Cover story: Legislative outcomes
Board Chair's Message
CVNM welcomes our new executive director
Watered Down Pit Rules Put New Mexico Outside of the Mainstream
Celebrate Earth Day
Green Living Tip
Board Member Spotlight
CVNM and allies’ streak of defeating 100% of anti-conservation bills continues
For the 9th year in a row, CVNM and our allies defeated 100% of the anti-conservation bills in the legislature. While this is a major achievement, work remains in developing the pro-conservation majority needed to pass strong, conservation-minded pieces of legislation. Visit www.CVNM.org to view our 2013 Legislative Priorities, including the Governor’s action on bills. Here are a few highlights and lowlights from the session:
SB 163: The fight for the Water Quality Control Commission
SB 163, sponsored by Senator Carlos Cisneros, was a routine bill that extended the expiration of “sunset” dates of seven boards and commissions, including the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). Without action by the legislature and the Governor, the WQCC would have sunset on July 1, 2013. The WQCC is the only entity in New Mexico authorized to enact rules pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act and set water quality standards. The Commission also approves variances for water quality regulations and hears appeals of water pollution permits.
What happened: Polluting industries fought throughout the session to take the WQCC out of the bill and allow it to expire. Each of their three amendments to do just that failed, along with their efforts to sunset the WQCC. The Governor signed the bill into law on April 4, 2013. The WQCC has been extended to 2019.
Green deed: Representative Debbie Rodella fought attempts to strip the WQCC from SB 163 in the House Business and Industry Committee (HBIC). The hearing lasted several hours, and because of her leadership the WQCC extension passed through both HBIC and the House floor.
HB 497: Update your voter registration online
Paper voter registration forms increase the risk of errors, like data-entry mistakes or misplaced forms, which can impact the public’s eligibility to vote. They’re also time-consuming to acquire and submit, meaning many voters never get around to updating their information. By empowering voters to update their registration forms electronically, HB 497, sponsored by Representative James Smith, streamlines that process while minimizing risks of error.
What happened: HB 497 passed the House (64-0) and passed the Senate (34-5) and was signed by the Governor on April 1, 2013.
SB 14: Building more energy efficient homes
In the long term, energy efficient homes save consumers ample money on their utility bills and reduce overall demand for energy production. However, in the short term, some energy efficiency measures can be costly for home builders, retrofitters, and construction industries to incorporate. The sustainable building tax credit helps to offset those additional costs, and has proven to be a critical incentive for the home building and construction industries in adopting energy efficient building practices. SB 14, jointly sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth and Representative Carl Trujillo, extends this important tax credit for an additional 5 years, through 2018.
What happened: SB 14 passed the Senate (37-2) and passed the House (67-0) and was signed by the Governor on April 1, 2013.
HB 415: Testing, testing
HB 415, sponsored by Representative George Dodge, broadens the use of the Water Conservation Fund by authorizing the Environment Department to create an annual list of pollutants, and test water sources for additional sources of contamination – including unregulated contaminants like discarded prescription drugs and hormone-mimicking chemicals.
What happened: HB 415 passed the House (65-0) and passed the Senate (40-0) and was signed by the Governor on April 2, 2013.
Lowlights—Water quality protections denied
- A bill crafted around the “polluter pays” principle that would have allowed the state Natural Resources Trustee to recover damages for the pollution of groundwater didn’t even get out of its first committee. Representative Emily Kane’s House Bill 259 would have provided an extra protection that applies to every other natural resource. Every reasonable protection is required for this most precious of resources, especially in New Mexico where 9 out of 10 citizens depend on groundwater for their drinking water.
- Another pro-conservation bill, House Bill 286, jointly sponsored by Representative Gail Chasey and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, failed on the House floor by only a few votes. House Bill 286 would have updated penalties for groundwater pollution in the 1935 New Mexico Oil and Gas Act for the first time in 78 years. Fines would have been raised from $1,000 to $10,000, which is still a fraction of the fines in neighboring states.
Green deed: Representative Liz Thomson spoke up in support of HB 286 during the debate on the House floor: “Some oil and gas operators have polluted 49 times or 33 times. Doesn't that demonstrate our fines don't prevent pollution?”
- Pressure to pipe water from the Gila River, the last free-flowing river in New Mexico, continued this session when Senator John Arthur Smith submitted a capital outlay request for $25 million to construct a pipeline from the river to the Las Cruces metropolitan area. Thankfully, this request was not fulfilled, but continued vigilance will be required to protect this vital resource.
