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2012

  • jan 19 weekly

  • jan 19 weekly

  • By Pete Kasperowicz

    July 12, 2012

    The Hill (blog)

    The House approved legislation Thursday that would require federal agencies to take no longer than 30 months to make decisions related to mining permits, and limit the ability of groups to mount legal challenges against these permits.

    Members voted 256-160 in favor of H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act. Twenty-two Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill, after several Democrats argued during debate that the bill would unacceptably ease environmental rules. Under the bill, federal agencies would have to make an effort to minimize delays in the mining permitting process. This includes making a finding that proposed projects should not be subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards, if it can be determined that agency guidelines and/or state guidelines are enough to “ensure that environmental factors are taken into account.”

    It would also require civil suits against granted permits to be filed within 60 days after they are granted.

    Republicans said these changes are needed to help the United States keep pace with the rest of the world in producing minerals seen as key to manufacturing and national security.

    “Burdensome red tape, duplicative reviews, frivolous lawsuits and onerous regulations can hold up new mining projects for more than a decade,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). “These unnecessary delays cost American jobs, as we become more and more dependent on foreign countries for raw ingredients to fuel manufacturing and our economy.

    “This a jobs bill, and the positive economic impact of this bill’s intent will extend beyond the mining industry,” he added.

    Democrats argued that the bill would go too far in easing environmental rules. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) rejected the possibility of exempting some projects from environmental review under NEPA.

    “The whole idea of the National Environmental Protection Act is that there would be an independent review that involves public input, input from all affected interests, and input from somebody who speaks for the land, and somebody who speaks for the trees,” Holt said.

    But Republicans, including bill sponsor Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), said the bill still gives federal agencies plenty of time to make decisions for or against permitting decisions.

    “What’s the problem with two and a half years to talk about the permit?” Amodei asked. “What’s the problem with providing some predictability to the timing of the permitting process? What’s the problem with not stringing people out under NEPA for over a decade for mine decisions?”

    There are 17 minerals that are generally accepted as “rare earth” minerals that the bill would cover. But the bill is broader than that, covering minerals that support manufacturing, housing, transportation and other sectors, as well as those important for economic security and the balance of trade.

    Democrats said the bill would ease the federal regulatory process for all mining companies, not just those involved in rare-earth minerals or those seen as providing a strategic advantage.

    “The bill we are considering today is so broadly drafted, where apparently sand and gravel and crushed stone are considered rare and strategic, that the majority actually appears to be trying to usher in a new stone age,” Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said.

    Just before the final vote, the House rejected a Democratic amendment to limit the list of minerals for which mining permits could be streamlined under the bill. The House also rejected all five Democratic amendments offered to the bill.

    House passage sends the bill to a Democratic Senate that is likely to ignore the bill. On Tuesday, the Obama administration said it “strongly opposes” the bill because of its implications for the environment, and agreed with House Democrats that it would streamline permitting procedures for nearly all hardrock mining.

    The White House did not, however, say it would veto the bill.

  • What Oil Companies Do With $375 Million Each Day

    by Rebecca Leber, by Eric Lipton, and by Alyce Santoro

    www.progress.org

    The Big Five oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — are slated to announce their 2012 second-quarter profits. These companies, all of which rank in the top 10 of the “Fortune 500 Global Ranking,” will reveal billions of dollars more in profits. After raking in $375 million in profits per day in 2011, and $368 million per day in the first three-months of 2012, their combined profits reach $1 trillion from 2001 through 2011.

    The five biggest oil companies received a record $137 billion profit in 2011, despite reducing their oil production.

    Per minute, these five companies took in $261,000 — more than 96 percent of American households make in one year.

    These five oil companies received $6.6 million in federal tax breaks every day.

    In 2011, the three largest domestic public oil companies spent $100 million of their profits each day, or over 50 percent, buying back their own stock to enrich their board, senior managers, and largest shareholders.

    The entire oil and gas industry spent on average $400,000 each day lobbying senators and representatives to weaken public health safeguards and keep big oil tax breaks, totaling nearly $150 million.

    Each CEO of the Big Five companies received an average of $60,110 in compensation per day last year. On average, their pay jumped 55 percent in 2011. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s compensation came close to $100,000 per day last year.

    Despite ranking as some of the most successful companies in the world, big oil and gas companies continue to receive $4 billion in tax breaks each year.

    The House of Representatives is on track to collect a record amount of oil industry contributions this cycle, having already reached 2008 and 2010 levels. And these are direct donations only — it does not include Super PAC spending or other campaign assistance.

