A collection of the latest letters to the editor, interviews and public comments from 350NM members and allies
Valencia County commission approves controversial land use ordinance July 15, 2022 Speaking at the hearing, Clara Simms, a Los Lunas resident and 350NM member, urged the commission to reject the Natural Resource Overlay Zone (NROZ), saying it made it far too easy for the oil and gas industry to come to Valencia County and drill in the vulnerable Albuquerque Basin. “We will become another sacrifice zone,” she said. “All this economic development in the community has moral and ethical implications. I hope you understand the gravity of the decisions made here today.” The overlay zone allows for the extraction of natural resources from a piece of property — everything from brackish water to gravel to oil and natural gas — without changing the underlying zoning. Most of the people in the standing room only crowd opposed the NROZ, which was approved in a 3-2 vote. Opponents hope the amendments to the NROZ will be so onerous that they will discourage oil companies, specifically Harvey Yates Jr’s Jalapeño Corp which precipitated the hearing, from proceeding given that there appears to be no clear assurance of a wealth of oil resources in the county.
New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act of 2019 By Tom Solomon, Co-Coordinator of 350NM and Board Member of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA). In conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s Solar 2022 conference in Albuquerque, June 21-24 and NMSEA’s 50th Anniversary, Tom Solomon was invited to recount the passage of the signature Energy Transition Act, which marked New Mexico as a national leader in transitioning to clean electricity.
June 18, 2022
Article: New Mexico’s aggressive pursuit of hydrogen reignites debate
By Kevin Robinson-Avila, Albuquerque Journal
Tom Solomon, 350NM was quoted: “Apart from emissions caused by the carbon production process itself, additional methane emissions could come from increased drilling, processing and transporting of natural gas to hydrogen hubs, making the full, carbon emitting life cycle of hydrogen worse than just directly burning natural gas, said Tom Solomon of the environmental group 350 New Mexico at the LFC meeting, which included limited public comment.”
June 15, 2022
Public comments to the Legislative Finance Committee
Delivered by Tom Solomon, 350NM Co-Coordinator
In New Mexico, we are seeing the climate crisis unfold before our eyes- in a megadrought robbing us of rainfall, in hotter days, shorter winters and terrible wildfires. We can and must address the climate crisis and our over dependence on oil and gas by creating a truly sustainable economy. Hydrogen from fracked methane is not the answer, as it will increase our state’s greenhouse gas emissions and worsen the climate crisis, not solve it.
June 14, 2022.
350NM and Valencia Water Watchers Activists Rally Against Fracking in Valencia County June 2, 2022. 350NM’s Ann McCartney helped lead opposition to efforts of long-time oilman Harvey E. Yates to obtain permits to frack in the highly fragmented Albuquerque basin underlying Valencia County. At a poorly advertised public meeting of the Valencia County Commission, dozens of residents and activists voiced concerns about groundwater contamination, methane emissions, water scarcity, the lack of Commission transparency and Mr. Yates’ contributions to one Commissioner’s campaign. At the June meeting the Commission agreed to revisit on July 14 an earlier May vote to approve a new “natural resource overlay zone” in favor of development that had virtually no public input.
LETTER: UNM LEAF calls on UNM Foundation to divest Russian-aiding assets March 9, 2022. In the wake of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for the New Mexico State Investment Council to divest the $36.4 billion in assets it manages from any holdings that benefit the Russian government and its supporters. 350NM’s Stefi Weisburd and UNM LEAF call on the University of New Mexico Foundation, as a state institution, to do the same with its investments in the Consolidated Investment Fund, also known as the Endowment. The first stocks to go should be the Russian fossil fuel investments which are helping to finance not only this unconscionable human rights catastrophe but are also propelling the entire world towards irreversible climate devastation.
Legislative session sees few wins for environment, energy bills February 21, 2022. In this recap of the 2022 Legislative Session, 350NM co-coordinator Tom Solomon reiterated that making hydrogen from methane is inconsistent with the Paris Accords and should not be part of New Mexico’s future. He noted that the Clean Energy Act, which sets a schedule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also failed this year, was considerably improved by input from many stakeholders and is in great shape to try again next session. Another bill he thought should be given another chance was SB 21, which would have provided tax credits to low-income people to purchase an electric car. It passed its committee but was not heard on the Senate floor.
Interview: Conversations in Conservation
February 19, 2022. Youth environmental activist, Jack 4 the Planet, talked with Board Member and Steering Committee Member, Stephanie Haan-Amato, about her career in environmental education and climate work with 350NM.
