BLM Deadline for Chaco Fracking Is Today & PRC Commissioner Fischmann Details All That is Wrong with SB 489

Chaco Cyn Commentary to BLM is due today, amendments to SB 489 have been submitted to bill sponsors, and a curious twist in the hearing on SB 196, No Resources for Federal Immigration. That and NM joins 15 states in lawsuit to halt Trumps bogus national emergency. Call to action on SB 489. We are asking to pause the rush to pass 489 and examine amendments and concerns.

Apologies. This is a long post because we have vital information about climate legislation and about a BLM deadlines for comment on fracking very near sacred Chaco Canyon.  That deadline is today. We provide an email I got from PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann and guidance from Chaco Canyon advocates on how to provide comment to the BLM. Onward. Given the length of this post, I’ll just note that I am proud that NM joined California and 15 other states in filing suit against Donald Trump and his preposterous national emergency. Votes matter. It is good to have Democrats on the 4th floor and in the Attorney General’s office….oh And Bernie Sanders just announced his run for President. At it is only 6:12 a.m. What more does the day have for us?

Roundhouse Roundup:

SB 196, No Resources for Federal Immigration.  Bills advanced by our ally Somos Un Pueblo Unido had been sailing along but may have hit a snag in SB 196 No Resources for Federal Immigration was sailing along when Senators began to question the possible loss of federal funds as recrimination for our taking a stand against Trump’s immigration policies. Things spiraled quickly with Senators projecting the possibility of all kinds of federal funds. In the halls afterward, Marcela Diaz, Somos Un Pueblo Unidos opined that this was all a false alarm but the Senators passed an amendment to the Do Pass approval of the bill that would send the bill to Senate Finance Committee. This is not good, but not all is lost, as the committee was confused as to the parliamentary process here as a committee can’t assign a bill to committee. it is hard to tell where this will wind up, but hopefully NOT in Senate Finance.  Stay tuned.

More Retake Bills Advance.  HB 210 Community Solar, one of our MUST PASS bills, passed the House last night after a three hour debate.  HB 89 Health Coverage for Contraception, one of our Priority bills also passed the House last night, again after a lengthy an largely silly debate coming from the GOP. We will report on any Democratic Party defections when we see the final votes.

PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann Comments on SB 489

I got this email from PRC Commissioner Steve Fischmann last night. He has a stake in the SB 489 bill as he sees clearly what I fear, that the bill has subtle language–undoubtedly crafted by PNM attorneys–that allows them to recover far more in “stranded assets” than would occur if the normal PRC-driven abandonment process were to take place, something that Fischmann and others at teh PRC clearly feel SB 489 would prevent.

I have seen flyers and read announcements pointing to the long list of legislators and environmental advocacy organizations that support the bill. And I have spoken with leadership like Tom Solomon 350NM, David Coss, Sierra Club President and highly esteemed former Mayor of Santa Fe, and Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Executive Director. These are people I respect, people who Retake Our Democracy has stood beside on issue after issue. I have spoken to legislators who have said quite candidly: “No, I haven’t read the bill, but Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of NM and Somos support it, so I assume it has been vetted.” And I know that leadership from Sierra Club, CVNM and 350NM have read the bill, and likely have read it very closely. But I also wonder how many skilled regulatory attorneys from these organizations have poured over all 83 pages of this torturously complex bill and how many have simply said: “Sierra Club, 350NM and Somos support it. How bad could it be?” In 98% of the instances when I would see the lineup of supporters for 489, I’d skip reading the bill and sign on. You have to trust your allies. But then you see experts at the PRC say the bill doesn’t do what is purported, you hear from PRC members who are beyond alarmed and you say to yourself, maybe this needs a closer look.