Remember to visit our website at www.CVNM.org to view the final outcome of our full 2013 Legislative Agenda.
Several anti-conservation measures on the Senate
calendar failed to be heard
during the session.
Our gratitude goes to
Senate Majority Leader
and leadership for protecting the Land of Enchantment.
While the CVNM staff was busy at the Roundhouse working with our legislative champions to protect New Mexico’s air, land, and water, the CVNM Board of Directors conducted a rigorous national search for our next Executive Director. As many of you know, longtime director Sandy Buffett has moved on to new endeavors. For eight years, Sandy made outstanding contributions to New Mexico’s environmental and political landscapes, and we wish her all the best.
The good news is that we have hired a dynamic new executive director, Demis Foster. She will join the CVNM team on April 29. It is a pleasure to introduce you to Demis, an energetic leader with over 20 years of experience working for environmental projects and conservation campaigns across the West.
Most recently, she served as the Santa Fe Director and fundraising lead for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. A self-described “political junkie,” Demis has extensive experience building, funding, and marketing campaigns and programs to protect landscapes, wildlife, and natural resources. Previously, she was an account manager for PRR, an award-winning public relations agency in Seattle, executive director of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Network, campaign director for Conservation Northwest, and sales and marketing director of the Olympic Park Institute.
Under Demis’s leadership, CVNM is poised to become an even stronger environmental and political powerhouse. Please help us welcome her aboard.
Sarah Cottrell Propst
CVNM Board Chair
A veteran conservationist, Demis Foster joins CVNM as our new executive director after more than two decades of experience as a grassroots organizer, environmental advocate and consultant.
Demis comes to CVNM from the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance where she served as the Santa Fe Director overseeing major donor fundraising, organizing campaigns to protect public lands and leading unique wilderness trips.
Demis grew up on a four-generation family ranch in southern Idaho. She spent her childhood exploring the high desert by horseback where she developed a lifelong love for wildlife and nature. In the shrub steppe desert that unfolds next to the Boise National Forest, she nurtured a deep appreciation for the land and water that sustained all the families in her rural farming community.
While earning a bachelor of arts in English and creative writing from Boise State University, she worked for the Wolf Recovery Foundation—the first organization in Idaho dedicated to the restoration of wolves in the Rockies. After graduating with honors, she moved to the Pacific Northwest where she spent the next 18 years working on environmental issues while exploring the backcountry of the Olympic and Cascade
Demis has worked to educate and inspire people to action through a broad range of
projects and campaigns in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Demis has a long history of working on successful land protection campaigns from stopping logging in the Cedar River Watershed—Seattle’s drinking water source—to helping raise $16 million in private funds to protect 45,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Cascades.
In 2004, Demis was awarded the National Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in protecting public lands for her work as the Director of the Ancient Forest Roadshow—a year-long outreach tour with two teams traveling across the nation with a 1,000-lb. crosscut section from an old-growth Douglas Fir tree.
An avid outdoor adventurer, Demis moved to New Mexico in 2010 to explore some of the last wild and remote public lands remaining in the West. She was drawn not only to the unique natural landscape, but also to the culturally rich communities of people that have been rooted to these lands for generations. A passionate advocate for protecting her high desert home, Demis has worked hard to ensure protection for places such as Chaco Canyon and our newly designated Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos.
By Javier Benavidez, CVNM Education Fund Board Member, published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on March 26, 2013.
In New Mexico, we are rightly proud of our exceptionalism. Our diverse blend of cultures (Spanish settlement dating back more than 400 years and Native American roots that run even deeper) makes us unique. However, more recent trends to buck the mainstream and roll back common sense safeguards for our water resources are troubling.
Despite a national trend toward improved air and water quality regulation of oil and gas drilling, our state officials appear poised to weaken requirements on waste pits used to hold fluids and other toxic byproducts of oil and gas drilling operations. Improper construction and management of these pits is one of the biggest threats the oil and gas industry poses to underground drinking water aquifers. By weakening the pit rules, New Mexico would expose underground drinking water supplies to pollution at a time when worsening drought is making these pristine aquifers all the more precious.
This wasn’t always the case. In 2008 – after an 18-month stakeholder process and weeks-long public hearing – the state implemented some of the nation’s best regulations of waste pits. These rules were based on more than 400 cases of groundwater contamination from faulty pits documented by the state. The rules required that pits be lined to prevent leaks, promote the use of closed-loop or “pitless” drilling systems, and mandate the disposal of wastes at approved facilities. Other states, including neighboring Colorado, soon followed our lead and passed their own more protective pit rules.