    Fact checkers have thoroughly debunked the anti-clean energy ads from oil company groups. Both Politifact and the Washington Post Fact Checker have given the ad their worst ratings of “pants on fire” and four “Pinocchios”, respectively.

    To read more

    JJS: Most people notice only the size of oil profit, not the kind. Oil companies do earn some money from extraction, transporting, refining, and retailing, but they reap their biggest harvest merely from the value of oil in the ground. Norway charges 80% of the world price to extract their oil yet oil companies still pay it because the other 20% is rewarding enough. Imagine if every government had the guts of Norway; oil companies would be about one fifth their current size and the public treasury that much richer. In contrast, the US Government bends over backwards to wait on oil companies, hand and foot.

    Drillers in Utah Have a Friend in a U.S. Land Agency

    The energy companies’ lobbying efforts extend beyond Washington to officials across the West, including the office of the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal Utah, population 9,000. Bureaucrats there are allowing oil drilling near Desolation Canyon, a national historic site known for its pristine wilderness and white-water rafting.

    The Bureau of Land Management, part of the Interior Department, is the nation’s biggest landlord, controlling 248 million acres, including nearly half the land in Utah. Charged with protecting public lands while exploiting their resources — for mining, drilling, timbering, ranching — the agency usually acquiesces, after confronting fierce industry pressure and political realities.

    In nine years, the Vernal office has approved 555 new oil and gas wells a year, nearly three times the number in the previous decade. Agency employees who often shuttle between business and government rarely issue drilling-related fines for environmental or safety violations and have pushed to ease rules about well sites near sensitive wildlife habitats.

    The field office also sided with business executives to kill a proposed agency study of the effect of thousands of oil and gas wells on area air quality. Agency managers then helped push for an industry-controlled study instead, despite protests from Environmental Protection Agency officials.

    “Achieved our goal of diverting B.L.M.,” industry lobbyists wrote. The study, released in 2009 predicted no “unacceptable effects on human health.” By early 2010, air monitors near Vernal registered ozone levels among the worst in the United States.

    “If you hear anybody on TV saying that somehow we’re somehow against drilling for oil, then you’ll know that they either don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re not telling you the truth,” candidate Obama said. “We’re drilling all over the place.”

    This spring, contractors were building a natural gas pipeline through nearby Nine Mile Canyon — nicknamed the nation’s longest art gallery — where American Indians once pecked stick figures into sandstone walls.

    Local resident Ms. Hansen, noting her husband’s family owns an oil rig firm, said, “People do get so excited about the money, they overlook the environment. We all breathe the air here. They need to remember that.”

    To read more

    JJS: Besides critiquing corporations wannabe reformers also cite customer consumption.

    How to Break Up With Big Oil: A “Complex” Relationship

    The most abundant “green” technology is available right now: our collective ability to maximize efficiency and reduce waste and demand for fossil fuels.

    During WWII, citizens voluntarily used less gasoline, fabric, metal, rubber, paper, etc, and grew small backyard “Victory Gardens”. “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” was the motto of the day.

    The Great Law of the Iroquois, AKA “The Law of the 7 Generations”, requires that all decisions be made with consideration for how our actions would affect a person born seven generations into the future. This law we can follow ourselves.

    To read more

    JJS: While people should reduce waste, the remaining legitimate need for energy is still enough to despoil the world. Fifty years ago, when we were using half as much energy as now, we were still wreaking environmental havoc. Cutting consumption can make the problem more manageable but it can’t make the problem go away.

    To do that, we need to draw power from elsewhere. To switch technologies, we must quit subsidizing the old ways and instead charge them for their pollution. Further, rather than subsidize what we think might be a good idea, we could get better results if we de-taxed wages and dividends and let competing entrepreneurs and investors determine what technology will best meet our energy needs and stay within the ecosystem’s constraints.

    Most crucially, we must recover the socially-generated value of resources like oil and land such as lots downtown. That will shrink oil companies and their ilk down to human-scale where they can’t wield so much political power in detrimental ways. It’ll also make it possible to de-tax our efforts (re above). Given how much we all spend for oil and land, recovering that revenue stream would probably generate a surplus that government could dispense as a dividend, a la Alaska or Aspen CO. In that geonomic context, overlooked basement inventors could more easily offer their alternatives to burning fossil fuels.