Lead supporters for the bill claim, without much by way of real specifics, that SB 489 protects PRC authority and does not bypass the PRC’s role in determining the legitimate level of funding PNM should receive for their stranded assets. They claim that ratepayers are protected and the PRC will protect us from PNM’s absolutely certain effort to build a massive gas plant in San Juan.  But 489 supporters have been largely silent as to why the PRC is so convinced that SB 489 is a PNM-manufactured script for foisting costs on ratepayers, building a gas plant and bypassing PRC authority.  It is time to stop the posturing.

Amendments have been submitted to bill sponsors and the governor that would close the gaping loopholes through which PNM could march….and trod all over our planet and their ratepayers. It is time to consider those amendments and weigh whether some very well-intentioned legislators and organizations have been tricked. It is time to ask the Governor, Senator Wirth, Speaker Egolf and bill sponsors to gently apply the brakes, get the PRC and environmental advocates in the same room with the bill language and the amendments and determine what is really being proposed and how to make sure that ratepayers are protected and PNM hasn’t done an end around the PRC and a slew of highly respected environmental organizations. 

Below are Steve Fischmann’s concerns. Steve is highly respected in the Roundhouse as a former Senator. Let’s hope these words cause pause.

1. Why are advocates and, presumably, PNM so set on avoiding the normal abandonment process?  Are they afraid of what a normal bookkeeping and management review process will find?  Are they trying to hide something?  After all, there are many other ways to give PNM a sweetener in return for an RPS without circumventing normal process transparency.  Why this route?
2.  How can customers be assured SB489 saves them money when most of the information relevant to that analysis is being suppressed by avoiding the normal abandonment review?
3.  What is the long term impact of sending a message to utilities that they can do an end around at the legislature every time they fear what the PRC might do?
4.  The San Juan closure process is so far along that there appears to be no way to prevent it.  The neighboring coal supply plant is bankrupt, PNM has announced the closure in SEC filings, all of the partners in San Juan report they are unable to sell their share of the plant and do not plan to get power from it beyond 2022.  Does this bill really expedite San Juan closure?
5.  With recent wind plus storage quotes at half the cost of the cheapest gas plants and solar plus storage quotes at 70% of the cost of gas plants, how big is the risk of replacing San Juan power with fossil fuel plants?
6.  Should ratepayers reimburse PNM 100% of San Juan’s unrecovered costs and then cover the full cost of replacement power?  Aren’t we asking ratepayers to pay twice?  40% of these folks live at 200% of the poverty level or below. Traditionally, the risk of economic obsolescence is largely assumed by utility investors – not just ratepayers.  Shouldn’t the PRC evaluate how much of the pain investors should share?
An aggressive RPS may be good policy, but is the current SB489 the way to get it?  Let’s make it a better bill by maintaining regulatory authority at the PRC and maintaining transparency in the PNM abandonment process.
Best,
Steve
Maybe it is time to ferret out the truth.  Please and write and call the Governor, Speaker Egolf, Senator Wirth and the bill sponsors and ask them to pause the process, meet with the PRC and determine if this crucial bill needs amendment. What is the harm in being deliberate about something so important?

To voice your concerns about the bill, please call the governor’s office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (505) 476-2200 or email her Constituent Services staff at Tina.Archuleta@state.nm.us. 

Speaker Brian Egolf, also a sponsor

  • Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4782
  • Capitol Room: 104 (if you want to stop by and register your views personally)
  • Email: brian.egolf@nmlegis.gov

Senate Leader Peter Wirth

And Bill Sponsors:

District 26. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, Sponsor

District 17 Senator, Mimi Stewart, Sponsor

District 13, Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, Sponsor

District 36 Rep. Nathan Small, Sponsor

  • Capitol Phone:(505) 986-4438
  • Capitol Room:413B
  • Home Phone:(575) 496-9540
  • Email:small@nmlegis.gov

BLM Chaco Canyon Public Comment. When you spend the entire day in Roundhouse hearings and return to find out that there is a hard deadline on providing comment to the BLM about fracking in Chaco Canyon and that hard deadline is Tuesday, you are so very grateful for other activists who send you an email alerting you to that deadline and who provide all the links, content and motivating language to enable me to assemble a blog as an action alert quickly. So thank you so much to Jenni Siri and Margarita Mercure Hibbs from Our Revolution NM and Frack Free Chaco.  I have essentially taken their email and turned it into a blog.