Letter to the Editor: Water shortage Feb 10, 2022. This GREAT letter to the editor should be read by everyone in NM. Socorro Co-op and 350NM member Ward McCartney argues that this is no ordinary drought. We are in a severe water shortage due to the rising temperatures of climate change that are generated by greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. So why isn’t the Socorro Electric Co-op jumping to install water saving, carbon free, job and revenue generating solar and wind?
Feb. 7, 2022 A high-profile hydrogen energy bill is in limbo once again at the Roundhouse after an attempt to revive it through legislative maneuvering fizzled amid a deluge of criticism from environmental groups. Says Tom Solomon, “The new bill has minor improvements — they tweaked the emission limits somewhat to qualify for tax deductions — but those subsidies are still in there, and that’s a show-stopper for us.”
Lundstrom revives plan for hydrogen hub with new House bill February 6, 2022 In the continuing saga that is the Hydrogen Hub bill, State Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup reintroduced a slightly changed version as as House Bill 227. But conservation groups say it still is unacceptable. Tom Solomon, co-coordinator for 350 New Mexico, said despite a few minor “tweaks” in the new bill, including a reduction in carbon emissions, it basically remains the same as HB 4 – it still gives tax benefits to the oil and gas industry, which does not need more, so they can continue to increase the amount of global warming emissions and continue warming the planet.
The future of energy? New Mexico governor pushes Hydrogen Hub Act January 19, 2022 350NM’s Tom Solomon explains why pursuing blue and gray hydrogen in the state is not an economically or environmentally-viable idea. “In order to make hydrogen, you have to invest a lot of work into prying off the hydrogen atoms from where they come from. And primarily, that is, from fossil fuels or methane” said Solomon. He says 98% of hydrogen produced today is derived from natural gas. The energy-intensive process rips away the hydrogen atoms leaving carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Solomon says the increased demand for natural gas because of hydrogen production can lead to more methane emissions from fracking. “There are now two scientific papers that have been published in peer reviewed science journals that say that producing hydrogen from fossil fuels is really 20% worse for the climate that just directly burning natural gas and releasing the emissions directly,” he says.
In this Jan. 6, 2022 letter to the editor, Ward McCartney and Valencia Renewables urges Valencia County commissioners to follow through on a previous energy audit and, like their county commissioners to the north and south, step up to energy savings and carbon emission reductions with solar panels on county buildings. Way to go Ward by keeping track of what your commissioners should be doing for their constituents!
Tom Solomon sets the record straight on the proposed New Mexico Hydrogen Hub legislation in this Jan. 3 story. While it is being sold as clean energy, it is nothing of the sort. “Blue” and “gray” hydrogen are made from natural gas (methane) and would produce 20% more carbon emissions than burning natural gas or coal for heat. What’s more there are very few applications in which hydrogen makes sense. The International Energy Agency and others have said we must ramp down oil and gas production and focus on building as much renewable energy, storage and transmissions lines as possible to electrify the economy. The Hydrogen Hub is an attempt by the fossil fuel industry to justify its continued presence in the state.
In this Dec. 2, 2021 Sierra County Sentinel letter, Ward McCartney argues that a plan for the Truth or Consequences Public Utility Advisory Board (PUAB) to dissolve and join the Sierra Electri
c Co-op will cost consumers because Sierra gets its electricty from Tri-Core which is still paying off debt from coal plants. A choice would be to install solar with battery backup, which today produces electricity for less money than the cost of just running a coal fired polluting power plant. This would add construction jobs to the community, broaden your tax base and save your ratepayers money.
In a resounding Dec. 2, 2021 retort to Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen (who was quoting discredited political scientist Bjorn Lomborg), scientists Mark Boslough and Les McFadden say climate change IS an existential threat to New Mexico. They cite the recent 50-year water plan Leap Ahead Analysis that McFadden was an author on. “All regions of New Mexico will be affected by climate warming. Temperatures will increase by 5-7 degrees. Evaporation will steal moisture from our soil and take water from our reservoirs. Carbon dioxide and methane pollution will cause our snowpack, runoff and recharge rates to shrink, reducing our water supply. The dry heat will stress our thirsty pine forests, grasslands and bosques, leading to more extreme wildfires, erosion and soil loss. Our forests will disappear and our high deserts will resemble the low deserts of Arizona, changing our landscape forever. The loss of our trees and grass will also make our air hotter, drier and dustier, whether you live in the city, the Navajo nation, the northern mountains or the eastern plains. Less water infiltration to aquifers will mean dried-up wells, loss of productivity and lower property values. The acequia farming and gardening cultures in many parts of our state are doomed if we allow this to happen. “Adaptation” is surrender. New Mexicans need to put aside our petty political differences, and stand together to defend our water and our way of life.”
