Laura Paskus

Freelance Reporter

Ways To Connect

Laura Paskus

There used to be big talk about a big boom coming to the San Juan Basin. Industry thought they’d sink 20,000 new oil wells. Companies wanted to take advantage of oil deposits squeezed into tiny fissures in tight shale deep underground.

Laura Paskus

Thanks to technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, New Mexico is one of the top natural gas producers in the world – 27th according to the latest annual numbers from 2012 just released by the American Petroleum Institute. But there’s more to the economics of drilling than just counting rigs and tallying profits.

Laura Paskus

Last month, citizens, local officials and state regulators from New Mexico and Colorado gathered in Farmington, N.M. to learn more about the methane anomaly over the Four Corners that is being studied by scientists across the nation.

NASA

Scientists published a paper on methane levels across the globe last year—and their satellite images show the largest methane anomaly in the United States hovers over northwestern New Mexico. Now, some of the nation’s top scientists have come here to figure out where all that methane’s coming from.  

Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Inevitably, when talking about oil and gas development, the word fracking comes up in conversation.

In the coming weeks, KUNM will be airing more feature stories on oil development in northwestern New Mexico. And I'll be posting here about some of the more technical issues I explore, such as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. 

Laura Paskus

When the US Bureau of Land Management's Farmington District Manager, Victoria Barr, came into the KUNM studio for the Call In Show, she brought a brand-new map with her. She sent along the PDF, for those who would like to take a look at the active leases and special designated areas near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park.

Laura Paskus

UPDATE 2/12: All told, the BLM ended up receiving about 30,000 comments on the proposed Piñon Pipeline. That's according to Victoria Barr of the BLM's Farmington Field Office who discussed oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico on the KUNM Call In Show.   

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Laura Paskus

Etta Arviso is one of the Diné – or, Navajo – women who I met last year in Counselor, New Mexico. She is an “allottee,” which means her family lives on land adjacent to the Navajo reservation that is held in trust by the United States government. 

In this audio clip, she introduces herself, talks about the history of her homeland and people, and voices her opposition to increased oil and gas development on the checkerboard lands of the eastern Navajo Nation.

Laura Paskus

    

In October, Pueblo of Zuni Councilman Mark Martinez and I viewed Chaco Canyon National Historical Park from above during an ecoFlight tour.

Martinez was interested in flying above the park to see the remains of ancient buildings and roads. And also to see nearby drill rigs, old and new.

The Pueblo of Zuni is just one of the tribes that asked the federal government to protect Chaco Canyon.

Laura Paskus

While reporting this series, it's really easy to end up with more voices and moments than can ever be plopped into the four-minute feature stories that air on KUNM. That's why over the course of this project, I'll be sharing some of those moments with you online.

Laura Paskus

On Thursday night, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management hosted a crowded—and sometimes heated—public meeting in Santa Fe. Currently, the agency is considering a pipeline that would carry crude oil from northwestern New Mexico to rail lines along Interstate 40.

As it’s currently proposed, the 140-mile long pipeline would run across federal, private, state and Navajo Nation lands.  After local residents and activists complained, the agency agreed to extend the public comment period and hold three additional meetings.

Laura Paskus

    

Sarah Jane White’s walking to the top of a sandy hill near the eastern edge of the Navajo reservation. Along the way, she points to footprints in the sand. Her 4-year-old grandson, Albino, crouches to look. She shows him the prints of a horse, then a cow. Each time, he’s delighted.

It’s sunny and warm, though just a few days before the official start of winter. We walk past juniper trees, an old sweat lodge. Albino powers across the sandstone arroyo and on up the hill. The sky’s a deep blue. And depending on the breeze, the air smells like either sage or pine.

Laura Paskus

In December, KUNM reported that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was extending its public comment period for a proposed oil pipeline until January 30, 2015. The 130-mile long pipeline would run between Lybrook and Milan, N.M.

On December 31, the agency's Farmington Field Office announced additional public meetings on the pipeline.

Laura Paskus

Last week, The Washington Post ran a story about the enormous plume of methane being produced in New Mexico.

As reporter Joby Warrick writes:

Laura Paskus

At a meeting Thursday, officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management agreed to give the public more time and opportunities to weigh in on a proposed oil pipeline.

Laura Paskus

The oil and gas industry in New Mexico is a big deal. It supports the state budget with hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But there are impacts, too – on air quality, water, public health and even cultural sites. In the first installment of KUNM’s new series Drilling Deep, we explore northwestern New Mexico – and the Chacoan landscape.

To reach Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you hang a left off highway 550 near Nageezi, New Mexico and head south.

Laura Paskus

Over the next few months, I’m going to be exploring natural gas drilling and the burgeoning oil industry in northwestern New Mexico for KUNM. It’s an ambitious series, but I’m looking forward to learning how drilling affects the local economy, as well as the state of New Mexico’s coffers.