Stop Fracking in Chaco, Pause Fracking for Four Years Throughout NM

We are at the precipice of hard realities. To say that the Oil & Gas Industry is entrenched in New Mexico and has a tight grip on our Legislature is the understatement of our times. On one hand we see Hydraulic Fracturing corporations clenching their fists on our state legislative body, and on the other hand, we have front-line communities fed up with being the collateral damage and losses in the cost of doing business for an industry that has done more than their share of rigging energy and public policy.

People on the front-lines of the Fracking industry and its impacts are educated and engaged in addressing the negatives, such as air and water quality, but also things like the infrastructure to deal with the high volume of fracking that is happening in New Mexico. They are rising up against Fracking, and they’re saying, ‘Enough! It’s time to get control of the things we hold dear, before all is lost; like our clean air, water and the right to preserve the legacy of our beautiful landscapes, sacred spaces and ancient civilizations.’ It doesn’t matter whether these spaces are down south in the gaze of the majestic Organ Mountains or in the vast and mysterious Greater Chaco Canyon. We all know the huge responsibilities and obligations we have to our children and the generations to come.

This is an urgent call to action to ensure our voices are heard by our elected leaders here in New Mexico and by our federal government. Here are two important things we must do today

  1.  Oppose BLM Sell Off of More Sacred Lands

During the 35-day government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was working behind the scenes to advance the March 2019 lease sale of close to 11,000 acres in New Mexico, including over 10,000 more acres in northwestern New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region. As vital government services came to a grinding halt, which had a direct impact on communities living in the Greater Chaco region, the BLM outrageously catered to the needs of the oil and gas industry.

Please Take Action and Add a Comment Opposing the March Lease Sale Here:  Take Action: Oppose BLM Sell off of More Sacred Lands

The BLM only allowed the public 10 days to protest the lease sale of more public and ancestral tribal lands in the Greater Chaco region and in southeast New Mexico’s Greater Carlsbad Caverns region. You have until February 19th to submit your comment. The Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition will be printing and hand delivering your comments to the BLM on February 20th. Tell the BLM #NoNewLeases.  Click here to get to The Action Network website with guidelines  for sample letters.

2. Pause Fracking For Protections

An interesting thing happened during this legislative session. It turns out that while the Governor is signing Executive Orders to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 45% by the year 2030, our state officials have no idea what the foundation of greenhouse gas emissions is at the current moment. How could they? You have to do the math and in order to do the math, you need to know the numerator and denominator of the equation. They don’t have all the numbers. In all the history of the Oil & Gas Industry in the State of New Mexico, there has never been an impact study on the many issues that the industry affects. Pretty shocking, right? We thought so too.

Luckily for us, we have a few Climate Justice Advocates in the New Mexico Senate. Senators Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Benny Shendo started asking the right questions and took up this project on behalf of several Citizen Action Communities that are on the front-lines of the fracking industry. The senators have premised this new bill on the basis of the New Mexico State Constitution’s, Section 20 on the issues of duties and responsibilities of the legislative body to ensure the health and safety of the land, air, water, landscapes, resources and the health & welfare of the people. Here are the question asked to the state:

1. What does the State of New Mexico know about fracking in New Mexico? Not much.

2. Do you know what percentage of new drilling permits are for industrialized fracking in New Mexico? Neither does the State of New Mexico. Nor does it know what impacts the practice of multi-stage drilling and hydraulic fracturing is having on our public health, our land, our air, or our water.

The science has shown how dangerous fracking can be, but the State of New Mexico currently knows next to nothing about it. Our question is, ‘How do our legislators begin to make wise decisions and vote on public energy policy that can have such huge ramifications to the people and land, when they don’t know the facts about Fracking?