Nancy Singham was interviewed by Environmental Education of New Mexico (EENM) about the importance of outdoor learning for the state’s children in November 2021. Her insightful answers to the questions posed illustrate how forming connections to nature when young leads to a more engaged citizenry.
Raising the Climate Change Alarm
A professional engineer is obligated to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. By not raising the alarm about professional engineers’ obligation to mitigate global warming and climate change. PE magazine has failed in its ethical obligation to protect public safety and welfare. We are already seeing the disastrous effects of climate change. Adaptation is insufficient. It is long since overdue to stop burning fossil fuels. Please raise the alarm!
Change is hard. Nonetheless, it is important to advocate for scientific realities, even if inconvenient to the powers that be. The fact is that unless the world transitions to a zero-carbon economy very quickly, we are all doomed. This is clear from the latest IPCC report. Adaptation will not be possible unless we do the needful with carbon mitigation. Even with carbon mitigation, adaptation to the baked-in climate change will be a huge challenge. The good news is that the energy transition will actually save us money in the long run. Sun and wind are free fuels. To paraphrase Amory Lovins of theRocky Mountain Institute, “complacency and despair are equally unwarranted.” Walter Gerstle, PhD, PE -Albuquerque, NMPublic Hearing before the Environmental Improvement Board: Proposed New Regulation, September 20-30, 2021
Oil and gas development and production is the largest source of methane, which occurs with pollution from VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These dangerous gases are detrimental to health and increase the climate crisis. Methane is indirectly regulated by ozone rules, and the Public Hearing before the Environmental Improvement Board about a proposed new regulation regarding ozone precursor pollutants was an important opportunity to speak out. Many climate activists testified by Zoom and in writing. This is a collection of public comments made by 350NM members and allies.
What the new first-of-its-kind Tesla center on the Nambé Pueblo means to a NM Tesla Owner To get around a New Mexico law against car manufacturers selling directly to customers, Tesla secretly negotiated with a sovereign nation. The opening of the center
meant a lot more than mere convenience for the state’s 1,800 Tesla owners. The new facility in an old casino building on an isolated stretch of bypass road is New Mexico’s toehold to a more livable future. By Stefi Weisburd.
This reflection chronicles the brave journey taken in June 2021 by Ann and Ward McCartney, 350NM Steering Committee Members to Waubun, Minnesota, Anishinaabe territory. They stood in solidarity with indigenous people and in protest to the expansion of the tar sands Line 3 pipeline from Canada through treaty-protected lands to Superior, Wisconsin. Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline currently under construction through northern Minnesota – violating treaty rights, risking over 200 bodies of water with the threat of an oil spill, and reversing our progress on climate change with a carbon equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants.
June 12, 2021 ABQ Journal Editorial on UNM Fossil Fuel Divestment Misguided A May 24, 2021 Albuquerque Journal editorial criticized UNM faculty for urging UNM Regents and the UNM Foundation to sell its fossil-fuel holdings and reinvest in clean energy and climate change solutions. Representing the UNM Coalition on Climate, Stefi Weisburd argued that current Foundation policy ignores climate change risk to its peril and that the global energy transition is providing safer, higher-return opportunties. Many other university endowments and pension plans use these risk screens, and UNM should too. The Journal should also have disclosed that its publisher is a member of the UNM Foundation Board of Trustees.
June 3, 2021 Jemez Electric Co-op Members Need to Wake Up
Our Electric Co-op expert Ward McCartney explains why NM Electric Co-op board members need to be more proactive about accelerating their transition from coal to clean energy.
May 14, 2021. Local Industry Must Address Methane A UN report says slashing methane is one of the best ways to stop future warming. Global industry has already cut leaks. Local industry should, too, if it wants to have a future here in the 2nd-fastest warming state. It shouldn’t brag about undermining attempts to rein in methane pollution. Shame on legislators who take industry money and block reasonable regulation. They all show contempt for anyone who hopes to live and breathe in our state. – Stefi Weisburd.