    ———————

    Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

  • Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
    EnergyWire: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Two out of every three times oil and gas companies have publicly disclosed the chemicals in their hydraulic fracturing fluid, they’ve left something out.

    At least one chemical was kept secret in 65 percent of fracking disclosures by companies that said they needed to protect confidential business information, according to a review of PIVOT Upstream Group’s D-Frac database done for EnergyWire.

    Critics of drilling say the widespread use of such “trade secret” exemptions undermines the industry’s assurances that drillers are being open with the communities where they are “fracking” wells and producing oil and gas.

    “It’s outrageous that citizens are not getting all the information they need about fracking near their homes,” said Amy Mall, who tracks drilling issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Companies should not be able to keep secrets about potentially dangerous chemicals they’re bringing into communities and injecting into the ground near drinking water.”

    But companies say they spend millions of dollars researching and developing new formulations of frack fluid and shouldn’t have to give away their secret recipes.

    And, industry groups say, the trade secret debate shouldn’t overshadow just how much information their member companies are now disclosing.

    “In just the past 18 months, the industry has spearheaded an effort that took us from an idea on paper about disclosure to a fully functional and user-friendly disclosure system,” said Steve Everley of Energy in Depth, a campaign of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “That kind of commitment and progress cannot be overstated in a discussion about industry disclosure.”

    In Utah, where disclosure is not yet mandatory, 94 percent of disclosures have at least one trade secret claim. That is the highest of any state with more than 100 disclosures. New Mexico was second with 84 percent. Disclosure is mandatory in New Mexico but not to the commonly used FracFocus.org registry from which PIVOT draws its information.

    All of BP America Production Co.’s 230 disclosures included at least one trade secret, according to the data. BP and Howell Oil & Gas, a small Texas company, were the only firms with more than 100 disclosures to have trade secret claims in all of their wells. Rounding out the top five were Exco Resources Inc. (98 percent), Devon Energy Corp. (97 percent) and Noble Energy Inc. (97 percent).

    At the other end, 38 percent of disclosures for wells fractured in Pennsylvania had trade secret claims, and West Virginia’s rate was 9 percent.
    The trade secret debate

    Trade secret protection has been one of the biggest sticking points in the fracking fluid disclosure debate, if not the biggest.

    For years, oil and gas companies opposed the disclosure of the contents of their fracking fluid by saying that giving away their proprietary recipes would put them at a competitive disadvantage. Now, environmentalists say trade secret provisions have created big loopholes in the laws that states are passing to require public disclosure.

    Drillers have rallied behind the privately run, industry-funded FracFocus site. And many state governments have adopted the site for mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in their states.

    Environmentalists and others suspect that companies cite “trade secret” information when they simply don’t want to disclose the toxic chemicals they have pumped underground. They say the oil and gas industry gets preferential treatment over other industries because state oil and gas officials allow drillers to claim trade secret protection without oversight.

    In New Mexico, for example, state rules allow companies to decide what they consider trade secrets. That decision can be challenged in court if someone disagrees.

    Environmental groups have sued the Wyoming Oil and Gas Compact Commission for allowing trade secret protection too easily (EnergyWire, March 27). Environmentalists had praised Wyoming as a leader in disclosure when the rules were announced, but now they say the state’s handling of trade secrets undermined its achievement.

    The National Resources Defense Council issued a report in July that criticized the ease with which state officials grant trade secret protections to oil and gas companies (EnergyWire, July 30). The report said that no states are providing comprehensive disclosure and state-level enforcement is uneven.

    The trade secret data was provided by PIVOT Upstream, which is the only company that has managed to convert the PDF documents provided by FracFocus into tabular data that can be used for broader analysis. Its D-Frac database combines data from FracFocus and other sources. PIVOT provided EnergyWire with data on any disclosures with “secret,” “confidential,” “CBI” (confidential business information) or “proprietary” in the categories of trade name, ingredient, purpose or “CAS Number,” the unique identifier for each chemical.

    The analysis did not include any trade secret claims about the amount of chemicals in the fracturing fluid.

    Some of the chemicals kept secret are toxic. Wyoming granted trade secret status to the ChemEOR product Inflo 250 W. But a chemical information sheet filed in Ohio indicates the product contains toxic methanol and 2-Butoxyethanol, a fracturing ingredient cited in several contamination allegations, and other hazardous components (Greenwire, Dec. 20, 2010).

    But drilling companies, and the service companies that provide fracturing fluid, say disclosing those chemicals to the public would also give away valuable information to their competitors.