Unfortunately, while our neighboring states have and continue to strengthen requirements on the oil and gas industry which better protect the environment, New Mexico is in retreat.
Some of New Mexico’s largest oil and gas producers, represented by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, are requesting that the state reduce these vital water quality protections on drilling pits. Their petition to the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) requests numerous amendments to the state’s pit rule. If approved, these amendments would put our water supplies at risk by removing efforts to encourage more modern and protective closed-loop drilling methods and allowing for drilling wastes to be buried in place.
Allowing for onsite burial of wastes containing high levels of chlorides and other contaminants with little or no protection from these pollutants leaching to groundwater (in a state that gets 90% of its drinking water from groundwater) is extremely troubling. Further, arsenic, mercury, heavy metals and radioactive materials are not even tested for.
Why seek a weaker rule that imperils water resources? It’s not because drilling and profits are down. Production activity has increased since the pit rules were passed in 2008 with oil production in particular reaching levels not seen since the 1970’s.
The OCC made a preliminary ruling in February that appears to indicate they are moving toward a weakening of current rules. More will be know when the final order is released later this month.
In the meantime, New Mexico industry and regulatory leaders should remember that others are watching. Oil and gas production has become a national issue, with media attention around hydraulic fracturing bringing the debate around drilling into the public consciousness like never before.
At a national level, this attention and awareness is helping drive the industry and regulators toward better drilling guidelines.
Being unique is good. But being the black sheep on an issue as important as clean water protections is nothing to be proud of, puts an entire industry in a negative light, and significantly raises the potential for the destruction of the water resources that are critical to life in New Mexico.
With a large majority of the state in a severe drought, water has been weighing heavily on the minds of New Mexicans. We at CVNM are no different. This Earth Day, we’re not only worried about water quantity, but also water quality. For some it can seem difficult to find a balance in a state where 90% of New Mexicans get their drinking water from groundwater and large portions of our budget are generated from extractive industries like oil and gas and mining. But finding this balance is key to the future of New Mexico.
As New Mexicans, it’s no secret that we depend on our environment for our very livelihoods. From farms and ranches to energy development and outdoor recreation, our economy runs on water. Protecting our natural heritage means that our way of life and our resources are preserved and protected now and for future generations.
Protecting our Land of Enchantment begins with all of us. Here are a few things you can do this month and every month to conserve and protect our water.
Conserve: Be smart with our water
Using our water efficiently can have major environmental, health, and economic benefits by helping to improve and protect our water resources. Efficiency can also help mitigate the effects of water shortages caused by drought and save money on your water and energy bills. Here are a few things you can do every day to conserve water
- Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.
Take short showers instead of tub baths. Turn off the water while soaping or shampooing.
If you must use a tub, close the drain before turning on the water and fill the tub only half full.
- Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
- Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin. Use a vegetable brush. Do not use water to defrost
frozen foods; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher; wash only full loads.
- Add food wastes to your compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal.
- Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
Source: EPA’s WaterSense program
Act: Join the fight for clean water
The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) began hearings on proposed groundwater quality rules for the copper industry on April 9 in Santa Fe.
After an 8-month stakeholder process to develop a draft rule that would be protective of groundwater at copper mine sites and provide regulatory certainty to industry, New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) upper-level managers ignored the recommendations of NMED technical staff and many stakeholders from its own Copper Rule Advisory Committee. Instead they adopted the mining industry’s draft rules. The proposed rules will reduce water quality protections that have been in place in New Mexico for over 35 years. NMED’s proposed rules could pave the way for other polluters to demand similar rollbacks in water quality safeguards and allow other industries to pollute under their sites. We must stop this rule so that we are not at further risk for groundwater pollution of public water supplies.
We need your help. The WQCC wants to hear from New Mexicans like you before they make their decision. Tell the WQCC that New Mexico needs strong copper rules in place that protect our water by submitting a public comment. Public comments can be made in writing by May 2 via email to the Commission Administrator, Pam Castaneda, at Pam.Castaneda@state.nm.us reference: WQCC 12-01 (R) or via US mail at NM Water Quality Control Commission, Harold Runnels Building, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Room N-2150, Santa Fe, NM 87502.
Erin McSherry has long sought ways to cut down on the amount of waste she creates. Her parents and grandparents grew up on farms, sharing a self-reliance and efficiency mindset with her early on. Erin, who lives in Santa Fe, has been recycling since she was a child and composting for the last 6 years. In 2012, she took waste reduction to a whole new level by taking on the challenge of creating only one bag of garbage for the entire year.