May 10, 2021. Faculty Senate President calls on UNM Regents and Leadership to Act on Climate Change. University of New Mexico Faculty Senate President joins the Staff and Students calling on UNM Regents and Leadership to divest, reduce emissions and help communities transition to clean energy and other economic bases. Regent Begay responds by saying divestment is a “heavy lift” and climate groups at UNM should consider a garden fed by food waste and planted with species that are sensitive to pollution as a showcase project. May 16, 2021. Albuquerque Journal: UNM Faculty Senate seeks fossil fuel divestment
May 7, 2021
350NM and Friends protest the financing of Line 3 being built through Indigenous territory without consent. If built, Line 3 would release as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as 50 new coal-fired power plants. It’s time for banks like Chase and Wells Fargo to stop financing climate chaos.
Read a story about this in The Paper.
May 5, 2021. Take Care of Orphaned Wells. Lujan and Leger Fernandez tackle billions needed to plug, clean up New Mexico drill sites. New Mexico has over 100,000 oil and gas wells, including a backlog of 700 orphaned wells companies have abandoned. Many of these wells are leaking greenhouse gas methane. NM only has $2 million in bonds from operators to clean up what will be a $8.3 billion problem. Job creating federal legislation – Lujan’s REGROW Act and Leger Fernandez’s Orphaned Well Cleanup and Jobs Act – will help NM and other states, write Walter Gerstle and Angelo Tomedi.
Edgewood Independent April30- May issue. American Lung Association report card gives Fs to three NM oil and gas counties, including Eddy, which made it to the list of 25 worst counties with the highest ozone, or smog, levels. Ozone comes from VOCs emitted with oil and gas drilling. Lots of people including kids have asthma and other respiratory diseases which are greatly aggravated by smog. A lot of counties are not testing for ozone or particulates. That is bad news, writes Stefi Weisburd.
April 28, 2021. UNM Must Lead the Way in Addressing Climate Crisis. Walter Gerstle, 350NM board member and UNM professor emeritus and two UNM Leaf students urge UNM lead on overcoming our carbon addiction. The letter suggests nine actions UNM can take from stop burning natural gas to produce electricity, electrifying fleet vehicles and divesting from fossil fuel companies and reinvesting in clean energy technologies.
April 28, 2021. Regulate Numerous Stripper Wells of Large Corporations In this Letter to the Editor and the one below in the Santa Fe New Mexican, 350NM co-Founder explains the importance of upcoming regulations being drafted by the NM Environment Department Secretary James Kenny on methane emissions. Contrary to what the industry claims, these stripper wells are owned by companies that can afford to cap leaks. Multibillion dollar Hillcorp for example owns 49% of the stripper wells in San Juan, and 54% of stipper wells in NM are owned by just 10 large companies like Exxon, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Occidental. While not in this letter, a soon to be released United Nations report says that methane emissions for oil and gas are much higher than previously thought, but eliminating these are easily done with existing cost-effective technology and will be a crucial tool in fighting global warming in the near term.
April 23, 2021. Methane Regulations Should Cover Stripper Wells Letter to the Editor by 350NM co-Founder Jim Mckenzie explains that stripper wells are marginal oil and gas wells nearing the end of their production life. There are 29,838 stripper wells quietly emitting greenhouse gases and other pollutants statewide today. Many are owned by large national and multinational corporations; they are not mom and pop operations, as industry sources claim. The New Mexico Environment Department must not exempt them in rules curbing emissions of methane.
Stefi Weisburd and the UNM Coalition on Climate cite Senator Heinrich’s call for a Space Program-like mobilization by Regents and Leadership at New Mexico Universities around Climate Change (see video below). She and two students warned the Regents about the dangers Climate Change poses to the UNM Endowment especially with its Investment Policy banning the use of “Environmental, Social and Governance” criteria when evaluating investments. They also called on President Stokes to update UNM’s 2009 Climate Action Plan, recommit to emission reduction and to comply with New Mexico’s landmark Energy Transition Act.
April 12, 2021 Letter to the Editor in the Albuquerque Journal. Skip ‘credit’; transition faster. Climate justice dictates we should help those making the temporarily painful transition to a non-carbon world by funding new training, new jobs that build a safer, less threatening planet, writes Nancy Weeks Singham, member of the 350NM Rural Advocacy and Education Committees in response to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham request to the Biden Administration for a waiver to the Oil and Gas Lease pause.