    Halliburton Co. said it spent “tens of millions of dollars” across five years researching new fracturing fluids. The oil field services company said that public disclosure of its proprietary formulas could cost it $375 million (Greenwire, Jan. 20). ChemEOR, a Los Angeles-based oil-field chemical company, told Wyoming regulators it spent more than $400,000 directly on research and development of InFlo 250 W.

    Companies also have argued that too much disclosure also could hinder efforts to develop new, less toxic fracturing chemicals. They say they have no incentive to invest in research if their innovations will simply be given away.

    An Obama administration panel that looked at fracking and drilling was dismissive of industry fears about public disclosure but also said there needs to be “an exception for genuinely proprietary information” (Greenwire, Aug. 11, 2011).

    Industry notes that U.S. EPA allows companies to withhold trade secret information from its well-known Toxics Release Inventory. The FracFocus site says companies that have agreed to voluntarily disclose their frack fluid chemicals except for chemicals that qualify as trade secrets under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s worker safety laws.

    Service companies like Halliburton and chemical manufacturers are known to be the most interested in zealously guarding the confidentiality of their recipes. But some drillers see the secrecy as overblown. Jim Felton, a spokesman for Bill Barrett Corp. in Denver, said his company expects to reduce the number of trade secret claims in its disclosures.

    “After all, virtually all our operations currently are in areas involving other operators,” Felton said, “the point being that we are all using the same frac crews and performing essentially the same fracs into the same formations.”

    Click here to see more on PIVOT Upstream’s D-Frac database.

    Click here to see OSHA’s interpretation of trade secret rules.

  • Mat McDermott
    Treehugger.com
    May 30, 2012

    Two days ago the IEA released its latest report on natural gas, which was dutifully picked up and reported with golden tones. Perhaps appropriate enough for a report entitled Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas. You’ve probably seen the glowing reports about how cheap it is to making fracking safer. There are plenty of them.

    But too bad nearly everybody out there apparently stopped reading either the press release or the full report before they got to the part where the IEA says that ushering in a new golden age of natural gas will full and completely ruin the climate.

    Joe Romm nails it, but surprisingly for him actually understates things, when he describes how both the IEA and the media missed the mark in accurately conveying the meta-message of this report.

    Romm points out that it’s not until page 91 of the full report until the IEA gets into the royally ruining the climate part of increased natural gas development. Here’s the IEA (the emphasis is Romm’s):

    The Golden Rules Case puts CO2 emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse-gas emissions at around 650 parts per million, a trajectory consistent with a probable temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius (°C) in the long term, well above the widely accepted 2°C target. This finding reinforces a central conclusion from the WEO special report on a Golden Age of Gas (IEA, 2011b), that, while a greater role for natural gas in the global energy mix does bring environmental benefits where it substitutes for other fossil fuels, natural gas cannot on its own provide the answer to the challenge of climate change.

    But in the press release for the report, just one page long, the IEA states things more bluntly (even if still putting the crux of the matter until the end), comparing different scenarios for natural gas development:

    Energy-related CO2 emissions are higher by 1.3% compared with the Golden Rules Case but, in both cases, emissions are well above the trajectory required to reach the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C

    Perhaps the IEA is still burying the lede here, but that so much of the mainstream reporting on the matter apparently failed to realize the importance of that final line of the press release is equally to blame in the grand missing the point.

    If there was ever a better current example than this of fiddling while Rome burns, I haven’t seen it.

  • impacts

  • impacts

  • The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has been selected to do additional work to help the Sandia Wilderness achieve goals outlined in the Wilderness Stewardship Challenge.
    Many of you participated last year in helping us inventory dispersed campsites and non-native plants. This year our goals will be to survey and remove the non-native plants (Cheatgrass) and help to survey and replace old signage.

    We are looking for an intern who can commit 20 hours a week for 8 weeks.  A stipend is available. Please send your resume and relevant experience to Tisha Broska at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • In October, classical pianist Helene Grimaud will be coming to Santa Fe for a concert to benefit the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wolf Conservation Center. General admission tickets are on sale at Tickets Santa Fe at the Lensic or 505-988-1234. Purchase VIP packages here. Click on the picture below to check out a PBS interview with Grimaud:

  • In October, classical pianist Helene Grimaud will be coming to Santa Fe for a concert to benefit the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wolf Conservation Center. General admission tickets are on sale at Tickets Santa Fe at the Lensic or 505-988-1234. Purchase VIP packages here. Click on the picture below to check out a PBS interview with Grimaud:

  • By Megan Kamerick, KUNM

    November 19, 2012

    So exactly what kind of sound might stop a Mexican Grey Wolf from taking down a cow?

