Our lives now

Searchlight photographer Don J. Usner is traveling around New Mexico, documenting life as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds. Each day, look for a new image.

No separate link for the daily photos; so, click the link up at the intro and that will get you to the current issue…which includes recent selections, as well.

NO WAR WITH IRAN

There’s a demo, tomorrow at noon, against Trump’s criminal politics. The focus is on the Middle East, Iran and Iraq. If you have the opportunity, come to the intersection of St, Francis and Cerrillos to make your voice heard.

That’s Thursday, 9th, at noon.

Click on the sponsoring groups for parking suggestions a block away from traffic

State of New Mexico grants water rights to keep water in the river


Bloomgal

” The Office of the State Engineer awarded the state’s first water rights permit to keep water in a river. The office granted the permit to Audubon New Mexico for a stretch of the Gallina River near Abiquiu.

Riparian areas, including rivers, streams and wetlands, account for just 1 percent of the New Mexico landscape, and have been stressed by decades of drought and a warming climate. A recent World Resources Institute study ranked New Mexico as the most water-stressed area in the United States.

Surface water rights in the state are typically granted to individuals for diverting water from streams and rivers to irrigate crops and support food production.

Paul Tashjian, director of freshwater conservation at Audubon New Mexico, called the permit acquisition historic, and said it enables private water rights holders to lease or sell water for conservation purposes.

Truly historic. Best thing I read online in my morning news. Overdue.

Nuclear Colonialism in New Mexico

❝ A proposal for New Mexico to house one of the world’s largest nuclear waste storage facilities has drawn opposition from nearly every indigenous nation in the state. Nuclear Issues Study Group co-founder and Diné organizer Leona Morgan told state legislators last week the project, if approved, would perpetuate a legacy of nuclear colonialism against New Mexico’s indigenous communities and people of color.

❝ Holtec International, a private company specializing in spent nuclear fuel storage and management, applied for a license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate the facility in southeastern New Mexico.

❝ The proposal, which has been in the works since 2011, would see high-level waste generated at nuclear power plants across the country transported to New Mexico for storage at the proposed facility along the Lea-Eddy county line between Hobbs and Carlsbad. Holtec representatives say the facility would be a temporary solution to the nation’s growing nuclear waste problem, but currently there is no federal plan to build a permanent repository for the waste.

No Plan, BTW, for permanent storage ANYWHERE ELSE!

Meanwhile, in local news…

❝ (Socorro, New Mexico) — Socorro is charged up about building its own electric utility to offer cheaper, cleaner electricity to local consumers than they get from the 75-year-old Socorro Electric Cooperative.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker and city councilors are pursuing an independent contract with Guzman Energy LLC, an upstart power provider that’s challenging the long reign of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which currently supplies all wholesale electricity to Socorro and 10 other rural New Mexico cooperatives.

❝ The city says Tri-State, which relies heavily on coal plants, charges far higher wholesale rates than other providers like Guzman can offer through solar and wind facilities that have plummeted in price in recent years.

The Socorro co-op, they add, has done nothing to mitigate those high costs, such as building local renewable systems independently of Tri-State to save money for co-op members. And that, in turn, has forced local consumers to use expensive electricity…

Expensive electricity mostly generated by burning coal, BTW.

❝ Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos, for example, pulled out of Tri-State in 2016 to sign with Guzman, and at least two cooperatives in Colorado are now following in Kit Carson’s footsteps.

“We’re not the only ones trying to get out from under Tri-State,” Bhasker said. “Kit Carson did it by partnering with Guzman. We can do it too in Socorro.”

Warms the cockles of my heart to witness the most basic of essential services being turned over to clean, modern technologies after decades of being tied economically and (yes) politically to King Coal.

New Mexico’s most dangerous border – is with Texas


“Is there a time to call it? A time to say, ‘They won,’ and we just leave?”
Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle

❝ CARLSBAD, N.M. — Texas’ most dangerous and unchecked border doesn’t lie to the south along the Rio Grande, but rather to the west, where the Permian Basin oil boom is expanding along narrow and deadly roads into rural New Mexico, driving breakneck growth with little oversight and not nearly enough highways, housing, health care and environmental air monitoring.

❝ The Midland-Odessa area in West Texas remains the hub for the prolific oil field with about 350,000 people and some of the fastest economic growth in the country, but even greater change is occurring 150 miles away in this boomtown, where the population has nearly doubled to 75,000 people from 40,000 just a few years ago. Even as lackluster oil prices slow drilling and lower rig counts in Texas by 20 percent over the past year, New Mexico drillers have never been busier, increasing the number of operating rigs in the state by nearly 15 percent to 113…

❝ John Waters, Carlsbad’s executive director of economic development, admits the rapid growth has strained the region’s capacity to accommodate it. The roads have become more dangerous, scary even, and housing is in short supply and far from getting built fast enough to keep up with the influx of people…

The whole caption for the photo up top

❝ “Is there a time to call it? A time to say, ‘They won,’ and we just leave?” asked Dee George in Carlsbad, as a well was being drilled directly across the street from his home. George is a special education teacher in Carlsbad, and he said his family has owned the land his trailer sits on since he was 9 years old. He described birds dying in his yard after flying over another nearby well, and he said he has smelled gas in his house multiple times.

RTFA. Great piece of journalism – describing profit at any human and environmental cost – the heart and soul of the oil industry. Nothing new, except where.

I’ve told the story before – of going to a Friday night high school football game in Odessa, Texas. Players took the field after the bands played, cheerleaders paraded, the big lights came on to light everything up. And not a single insect appeared to cluster around the lights. And if they had, there weren’t any birds to feed on them.

I asked the guy who brought me to see his local team, “what’s that smell?”

He said, “We call that the smell of money around here.”