. And if it were not for some tenacious advocates and a vigilant court, this hearing would not be occurring. Read on.
Despite being petitioned by Communities for Clean Water, TEWA Women’s United and other environmental organizations to hold a hearing on the permit, the Department dismissed that petition with this response:  “Your request for a public hearing on the January 8, 2014 ground water Discharge Permit application for the Los AIamos National Laboratory Groundwater Projects has been denied by the Secretary. It is the opinion of the Department that NMED has drafted a Discharge Permit that provides transparency and opportunity for community involvement at an unprecedented level.” Unprecedented indeed: no hearing. What kind of public input process is that?
Well, the courts agreed and forced NMED to hold a public hearing and that is what will transpire on Nov. 7. In this post not on the threat to our water, but on the NMED’s obvious preference for the public to remain uninformed and unengaged and then offer you options for doing something about it. So what evidence do I have to conclude that NMED is intentionally keeping us in the dark?
  • First and most obviously, NMED had to be forced by the courts to even conduct a public hearing;
  • Second, I dare any of you to find the public notice for the hearing on the NMED website. I needed to call Steve Pullen the program manager to have him help me wade 5 levels within the bowels of the department’s website, clicking on links that in now way were intuitive. But we found the notice, safely out of sight;
  • Third, the permit itself is located in what is call the BURT, a rolling document of permits, attachments, and notices with an index of sorts. I have done a good deal of work with the Housing and Urban Development, the US Department of Education, Medicaid, and other labyrinthian bureaucracies, but NMED far exceeds them in being impenetrable.  But with Steve’s help I was able to get to the right BURT page. And what did I find?
  • Fourth, a cover letter that utilizes acronyms and terminology and code references that are virtually impossible to follow, followed by the permit with attachments, all 250 pages of it couched in scientific jargon that in no way invites community understanding. Click here to review a full pdf of the permit. 
  • Fifth, the mere time of the public hearing, scheduled for the morning after the mid-term elections at 9am, a day when quite obviously many active residents will be up late watching returns
  • Sixth, the means by which one is supposed to provide public written comment is nowhere publicized and the ‘process,’ such as it is, is one of simply writing an email to the NMED program manager overseeing the process. How this will become part of the public record is beyond me.

I developed some simple speaking points to guide you in writing to NMED followed by the contact information where your comments should be sent.  I would steer clear of the myriad scientific details and focus upon the process and the need to better engage the public as sustained partners in the monitoring process. Please stress that:

  • The absence of scientific certainty as to the risks of harm resulting from the proposed remediation is unacceptable;
  • The absence of baseline data on surface water and land where treated water is proposed to be distributed means it is utterly impossible to measure the impact of distributing 350,000 gallons of treated water daily. How do we know if the remediation is making things worse, if we don’t know the baseline.
  • The withholding from the public of results of monthly testing until 15 months later when an annual report is published is simply unacceptable and again points to NMED’s intentionally keeping us in the dark. Why not post the results in a brief monthly update in lay terms so it is easily understood by non-scientists and engineers?
  • The failure to include stakeholders such as the surrounding pueblos, residents, businesses, acequia associations, and environmentalists in the monitoring process speaks of a hubris that is unacceptable. The public trust was broken by the leak of contaminants that threaten our way of life. Our we trust those responsible for the leaks to manage the monitoring with integrity and candor?

Mail your comments to:

Just as I completed the work above, I got an email from Beata Tsosie-Pena, from TEWA.  The information below is the result of the work of TEWA and Communities for Clean Water. It includes a toolkit for preparing for the hearing and some far more detailed speaking points than what I provided above. From TEWA:
“We now have two open windows of opportunity through which to communicate with the Department of Energy (DOE), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), N3B, (the new Legacy Cleanup Contractor), and the NM Environment Department:
1) November 7, 2018: The Public Hearing scheduled by the New Mexico Environment Department and continuing on as needed. The hearing starts at 9 am and will be held at the Los Alamos Magistrate Court, 2500 Trinity Drive, Los Alamos.
2) The period of time leading up to the Public Hearing and the time immediately following the Public Hearing

We’ve put together an Action Toolkit to help you prepare to effectively participate in the public hearing. Please share this Toolkit with anyone who is interested in this issue.

We’ve also created this Facebook event for the hearing as a way to reach more people. If you are active on Facebook, please do RSVP there and share it with friends.”
I’d strongly encourage all of you to attend this hearing. NMED, the US Department of Energy and LANL need to understand that we are not going to accept being the sacrifice zone created by their tinkering with our planet.


Donate to Support Refugees Worldwide.  A Retake volunteer, Judy Klinger, wanted to know if there is a way to donate to members of the refugee caravan streaming northward. I poked around a bit, but the best resource I could find was the UN Refugee agency UNHCR. They offer opportunities to donate monthly or one time and they are a 501-c-3 so it is deductible. From their website:

A monthly gift to USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is more than a donation. It’s a lifeline. It means the UN Refugee Agency can respond – quickly, effectively, compassionately – whenever and wherever violence erupts or disaster strikes. It means refugees rebuilding their lives can receive cash assistance, household essentials and education. And it means vulnerable children, women and men around the world will have hope for a safer future – not just today, but every day of the year.”