    That’s just one of the questions explored by the International Symposium on Electronic Arts. Albuquerque recently hosted ISEA,bringing top international artists for performances, lectures and art installations. It’s the first time the event has been in the U.S. since 2006.

    Exhibits created as part of ISEA will be here through early January at 516 ARTS and the Albuquerque Museum and many of the pieces tackle hot-button issues like water, climate change and the interactions between humans and nature.

    Artist Marina Zurkow and collaborator Christie Leece take technology to a ridiculous extreme with “GIla 2.0: Warning Off the Wolf.”

    01:00
    04:42
    Hear the full story

    It includes a decorative collar that issues noises like gargling, elephants and singing cowboys. Zurkow is a New Yorker who did a residency in Silver City as part of ISEA. The piece at 516 ARTS proposes — maybe — arming cattle to fend off wolves. Zurkow says she tested the sounds out with a predator specialist in Utah.

    “He said ‘It’s great. Just keep it really weird. As long as it’s novel and unpredictable, animals don’t get used to it and they actually can’t stand human sound,'” she says.

    The ISEA 2012 theme is “Machine Wilderness.” The idea is to re-envision how art, technology and nature can interact and riff off one another. It’s a perfect fit for New Mexico, says Andrea Polli, ISEA 2012’s artistic director. New Mexico has some of the most wild places in the country, she says, and some of the most advanced science as well.

    “It’s a perfect place for that clash and juxtaposition of nature and technology,” Polli says.

    Zurkow imagines a cow with body armor and leg guards that spray scents wolves hate, like citronella and human urine. An electronic cowbird perches on the bovine’s rump, ready to set off an alarm and warn ranchers of predators via Twitter.

    People have been experimenting with technology around the world to protect livestock. So is Zurkow serious? Maybe. Maybe not. But she says the questions underlying the piece are very real: What do public lands mean? Who gets to use them?

    Other ISEA artists also use satire to tackle contentious issues. The Secret of Eternal Levitation operates like a video game where the uber wealth extract global resources. Step right up to the kiosk and create your own floating mansion. Stephanie Rothenberg based the idea on an island of lofty intellectuals in Gulliver’s Travels who couldn’t bother to support themselves by working, so they took what they needed.

    Just use the joystick to start scooping up steel, lumber, water – oh, and workers, of course. A British woman with a creepy deadpan explains how the fictional La Puta Isles scours the earth for resources, including cheap labor.

    “Due to recent shifts in U.S. immigration policy, our recruiters have identified qualified workers in the ara of Plaza Los Nogales in Nogales, Mexico, directly across from the U.S. Arizona border,” she intones.

    Just click a button an streams of the iconic male and female symbols are sucked upward into the waiting ship to build your dream mansion. Such techniques move visitors beyond passive museum experiences and Andrea Polli says that’s deliberate.

    “It’s not just interactivity for interactivity’s sake in many of these pieces,” she says. “It’s about getting us to think about our human impact.”

    So there is a plant that spouts odd sounds in reaction to human movement, rushing toward people or skittering away as the enter 516 ARTS.

    Birds blend with machines in several pieces. They react to visitors, cocking electronic heads or mechanical wings. Robots covered with bones and feathers are Frankenstein-like creations where microprocessors have resurrected birds into grotesque form. One avian corpse bears a sign asking people to talk to it and responds with a stream of nonsensical sounds.

    Artists are good at upending the relationships between humans and nature, says Greg Esser. He’s the director of the Desert Initiative, a collaboration launched at ISEA of more than 30 cultural organizations, universities and public agencies in the Southwest.

    “Artists are particularly trained in ways of critical thinking and creative thinking that directly challenge our assumptions and really push us to think or look at things in new ways,” Esser says. “So I think they are uniquely positioned to help us find solutions that might be obvious but that no one has thought of yet.”

    Considering how difficult it is to talk about issues like climate change or water, maybe artists like those in ISEA can foster new discussions about our collective future.

    Listen to the audio

  • By Megan Kamerick, KUNM

    November 19, 2012

    So exactly what kind of sound might stop a Mexican Grey Wolf from taking down a cow?

    That’s just one of the questions explored by the International Symposium on Electronic Arts. Albuquerque recently hosted ISEA,bringing top international artists for performances, lectures and art installations. It’s the first time the event has been in the U.S. since 2006.