Her lifelong journey to reduce waste began with a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore as a child where she witnessed a display about the amount of trash each person creates.
“It really affected me,” Erin recalled. “You see photos of massive landfills and it just scares me. The amount of resources we pour into dealing with trash is startling.”
To succeed in the challenge, it mostly took Erin some extra time. Erin went on scavenger hunts to various stores in search of everything she needed in her daily life, just without the packaging. She found she could purchase many things in bulk. Many healthy decisions resulted in less trash such as not drinking soda and avoiding ready-made foods. She bought local, made her own toothpaste, didn’t chew gum and gave her egg cartons to merchants at the farmer’s market. Any gifts she gave in 2012 came wrapped in brown paper and ribbon or reused packaging she received from others. Any kind of packaging she did end up with, Erin reused it. Reusable coffee cups were her constant companion allowing her to avoid Styrofoam cups.
“It was really fun,” Erin said. “Partly because everyone was so interested in it. It was fun to show everyone it’s possible. It took a fair amount of time but it’s definitely doable.”
Erin’s project was a great conversation starter and her family and friends were consistently curious about how it was going.
“It’s strange to think that people are interested in your trash or lack of trash,” she reflected, laughing.
Green Living Tip—reduce your waste
Composting food scraps is easy, helps cut down on a lot of waste and doesn’t require a lot of space. Erin uses a small two-by-three-foot area in her small downtown Santa Fe yard, and it works well. Merchants make composting extra easy by selling composting buckets and bins.
Recycling is a simple way to reduce trash. Erin recycled beyond what the city of Santa Fe’s recycling program accepted by finding places to take the other items.
Reuse and repurpose
Erin reused everything she could, including ties for bags and any packaging she couldn’t avoid. Instead of throwing away used clothing and household items, she donated anything that was still wearable or usable.
Avoiding things like soda and ready-made foods is good for your health and also for the amount of trash you create. Ready-made foods can come in a variety of packaging, such as wax-coated cardboard, which is not recyclable. Many products such as health products, cleaning products, grains, pasta, beans, nuts, raisins, herbs, spices and tea can be purchased in bulk to minimize packaging. Buying produce from local famers also limits waste, transportation costs and helps promote local economic development.
Have a Green Living Tip you’d like to share with CVNM?
Send it to Liliana@cvnm.org with
your name and city where you live.
Jennifer Biedscheid, Director
Jennifer Biedscheid, a CVNM Board Member since 2009, is an environmental scientist with 15 years of experience in consulting for private corporations in the areas of regulatory compliance, hazardous site cleanup, and waste management. She is currently an advisory engineer for the management and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, managing the cleanup of small quantities of radioactive waste at numerous sites across the country.
Jennifer is also an active participant in national and international technical
forums and has served as technical program chair, program committee member, peer reviewer, and associate editor for conferences and journals. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Master of Science degree in environmental technology management. Jennifer lives in Santa Fe, where she and her husband have renovated two historic adobe homes, and pursue interests such as hiking, gardening, running, and practicing yoga. Jennifer has strong personal core beliefs in the importance of environmental protection, education and appreciation.
“I am on the CVNM board because I believe in the mission and support it both financially and with my time. It’s a great organization. I grew up in New Mexico, so I love this place and I love the way CVNM approaches its protection.”
What's your favorite outdoor place or activity?
“My family owns a farm with two other families in northern New Mexico near Chamisal. It’s in a little valley with a stream running through it. It’s a great place to go camping and be in nature. I’m happy to have a place like that so my daughter Olive can learn to love that aspect of New Mexico, so beautiful and remote.”
In your opinion, why is CVNM’s work important?
“What I love about CVNM is that the organization approaches environmental progress in a smart and intelligent way. A lot of environmental decisions are made by what laws are adopted. To make a difference, you have to get involved in politics.”
What initially drew you to becoming involved with CVNM?
“What drew me to becoming involved with CVNM was seeing the work from the outside and relying on the organization as a voter. CVNM is so consistent in its work. You know exactly what you’re supporting at all times. We fight for air, land and water and then we hold people accountable. It’s such a smart way to do it.”
What drew you to the field of science and specifically to what science can do for the environment?
“Sometimes as a society we don’t know what the impacts of certain things, like technology advancements, are on the environment. Science can provide the basis for environmental remediation and justify the need for future protections. But, solutions to environmental issues are not selected solely based on science - and often diverse political, geographical, and cultural perspectives contribute to the decision-making process.”