Inevitably, when talking about oil and gas development, the wordfracking 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced it’s keeping a closer eye on southern New Mexico, where some deer are infected with chronic wasting disease. That disease attacks the brain and spinal column of deer and elk, causing them to become emaciated and eventually die.
Chronic wasting disease isn’t widespread in New Mexico, but there are some hot zones near Cloudcroft and Alamogordo.
Head north of Albuquerque and look over toward the Rio Grande and its forest, or bosque. Within that green ribbon of trees, you’ll also spot leaves that are reddish brown. Even from the Interstate, the dying trees are obvious.
Those leaves belong to tamarisk, or salt cedar. More than a century ago, the trees were introduced to control erosion and act as windbreaks. But they have overtaken riverbanks across the southwestern United States, sucking up water and choking out native species like cottonwoods and willows.
Here, where the Alameda Bridge crosses the Rio Grande on the north side of Albuquerque, you can see what New Mexico’s weak monsoon season looks like on the ground.
The water is braided around sandbars and islands. It’s so shallow that even where the river is flowing, sand is visible just a few inches below the surface. Two Canada Geese honk beneath the bridge, then take off. When they land again, their feet are barely covered by the water.