    Exhibits created as part of ISEA will be here through early January at 516 ARTS and the Albuquerque Museum and many of the pieces tackle hot-button issues like water, climate change and the interactions between humans and nature.

    Artist Marina Zurkow and collaborator Christie Leece take technology to a ridiculous extreme with “GIla 2.0: Warning Off the Wolf.”

    01:00
    04:42
    Hear the full story

    It includes a decorative collar that issues noises like gargling, elephants and singing cowboys. Zurkow is a New Yorker who did a residency in Silver City as part of ISEA. The piece at 516 ARTS proposes — maybe — arming cattle to fend off wolves. Zurkow says she tested the sounds out with a predator specialist in Utah.

    “He said ‘It’s great. Just keep it really weird. As long as it’s novel and unpredictable, animals don’t get used to it and they actually can’t stand human sound,'” she says.

    The ISEA 2012 theme is “Machine Wilderness.” The idea is to re-envision how art, technology and nature can interact and riff off one another. It’s a perfect fit for New Mexico, says Andrea Polli, ISEA 2012’s artistic director. New Mexico has some of the most wild places in the country, she says, and some of the most advanced science as well.

    “It’s a perfect place for that clash and juxtaposition of nature and technology,” Polli says.

    Zurkow imagines a cow with body armor and leg guards that spray scents wolves hate, like citronella and human urine. An electronic cowbird perches on the bovine’s rump, ready to set off an alarm and warn ranchers of predators via Twitter.

    People have been experimenting with technology around the world to protect livestock. So is Zurkow serious? Maybe. Maybe not. But she says the questions underlying the piece are very real: What do public lands mean? Who gets to use them?

    Other ISEA artists also use satire to tackle contentious issues. The Secret of Eternal Levitation operates like a video game where the uber wealth extract global resources. Step right up to the kiosk and create your own floating mansion. Stephanie Rothenberg based the idea on an island of lofty intellectuals in Gulliver’s Travels who couldn’t bother to support themselves by working, so they took what they needed.

    Just use the joystick to start scooping up steel, lumber, water – oh, and workers, of course. A British woman with a creepy deadpan explains how the fictional La Puta Isles scours the earth for resources, including cheap labor.

    “Due to recent shifts in U.S. immigration policy, our recruiters have identified qualified workers in the ara of Plaza Los Nogales in Nogales, Mexico, directly across from the U.S. Arizona border,” she intones.

    Just click a button an streams of the iconic male and female symbols are sucked upward into the waiting ship to build your dream mansion. Such techniques move visitors beyond passive museum experiences and Andrea Polli says that’s deliberate.

    “It’s not just interactivity for interactivity’s sake in many of these pieces,” she says. “It’s about getting us to think about our human impact.”

    So there is a plant that spouts odd sounds in reaction to human movement, rushing toward people or skittering away as the enter 516 ARTS.

    Birds blend with machines in several pieces. They react to visitors, cocking electronic heads or mechanical wings. Robots covered with bones and feathers are Frankenstein-like creations where microprocessors have resurrected birds into grotesque form. One avian corpse bears a sign asking people to talk to it and responds with a stream of nonsensical sounds.

    Artists are good at upending the relationships between humans and nature, says Greg Esser. He’s the director of the Desert Initiative, a collaboration launched at ISEA of more than 30 cultural organizations, universities and public agencies in the Southwest.

    “Artists are particularly trained in ways of critical thinking and creative thinking that directly challenge our assumptions and really push us to think or look at things in new ways,” Esser says. “So I think they are uniquely positioned to help us find solutions that might be obvious but that no one has thought of yet.”

    Considering how difficult it is to talk about issues like climate change or water, maybe artists like those in ISEA can foster new discussions about our collective future.

    Listen to the audio

  • FILM FESTIVAL TO HIGHLIGHT WATER ISSUES

     **Sponsors: New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Amigos Bravos, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club**

    “It’s All About Water — Films and Conversation,” a two-day film festival and public forum, will explore concerns about the pollution of our waters and water sustainability, including discussion of issues in the Southwest, New Mexico and Albuquerque.

    The festival will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, at Albuquerque’s South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway Blvd. SE.  Doors open at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.  Admission is free and light refreshments will be provided.

    “The purpose of the festival is to spark thought by showing the films and to give participants a chance to talk about concrete steps we can take to address our concerns,” said festival organizer Susan Selbin.

