Rio Chama Watershed Faces New Frack Leasing

Here we go again folks. This December, the Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office is offering up 13 new parcels of Greater Chaco Land for oil and gas leasing. The “scoping period” for these parcels took place in July. Our opportunity to register our public protests with the BLM in the form of protest letters will be from October 22, 2018 to October 31, 2018. Public protest letters on your part have made a huge difference in previous lease sales! Since 2012 we have had no new oil and gas activity in the Rio Chama Watershed.

One of these lease sale parcels is within the Rio Chama Watershed boundary and we need to rise up, once again, and give our watershed, and the Greater Chaco region, a voice. The parcel in our watershed is near Hwy 112 out of Regina and east of Lybrook. One parcel may not sound like such a big deal but we believe in maintaining a “no tolerance” policy and to put forward the Rio Chama Watershed as a shining example of a community who simply will not accept oil and gas development, and the damage it can cause within our community watershed. Some truly amazing, heartfelt and detailed letters, with very specific knowledge about fracking and our watershed, came out of our last letter writing campaign. Ready to do it again and make our voices even louder this time around? Do you know someone that you can bring to a letter writing event that cares about the watershed and Greater Chaco but has never participated in a letter writing campaign before?

Terry Sloan, Director of Southwest Native Cultures, is a vocal opponent of corporate, for- profit leasing of the Greater Chaco.

“The federal government needs to serve all of us, not just the oil and gas industry. Why must the BLM continue to put corporate profits in front of New Mexicans’ health? Corporate management and shareholders do not have to live in the polluted environmental mess they create.”

He sites the fact that The Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors, New Mexico Congressional Delegation and the New Mexico State legislature and more have all called for a moratorium on all and any new leasing until the BLM has completed a comprehensive management plan that addresses the impacts of horizontal fracking. Fracking has been well documented as causing adverse health and environmental impacts. Directing his comments to the BLM, Terry states that, “By going forward with this lease sale, you are failing in your responsibility and commitment as land managers and breaking your commitment to consult with tribal governments and impacted communities.”

We are one of those impacted communities. Stay tuned as we plan a letter writing event for this lease sale. Speaking up has worked in the past! And we make it fun (thank you Carolyn Riege!). Many participants have commented that the letter writing events helped them “get the job done” as RACC supplies talking points and sample letters and then delivers the letters to the BLM. Chocolate is involved. Stay tuned to RACC Watershed Alerts and newsletters for date and time.

Tri-State’s Hold Over Jemez Electric Co-op Explained

RACC’s dual mission to educate the community about oil and gas fracking in our watershed, as well as work on solutions to our energy needs here in Rio Arriba County, has led us to take interest in Tri-State’s hold over Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op. We are extremely lucky here in El Rito to be in Kit Carson Electric Co-op territory where we can enjoy buying energy that we know is being produced in a sustainable way. For others in our watershed served by Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op it is currently another story.

In June of 2016 Kit Carson Electric entered into a membership withdrawal agreement with their wholesale supplier of energy, Tri-State. Under the Tri-State contract, Kit Carson, an energy retailer to our community, was limited to producing only 5% of their energy needs from local renewable energy projects – the remaining 95% had to be purchased from Tri-State under the contract’s rules.

According to Kit Carson board member, Bob Bresnahan, the co-op was interested in the low, stable pricing that clean energy offers. The Co-op anticipates being able to generate 100% of its power on sunny days by 2022. The Co-op’s decision to move on from Tri-State and enter into a contract with a different wholesaler, Guzman Electric, has drawn national attention and KC has recently been accepted into a collaborative research effort focused on solar energy that was organized by the National Renewable Energy Lab. The Kit Carson model is also being studied and noted by Co-ops in Colorado and beyond who are seeking to gain more control over their energy use and production.

Under the new contract with Guzman, and with their assistance, KC will build approximately 30, 1 megawatt arrays across KC’s territory. Ownership of some of the arrays could be via third party financing.  There is no cap on the amount of renewable energy the Co-op can supply. As Kit Carson solar arrays come online, it expects to be insulated from the risk associated with fossil fuels. And that is good news for the Rio Chama Watershed.

Renewable Taos, dedicated to promoting and facilitating a full transition to renewable energy efficiency in Taos county and the surrounding area, helped facilitate and support Kit Carson’s evolution. They did this mainly by educating the community about renewable energy on an ongoing basis. The group met with county and town officials and held community meetings about climate change and the new energy economy. Ultimately it was the Kit Carson Co-op board of directors, and the company’s visionary leader, that united in pursuing a buyout that has allowed the Co-op to move on and seriously invest in solar energy.