In a perfect world, and it was up to us, we would end fracking today. At this moment in time, we are forced to accept this dirty and unsustainable business model, and if that is the case, we must demand responsible regulation and accountability of the industry. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham promised accountability to us when she ran for office and we are asking the legislature to fulfill their duties as sworn representatives in our governing body and ensure that the governor has the opportunity to fulfill her campaign promises.

Senate Bill 459 and Senate Bill 592 allow us to finally learn the truth about fracking and ensure the public safety of our water going forward.

Submit a letter encouraging lawmakers to enact a pause on new permits and the safety of New Mexico’s drinking and farming water so that we have time to write appropriate regulations and safety measures. Ask them to please #PauseOnFracking here:
Tell Legislators to Pause, Learn About & Regulate Fracking in New Mexico

To stay abreast the ongoing schedule of Senate Bill 450 and 592, please follow us at https://www.facebook.com/pg/PauseOnFracking

The website is https://www.pauseonfracking.com.

If you can, in all social media, please use the hashtag: #PauseOnFracking

Again, huge Kudos to Jenni Sirii and Margarita Mercure Hibbs who assembled all the information above. Please take the time to make comment to the BLM and to also track SB 459 as it is one of our MUST PASS bills.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

 

 

4 thoughts on “BLM Deadline for Chaco Fracking Is Today & PRC Commissioner Fischmann Details All That is Wrong with SB 489

  1. RE: SB 489. In our contacts with legislators, perhaps the use of the phrase “bailout for PNM” will resonate. It certainly had an impact during the financial crisis when the US House initially voted down the bailout for the corrupt bankers. Coupled with “while shafting users/ratepayers–like you and me”, this might be a good way of framing the issue in simple language.

    • The problem is the same language that inflames our people simply causes others to dig in. I am resisting that language and trying to focus on the facts.

  2. It sounds fishy to me. PNM already tried to do an end run, smash and grab on New Mexico ratepayers. We can’t really expect “smart people” to evaluate this Bill. when there is so much at stake. The full book keeping has not been done, and I expect there is a fair amount of deception, and Bait and Switch involved. Ratepayers paid for all of the improvements at the coal plant, plus a percentage for PNM. Their “asset’ should be worth their initial investment, minus depreciation, and minus the amoung the rate payers paid to keep it running. Any appreciation should be given fairly to the Ratepayers. The price of an out of date coal plant has been inflated due to the administration in DC. The writing has been on the wall for years about shutting it down, when it was built it was only expected to last, or have an effective life of 30 or perhaps 40 years. That means that they are still screwing us.

    I do not have much faith in the “highy esteemed former Mayor” or our main legislators. I have seen him in action, when he deliberalty misread a situation in order to enrich a few cronies. Lives were on the line, but he cratered, and ruined lives, and allowed a vicious retalitation for those who spoke up. The situation has worsened over the years, becuase he did not deign to listen to the “little people.” Quite a few are dead now, thanks to Mayor Coss. His falure to act or even listen or understand the issues has ramifications even now. The surviving people he shafted are still in imposible situations, and he helped to silence them all. He even helped expose them to ridicule and damged their reputations, for speaking up. Of course none of you even interact the the people who were impacted, they are not repreented at the Roundhouse or anywhere.

    We cannot trust the real motives of Wirth or Egolf either, they only represent a few millionnaires and billionaires here in our state. They both helped facilitate the Plunder, we are supposed to be digging out of. The enviromental groups may have been distracted by the shiny objects dangled here.

    Of course my comments won’t be posted since they don’t follow the current mainstream thought proces around here, but then again none of you have had an objective look over thirty years of deceptive neo liberal policies and the lies that sustain them here in New Mexico.

  3. Pingback: Full Report on SB 489 Sen. Hearing and Breaking Plans to Continue to Operate the San Juan Coal Plant | Retake Our Democracy

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