    Eight films will cover issues ranging from city water infrastructure and water in the Southwest to the impacts of oil/gas development and the worldwide privatization of water.  In panel discussions following the films, local officials, film producers and activists will detail the local implications of issues described in the films.  Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions and raise relevant topics.

    At a brown-bag lunch (participants bring own lunches) after the Saturday morning sessions, those interested will be invited to talk about steps for addressing local water-related problems.

    Panelists are:

    Friday:  Gwen Lachelt, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project; Debra Anderson, producer of “Split Estate”;  Kathleen Dudley and Don Hamilton of Drilling Mora County;  Darleen Gomez, an attorney raised on a ranch with a “split estate”;  Nadine Padilla, coordinator of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment.

    Saturday:  Kathy Verhage, Albuquerque Stormwater Management; David Price, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority; Bruce Thomson, Director of UNM Water Resources Program; Paul Robinson, the Southwest Research and Information Center.

    Also Saturday: James Maestas, South Valley Regional Association of Acequias; Steve Harris, Rio Grande Restoration; Elaine Hebard, water policy expert; Dave Gutzler, professor, UNM Earth and Planetary Science Department.

    Films are:

    Friday:  “Natural Gas from Shales:  Some Myths and Realities”; “Split Estate”; “Tipping Point.”  Saturday morning:  “Liquid Assets”; “American Southwest:  are we running dry?”

    Saturday afternoon:  “Water for the World Act of 2011”; “Tapped”; “Blue Gold.”

    For a detailed schedule and updates, please go to www.cabq.gov/sbcc.

    View the event flier.

  • wolf 150x150 inverse

    Please join others and call Senator Tom Udall NOW! Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, has written a letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle asking that the directive to remove the wolf mom from her pups and pack be reassessed.  Congressman Grijalva raises further concern that there is no solid plan to release more wolves to bolster an already fragile population. Urge Senator Udall to write a similar letter to Dr. Tuggle! Let him know that New Mexicans care about restoring wolves and healthy lands.

    Call Sen. Udall’s office now: 202-224-6621

  • wolf 150x150 inverse

    Please join others and call Senator Tom Udall NOW! Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, has written a letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle asking that the directive to remove the wolf mom from her pups and pack be reassessed.  Congressman Grijalva raises further concern that there is no solid plan to release more wolves to bolster an already fragile population. Urge Senator Udall to write a similar letter to Dr. Tuggle! Let him know that New Mexicans care about restoring wolves and healthy lands.

    Call Sen. Udall’s office now: 202-224-6621

  • The following facts come from a variety of sources and are meant as a timeline to present the facts of what was clearly one of the great betrayals of modern times.

    Few fit the character of villain and conman quite the way John Boyden does when it comes to mining and deceit. John Boyden was a pillar of Utah Democratic politics for many years. He was both a friend of Utah governors and of presidents. He twice sought Utah’s Democratic nomination for governor. He was a prominent Salt Lake City lawyer, who grew up a devout Mormon (ironically in a town named Coalville, Utah).

    In 1947, Norman Littell of Arlington, Virginia, and John Boyden of Salt lake City, Utah, each applied for the combined post of general council and claims attorney for the Navajo Tribe. After much deliberation, the tribal council voted to reject Boyden and engage the services of Littell & Associates. Boyden was not pleased by the outcome and made sure he did not fail with the Hopi.

    By 1943, the federal government no longer recognized the true Hopi Council, because Hopi traditionalists refused to recognize it. In order for Boyden to legitimize himself as the Hopi attorney, he made agreements with the leaders of seven of the twelve Hopi villages along with the unofficial Hopi Council.

    In 1949, the Hopi religious leaders known as the Kikmongwi pleaded with President Harry Truman to prevent mining on their lands. The president ignored them.

    Boyden was first hired by an unofficial group, which called itself the Hopi Tribal Council in 1950, to represent the tribe before the Indian Claims Commission. This commission was created to determine compensation for tribes whose lands were seized by the United States.

    For Boyden, such work was a bonanza—he would earn a $500,000 fee or 10 percent of the government’s $5 million settlement with the Hopi for the loss of four million acres. This was roughly $1.25 per acre.

    Boyden then moved to get the Hopi villages to hire him as general counsel to negotiate with oil companies interested in leasing parts of the reservation. The local Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recommended rejecting the contract because it would legitimize a renegade tribal council without the consent of the Hopi people. Boyden went over the head of the local representative and won approval from Department of Interior officials eager to see the lands leased for oil and minerals. The BIA memorandum of the time documents Boyden saying, “Remuneration for his services will depend largely on working out solutions to many of the Hopi’s problems to such a point that oil leases will provide funds.”

