Energy, Utilities and Environment

Rio Grande Foundation Asks EPA to Withdraw its “Waters of the U.S.” Proposal

(Albuquerque, NM) —The Rio Grande Foundation today joined with 375 trade associations and chambers from 50 states representing a wide range of industries to voice strong concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flawed proposed rule to dramatically expand the scope of federal authority over water and land uses across the U.S. and called for the proposal to be withdrawn. The effort was led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The comments are available here.

The rule is simply an attempt by Washington, D.C., bureaucrats to take over the economies and the livelihoods of everyone in the western U.S. It has little to do with environmental protection, and everything to do with a political takeover of our most precious resource – making everyone in the west dependent and beholden to Washington bureaucrats.

As the groups’ comments state, “The proposed rule is really about the Agencies’ overreaching attempt to replace longstanding state and local control of land uses near water with centralized federal control. In light of the overwhelming evidence that the proposed rule would have a devastating impact on businesses, states, and local governments without any real benefit to water quality, the Agencies should immediately withdraw the waters of the U.S. proposal and begin again. The current proposed rule is simply too procedurally and legally flawed to repair.”

The comments detail several examples of the impacts of the proposed rule, including:

  • Maps prepared by EPA show the rule could expand federal jurisdiction over waters from 5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million river and stream miles;
  • The rule would make most ditches into “tributaries.”  Routine maintenance activities in ditches and on-site ponds and impoundments could trigger permits that can cost $100,000 or more;
  • These permitting requirements would likely trigger additional environmental reviews that would add years to the completion time for ordinary projects;
  • Even if a project can get a permit, firms will often have to agree to mitigate environmental “damage” with costly restoration/mitigation projects;
  • The proposal would likely also result in more stringent storm water management requirements, which would affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, “big box” stores, etc.

 

Who's grabbing New Mexico lands?

Recently, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich sounded off in the East Coast liberal establishment's favorite news outlet, The New York Times, about efforts by the Rio Grande Foundation and others who wish to devolve certain lands currently managed by Washington bureaucracies (specifically the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) to state control. Needless to say, he's not a fan.

I responded with an article that ran nationally (shockingly, not in the Times) and generated an interesting column on the situation from the Albuquerque Journal's Washington correspondent Michael Coleman.

I noted in my column that Heinrich (and Udall) enthusiastically supported federal monument designations in both Northern and Southern New Mexico. I was remiss in not pointing out that Heinrich and Udall have introduced legislation to designate an additional 45,000 New Mexico lands as "Wilderness." This bill is unlikely to pass Congress, but it is very possible that Heinrich and Udall will convince a lame-duck President Obama to "use his pen" to designate the land by himself in yet another federal "land grab."

How green is that plastic bag ban? Presentation video available

Julian Morris of Reason Foundation recently presented on the issue of plastic bag bans at a series of events in New Mexico. Already, Santa Fe and Silver City have bans in place. Morris is author of a report on the is the author of the new report "How Green Is that Grocery Bag Ban? An Assessment of the Environmental and Economic Effects of Grocery Bag Bans and Taxes".

Video of Morris' presentation (and a five minute personal introduction by RGF President Paul Gessing) is below and his powerpoint slides are available here:

The ineffectiveness of plastic bag bans presentation by Julian Morris of Reason Foundation from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Rio Grande Foundation to Host Bi-Weekly Radio Show on 770 KKOB AM

(Albuquerque, NM) — New Mexico’s only free market think tank, the Rio Grande Foundation, is hosting an hour-long radio show on 770 KKOB starting this Saturday, August 16, from noon to 1pm. The show will air every two weeks through at least the end of 2014. The show, entitled “New Mexico Freedom Hour” will focus on economic and education issues here in New Mexico with an eye towards real solutions that have been tried in other states. The format will involve interviews of guests from across the political spectrum and phone calls from the public. The call-in number is: 505-243-3333. Said Rio Grande Foundation president and primary host, Paul Gessing, “This show offers the listeners a unique forum in which to learn about and discuss the ways in which free markets and limited government can help everyday New Mexicans lead better lives. Show topics will include labor freedom, taxation, education reform, and an economic history of New Mexico to name just a few.

Carl Graham's interview on Las Cruces PBS

Carl Graham recently sat down and talked with Fred Martino of KRWG TV in Las Cruces. The video of Graham's interview can be seen below. Feel free to fast-forward through the valentine to heavily-subsidized so-called "renewable" industry to the 5:25 mark when Graham's interview starts. After Graham's interview, there is an interesting (albeit one-sided) discussion of the land the State of New Mexico could receive due to the Organ Mountains Monument land grab.

Federal lands in New Mexico: Recent presentations

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government and I had a whirlwind tour of New Mexico to discuss federal lands issues in the West and New Mexico in particular. We discussed New Mexico's economy and how it is impacted by federal lands as well as solutions like "Financial Ready" and "Transfer of Federal Lands" (TPLA) legislation.

Carl spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Albuquerque:

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West speaks at Rio Grande Foundation event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

He and I (my presentation starts at 45:20) also spoke to the New Mexico Association of Counties meeting in Deming (the Association passed a resolution supporting TPLA):

Carl Graham of Coalition for Self Government in the West & Paul Gessing of RGF speak at New Mexico Association of Counties event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico covered the Albuquerque event and interviewed Graham here.

More information will certainly follow on this important issue.

Federal energy policy regulator could negatively impact New Mexico

Though many New Mexicans may not be aware of it, especially given our state’s ongoing economic struggles, New Mexico is in the midst of a boom in energy development. New Mexico has vast deposits of oil and gas that can help our state transcend its struggling economy, leading to better jobs and higher wages.

Just ask the people of North Dakota, whose oil and gas production has resulted in an unemployment rate of less than 3% and fast-food workers being hired at $15 per hour. How important is New Mexico’s energy development? Nearly one-third of all state funding to public schools, as well as to New Mexico’s higher-education institutions, comes from taxes, royalties and fees paid by oil-and-gas operations around the state.

The main threat to New Mexico reaping this huge windfall is an anti-oil and gas movement in our nation’s capital, the same one that has put the Keystone Pipeline project in limbo. Leading this charge is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wants hand-picked energy novice Norman Bay to lead the country’s premier energy agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). With Bay at the helm of FERC, New Mexico’s energy boom can be stopped,

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