Become a monthly hero for refugee families everywhere: Make your gift today.

  • USA for UNHCR is a non-profit 501(c)(3)
  • Gifts are 100% tax-deductible
  • All donations are processed securely
  • As a donor, you’ll receive updates on how your gift helps families like these
  • Any amount you give can help ease the suffering of those in urgent need

Click here to donate to the USA for UNHCR.  Now that you are likely done with donations to your favorite candidates, maybe you can find a way to donate to this worthy cause.

New Energy Economy Wins One at the PRC

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to grant New Energy Economy’s motion to dismiss a solar project proposed by El Paso Electric (EPE). The project would have resulted in customers paying a premium who subscribed to get their electricity from EPE’s solar project.

The 2-megawatt EPE-owned solar project was promoted to help lower-income New Mexicans gain access to solar electricity. The program, however, would charge customers a far higher rate for the electricity than a similar project recently proposed by Southwestern Public Service (“SPS”) through a contract with an independent power producer. The SPS levelized cost is $45.46/MWh versus the higher EPE levelized cost of $78.41/MWh. The levelized cost of the SPS project is 42% less than the EPE project.

Commissioners are bound by law to seek out the most cost effective option among all feasible alternatives when approving proposals. EPE discriminated against competitors that could’ve offered a better deal for New Mexicans despite their own history of buying lower cost solar from independent power producers to save ratepayers money. EPE’s request for proposals limited proposals to build an EPE owned solar array on EPE owned land. And when a for profit utility owns something, they make you pay, big time.

In their vote, the three women commissioners, Linda Lovejoy, Valerie Espinoza, and Cynthia Hall voted to uphold a fair and legal process for approving such projects. Commissioners Sandy Jones and Patrick Lyons had used the banner of “low-income” in their attempts to railroad the illegal and expensive solar project through a rushed approval process. Despite Lyons and Jones repeated efforts to convince the other commissioners that the project would help low-income New Mexicans, Commissioner Hall accurately pointed out during the meeting that “the detriment for low-income people arises when we don’t look at the best opportunities for the lowest cost possible.”

“NMPRC Commissioners Sandy Jones and Patrick Lyons disingenuously used the banner of “low-income” in their attempts to justify the illegal, and expensive solar project,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director, New Energy Economy. Kudos to my good friend Mariel. She doesn’t win often in front of the PRC, a situation that will change when we elect Steve Fischmann to the PRC.

A Lovely Song, a kind of ode to all things important from David Berkeley

David will be performing at  Tumbleroot Brewery 11/16 7pm. He’s pal of ours and not only a tremendous singer songwriter, but a witty as hell storyteller as he moves from song to song in concert. Here’s the ticket link: He’ll be signing songs from his new EP that releases this Friday. And his music has a political edge, as does his witty banter. He uses his music to try not to be divisive but to s+till motivate change and empathy. There’s a gun violence song, an immigration song, a song about suicide, a Trump song, and the song and the video below..
The album is called The Faded Red and Blue. People can get it at or at  But since it is not available until tomorrow, you can get a sample by clicking below.









Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife

Tags: ,

8 replies

  1. This is an excellent heads up. Thank you. I also found your related post, “It’s Not Our Fault, Except That It Is” very informative.

  2. Paul – when I call the number listed above – 505-827-2692 – I get a voicemail message for “Tamara Valencia”.

    I went to the website – it looks like you’ve transcribed the numbers – according to the website, his number is :



    • Fixed. And thanks for correcting me and for taking action on the plume. I hope we win hugely (and early) on Tuesday. Running on fumes. Paul

  3. Hi Paul and All,
    Thanks for checking into the difficulties about learning about the chromium, perchlorate, and RDX plumes at LANL that are traveling through groundwater to the Rio Grande.

    Four sample public comment letters are available at They are in word and can be modified as needed. They cover:

    general issues;
    the use of mycelium to remediate the chromium plume;
    concerns about the cleanup level LANL proposed and NMED accepted with no technical basis that LANL could cleanup up the plume even more; and
    use of the precautionary principle, where the communities are more involved in the decision-making processes.

    The email addresses are provided on each letter. You can cut and paste the letter into an email. Or print it out, sign it, and mail it in.

    Also testimony will be taken after introductions on Wed. morning, Nov. 7th, after lunch, at 4 pm, and during natural breaks between testimony. We anticipate the hearing will continue into Th., Nov. 8th.

    Joni Arends
    Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, a member organization of Communities for Clean Water

    • That testimony will be taken at different times during the day is a welcome piece of news. I will call the program manager on M to confirm this as it will make a big difference to folks up late at night for returns, many of whom will have been canvassing like crazy people for two weeks or more and were looking to Wednesday as a needed day off. No rest for the weary. Thanks so much. Tuesday’s blog will include an update on LANL.

  4. We are so grateful for all the people that have been working to get folks to the polls!

    To save time, the Hearing Officer’s scheduling order explains about the public comment periods. See the first paragraph at

    The sample public comment letters are also available at


  1. Mid-Term Viewers Guide & Scorecard | Retake Our Democracy
  2. NM Blue Tsunami but US Results Disappoint. Dems Retake House, Fall Flat in Sen. & Gov. with So Many Close Races | Retake Our Democracy

Leave a Reply