March 24, 2021. Sen. Martin Heinrich is excited about the growth of NM clean energy jobs in this webinar with 350NM and the NM Solar Energy Association. Interviewed by 350NM Board Member Walter Gerstle, Heinrich says there will be jobs in plugging oil and gas wells, replacing polluting natural gas stoves with electric ones, plus other energy efficiency, renewable and infrastructure jobs coming down the line with the Biden Administration initiatives. He also urges NM university Presidents and Regents to engage with the climate emergency at a level of urgency on par with the Space Program.
LTE: City of Chama will save $260K over 20 years with solar for wastewater treatment. March 18, 2021. Rio Arriba County and Chama Valley schools are looking to do the same, writes 350NM’s Ward McCartney. If Senate Bill 83, Local Choice Energy had passed the Legislature this season many more municipalities and schools could have taken advantage of even larger cost savings.
Video of Climate Change Talk to NM Society of Professional Engineers. March 14, 2021 (Pi Day) by 350NM Board Member and University of New Mexico Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering Walter Gerstle. Lots of great info on climate change and reasons to be hopeful about the rapid transition to renewables. Plus a climate denier adds to the drama.
The Howl: Climate Change Edition. Feb 27, 2021. In this UNM podcast, Gino Gutierrez, Managing Editor of the New Mexico Daily Lobo interviews members of the University of New Mexico Coalition on Climate about their recent editorial in the newspaper urging UNM to address climate change in its investments, research, curriculum and physical plant. The members include UNM emeritus Professor Walter Gerstle and former pre-college STEM outreach manager Stefi Weisburd, both members of 350NM.
Daily Lobo Op-ed: Climate Justice at UNM. Feb. 22, 2021. UNM community members have been urging action on climate change for decades. Students have graduated. Presidents have changed. Professors and staff have retired. Lots of meetings have occurred, with a few positive steps to reduce carbon emissions. But the atmospheric carbon keeps rising, the temperatures keep increasing, our droughts and forest fires keep getting worse and our communities are being impacted. UNM can no longer afford to wait: The time to act on climate change is now.
Letter to the Editor: In favor of SB 12 & HB 9,the Climate Solutions Act. 350NM Board Member Stephanie Haan-Amato speaks out in favor of HB 9 (which didn’t pass) and SB 112 (task force for a sustainable economy), which passed, from an educators point of view. Feb. 21, 2021.
Senate committees need to let all sides speak Feb. 19, 2021. Stephanie Haan-Amato objects to the Senate Judiciary Committee silencing supporters of Senate Bill 86, Use of Water for Oil and Gas Operations, while allowing lobbyists from the oil and gas industry to speak for 10 minutes to oppose the bill.
Feb. 10, 2021. In this video, Nancy Weeks Singham, 350NM Rural Advocacy and Education member gives a brilliant short history of climate change to the University of New Mexico Honors College Discovery Series before she introduces Beata Tsosie-Peña and Land Witness Project.
Voices: Climate change means more in drought. Jan. 10, 2021. Writing in response to a Rich Lowry column, 350NM member, Stefi Weisburd says: from Lowry’s view on the East Coast, concerns about the effects of climate change must not seem very urgent, personal or expensive. But here in the Southwest, climate change has pushed us into the second worst drought in 1,200 years.
Renewable energy, jobs, clean, less expensive. Dec. 3, 2020. In response to another letter, 350NM Board Member Ward McCartney sets the record straight on power outages in California and the benefits for renewable energy in New Mexico as the drought worsens.
Guest Column. Renewables are not to blame for California Blackouts. Sept. 8, 2020. We cannot air-condition our way comfortably into the future if we are powering those air conditioners with fossil fuel plants spewing carbon into the air, further driving temperatures even higher, says 350NM board member Stefi Weisburd.
New Mexico oil and gas methane regulations criticized for ‘loopholes’. Aug. 7, 2020. 350NM’s Walter Gerstle was quoted in this story: “I am very concerned about greenhouse gas induced climate change. If action isn’t taken, the recent increases in oil and gas production will result in even further greenhouse gas emissions. Every effort should be taken to prevent natural gas from escaping into the atmosphere.”
Low-Income and Environmental Advocates Applaud New Mexico’s New Energy Conservation Building Code. Aug. 7, 2020. 350 New Mexico co-founders Tom Solomon & Jim Mackenzie react to the adoption of a statewide energy conservation code based on the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code.
news-bulletin.com. Renewable Energy. Aug. 22, 2019. What do 144 companies, as an example, Coca-Cola, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, General Mills, Walmart, plus Amazon, Google’s Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, etc., have in common? 350NM Board Member Ward McCartney will tell you.