    By 1951, there was coal fever in the region. The Hopi did not have a government that could sign leases, as they practiced their traditional self-government and their religion forbade coal mining.

    By 1952, Boyden filed a petition with the Secretary of Interior asking that a former solicitor’s opinion stating that there were co-existing mineral rights with the Navajo be reconsidered and that the Hopi be granted full rights. While this was occurring, the Arizona School of the Mines and the BIA had been conducting a study of mineral resources on Hopi and Navajo lands, including the Black Mesa super formation. Their three-volume report specifically mentioned the idea of “strip-mining and electrical power generation within the foreseeable future.” It was also viewed as a potential oil and gas bonanza.

    In 1963, the Supreme Court upheld a decision by a district court that gave the Hopis a clear title to surface and mineral rights for 631,000 acres of land. However, the court also gave both tribes equal rights to minerals and surface rights for 1,785,900 acres – meaning that the tribes would evenly split proceeds from the rich coal deposits on Black Mesa.

    For his work on the land dispute case, the new Hopi Council (one that had been bitterly opposed by many in the tribe), paid Boyden $1 million for his work—$780,000 for legal fees and $220,000 as an expression of the Hopi’s “gratitude” for his work. The fee at the time was simply outrageous and was quickly rejected by Arizona BIA officials. In terms of normal costs of the time, for the 7,800 hours spent, the “top price paid for attorneys in the Phoenix area at the time would be worth roughly $273,000. They recommended approval of $400,000. Boyden appealed to Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udall. Udall granted him the $1 million settlement.

    Boyden also betrayed the Hopi by failing to allow them to capitalize on the powerful economic level that belonged to them. Black Mesa, while an environmental disaster, was one of the most important political and economic developments in Arizona history.

    What is important to understand is that for a generation Arizona politicians had pushed for the adoption of the Central Arizona Project, which would allow Arizona a large share of water from the Colorado River. However, California did not want to lose its share of water. To ease their concerns, a plan was adopted to build a coal-fired power plant in Page, Arizona, and a second plant in Laughlin, Nevada. The coal from Black Mesa would travel through the 273-mile pipeline and the millions of gallons of water used to slurry the coal would help cool the new power plant in Nevada. Without Black Mesa coal, this would never happen, and Boyden did little if anything to help the Hopi.

    In 1967, after leasing authority was established, a lease was quickly agreed with Peabody Coal, giving them the right to mine the area. The royalty rates to the tribe were far below commercial rates of the time, which of course made sense because while Boyden was representing the Hopi, he was on the payroll of Peabody Coal!

    The power plants were built and the water table in Black Mesa began to drop. Air pollution became chronic. It would take until 1987—21 years after signing the lease—until the Hopi would ever get anywhere near market value for their coal. By then Boyden was dead.

    As a footnote, the heavily subsidized Central Arizona Project is today used for heavily subsidized crops. High payments for this use of this water have led to many agricultural districts into bankruptcy and today Arizona is failing to take its full allotment of this wasteful project.

    As a result of all of this, tribes no longer use a single attorney for all their legal matters. Animosity between the Hopi and Navajo run high. Such is the legacy of the man, which remains revered in Utah by many, and left a continuing scar on the long tainted history of our relations with Native Americans while pursuing the goals of Manifest Destiny and our relentless push for development in the West.

    Resources to check out:
    Fire on the Plateau: Conflict and Endurance in the American Southwest by Charles Wilkinson
    The Navajo people and Uranium Mining by Doug Brugge and Esther Yazzie-Lewis

  • French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her New Mexico debut on October 23 with a solo concert at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. In addition to her international career as a musician, Hélène Grimaud is an advocate for wolf conservation, and proceeds from her October 23 concert, titled “Wild Harmonies,” will benefit the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wolf Conservation Center. Spencer Beckwith talks with the Santa Fe Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Demis Foster.

    Listen to the interview here.

  • French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her New Mexico debut on October 23 with a solo concert at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. In addition to her international career as a musician, Hélène Grimaud is an advocate for wolf conservation, and proceeds from her October 23 concert, titled “Wild Harmonies,” will benefit the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wolf Conservation Center. Spencer Beckwith talks with the Santa Fe Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Demis Foster.

    Listen to the interview here.

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