Jemez Co-op on the other hand, is still mired in a Tri-State deal that limits the Co-op to providing just 5% of their electricity needs from local renewable energy projects The remaining 95% must be purchased from Tri- State. Jemez is the largest electric Co-op in the state serving consumers in the five counties of Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, San Juan, Mckinley and Sandoval. The contract signed with Tri-State in 2000 runs for 40 years.

Tri-State states on their website that renewable energy is a growing part of their portfolio, with Tri-Sate and member projects forecasted to produce 30% of the energy used by Tri-State association members in 2017.

From the information we currently have, the majority of the Jemez Electric Co-Op Board of Directors does not support and/or feel such a buyout is feasible. Board member elections occur every odd numbered year, according to NM Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund consultant, Luis Torres. Torres has been attending meetings and talking with Jemez Co-op board members in pursuit of a solution. You can link to his Rio Grande editorial on the subject hereThree board positions will be up for election in 2019 and then seven in 2021.

Luis Torres plans to come to the next public portion of our monthly RACC board meeting on Friday, August 31st, 2pm at the El Rito Library, so we can all understand the Jemez Co-op dilemma, what is at stake for our communities, and what we can do about it. Please join us! The El Rito Library is a comfortable and cool place to meet (thank you Lynette!). Luis is ready and willing to patiently explain all the ins and outs of the situation and very much welcomes your participation and your burning questions around this important issue.

RACC Receives $1000 Donation for Outreach

We have received a very welcome $1000 donation for our outreach on environmental oil and gas concerns!

RACC gained a spot in the Santa Fe Community Foundation GIVING TOGETHER CATALOGUE under the category of Sustainability and Environmental Organizations (thank you board member Peggy Baker!). Our request was for funding for a bi-lingual brochure to help educate targeted communities with low internet access about the 
dangers of fracking.

Our initial goal stated in the catalogue was $3100.00. We are nearly one-third there!

Can you help us out?

Go to rioarribaconcernedcitizens website and click the DONATE button at the bottom of the page. Or, link to the Giving Catalogue at and make your donation to RACC through them.

Another recent, and inspiring, fund-raising success for RACC was via our art show, AGUA ES VIDA, held at the Abiquiu Inn. We raised $500.00 from the sale of artwork about the Rio Chama Watershed and the sale of our Thinking Like the Rio Chama Watershed chapbooks. Many thanks to the participating artists!

We hope to turn this into an annual event.

Renewable Taos invites you to an Electric Vehicle Expo !!

The inaugural  2018 Taos Electric Vehicle Expo  wants to light your mind on fire!

WHEN:    Saturday, September 8, 2018, Noon to 6pm 
WHERE:   Bataan Hall, UNM-Taos Downtown Campus on Civic Plaza Drive

Electric transportation. Gas no mas!  The Taos Electric Vehicle Expo will feature electric cars, electric motorcycles, electric bicycles, and speakers and exhibitors of other solar and renewable technology.

For more information go to

Is treated frack water safe? RACC questions EPA and State 

The EPA and the State of New Mexico Oil and Gas Division recently entered into an agreement to explore the re-use of oilfield frack water. The Memorandum of Understanding was reached without any public input or transparent agreement process.

The fracking of just one well requires about 30 million gallons of water and afterwards, most of that water is re-injected back into the ground. Now, New Mexico is considering how that wastewater could be reused. Part of the goal is to stop using fresh water for drilling.

Referring to the proposed process as “beneficial use of waters originating from oil and gas activity”, the Memorandum questions the current re-injection into the ground of produced water as it has been documented to over-pressurize underground formations and trigger earthquakes.

While that is all well and good, the big question environmental groups have is, “how safe will that re-used water be and who will regulate it”. The Environmental Defense Fund has deep concerns.

“We’re pleased that EPA Region 6 and the State of New Mexico are exploring potential alternatives for managing oil and gas wastewater, but we urge the workgroup to proceed with great caution to make sure that its recommendations don’t create  more problems than they solve.”

Questions remain about how clean the treated water needs to be to avoid negative impacts to the environment and human health. Hydrochloric acid, petroleum distillates, sodium chloride and trimethlbenzene are some of the chemicals used during fracking.

The Chaco Coalition put out a protest letter to the EPA on August 15, 2018 objecting to the Memorandum of Understanding process because it clearly violates several EPA notification requirements.

RACC signed on to support the protest letter. Our role as “watchdog” on the oil and gas  industry within the State of New Mexico is one we take seriously. 

Thank you for all you continue to do to keep the Rio Chama Watershed safe!