Dom Smith at EcoFlight

The morning I flew out of the Farmington airport with Bruce Gordon, from ecoFlight, I had to leave Albuquerque long before the light of dawn. And while I didn't have much time for sight-seeing, I did take a few minutes to stop along the road in Lybrook, New Mexico, where drillers were flaring off excess gases from the oil wells.

Even in the daylight, the scene along Highway 550 is pretty dramatic these days.

Laura Paskus

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is considering a proposal to build a pipeline that would move oil to markets from northwestern New Mexico. The agency hosted a public meeting on the plan Thursday night in the town of Lybrook, south of Farmington.

Laura Paskus

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission approved a controversial proposal Monday to divert water from the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico.

The project will draw water from the river, store it in reservoirs, then pipe it over the Continental Divide, to the New Mexico town of Deming. It will take 20 years to build and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Silver City resident Dutch Salmon said he’s disappointed by the commission’s vote but he’s still hopeful the project isn’t set in stone.

Laura Paskus

Before the end of the year New Mexico officials will have to make a decision about water development in the state—they’ll decide what will happen to the Gila River. It’s a decision that’s been ten years in the making. But as details emerge, some lawmakers and scientists are worried about the future of New Mexico’s last free flowing river.

We’re standing on the banks of the northern Rio Grande, about forty miles downstream of Colorado. We’re next to a small diversion which waters some pasture and a garden in the village of Pilar, N.M.

Funding Would Boost Native Youth Suicide Prevention

Jan 17, 2014
—Honoring Native Life—Watch the video here: bit.ly/HonorLife

    In the fall of 2009, four young people in the southeastern part of the state died by suicide. Three were Mescalero Apaches.

Just a few months later, in the spring of 2010, five Navajo teens also died by suicide in Thoreau, a town in Western New Mexico of fewer than 2,000.

The series of Native American teen suicides those two years made it clear: New Mexico was experiencing a crisis.

Laura Paskus

In Socorro County this week, the Festival of the Cranes draws thousands of tourists. Sandhill cranes and snow geese draw the big crowds, but the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge hosts more than just migrating birds.

Six sandhill cranes swirl above us, deciding whether or not they’re going to land. We’re standing at a pullout along Highway 1, south of San Antonio, New Mexico.

Laura Paskus

Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report from the world’s top climate scientists detailing everything from extreme drought to rising sea levels.

For decades, the IPCC has collected information about changes in the climate over time and improved models predicting future changes. One of the scientists who worked on the Fifth Assessment Report is the University of New Mexico’s David Gutzler.

Laura Paskus

 Editor's Note: This piece originally aired in April, 2013 on KUNM. 

The muddy waters of the Rio Grande are still flowing through Albuquerque. But New Mexico is in the grip of long-term drought and there’s little water left in upstream reservoirs. That means this summer will probably be like last year—when 52 miles of the Rio Grande dried up south of Albuquerque.

Laura Paskus headed out to take a look with one of the world’s leading experts on desert rivers and sent us this audio postcard.

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Earlier this month, the New Mexico Environment Department gave the federal government the green light to ship “hot,” remote handled waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in a new type of container.  

Since 1999, transuranic waste from nuclear weapons manufacturing has been stored in salt caverns a half-mile below the surface of the earth at WIPP in southern New Mexico.

Laura Paskus/KUNM

The Rio Grande ran low and dry this year.  That was bad news for fish and for farmers. And it’s unlikely that relief is in sight: Reservoirs are low and climate change is here.

In the second of this two part series, KUNM  takes a look at the Rio Grande—which one advocate worries might someday be a “ghost river.”

Janet Jarratt runs a dairy in Valencia County, south of Albuquerque. Farmers work harder than anyone she knows.  And making a living is even tougher during dry years, she says, when farmers don’t know if they’ll get their water.

Map from Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance. http://www.new-mexico-borderplex.com/

Just before nine o clock this morning, people living or working near the Santa Teresa Industrial Park received a call from authorities. They were told to remain indoors and seal windows and vents.

By noon, 200 people had been evacuated to the local high school. People were having a hard time breathing, were feeling light-headed, nauseous and dizzy.  And they were treated for exposure to an "unknown substance." About that time, hazmat teams began moving into the area to test air quality.

Laura Paskus/KUNM

At the end of October, the Rio Grande in Los Lunas is crunchy.

Except for a few crows and one sandhill crane flying high above, the skies are quiet. There’s no water here, and no reason for cranes or ducks to land. Up and down the riverbed, there’s only sand.

This time of year, Mike Hatch is still getting out of bed at about two in the morning. Since mid-June, he’s been tracking the drying as part of the government’s River Eyes program.

USFWS

It’s a sunny Saturday morning at the Randall Davey Audubon Center—way up Canyon Road in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos. Jays, chickadees, and nuthatches are all keeping a noisy watch on the feeders—and the festivities.

Audubon New Mexico is honoring Rachel Carson, whose book, Silent Spring, was published 50 years ago.

In her book, Carson wrote of how the pesticide DDT was killing wildlife and endangering humans. In particular, birds exposed to DDT were laying eggs with shells so thin they broke before hatching time.

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