Jack Loeffler’s Local Aural History Comes To Abiquiu

Remember RACC’s chapbook publication from a few years back entitled, Thinking Like the Rio Chama Watershed? The New Mexico author, Jack Loeffler was, on many levels, a real inspiration for this chapbook which helped us tell the story of our beautiful Rio Chama Watershed. Jack is the editor of the book, Thinking Like a Watershed: Voices from the West;Adventures With Ed: A Portrait of Ed Abbey and many other books on Southwest counterculture, Hispano music traditions of the Rio Grande de Norte, and his most recent memoir entitled, Heading Into the Wind: a Memoir. My copy is due in the mail any day.

Jack was the first speaker who appeared February 6th in awonderful series presented by Si Abiquiu and hosted by the Abiquiu Inn. HIs talk was entitled,The Practice of Aural History with Jack Loeffler, and he took the audience on a riffing adventure of his life. He started out as a jazz musician and eventually moved into his area of true passion, recording the aural history of a region, which for him ranged from deep Mexico to the Colorado Plateau.

He believed in recording not only the sounds of a regional culture, in the way of music traditions and storytelling, but in recording what he called the “conversations that nature is having”. He presented one of his most haunting recordings from the Valle Caldera where he was camping out at night in very windy conditions, his recording equipment primed to record the conversation. With the wind making it impossible to pick up any individual sounds, he pointed the microphones downwind, and stood, holding his wool blanket up behind him to block the wind.
The most incredible collection of sounds became suddenly beautifully legible, with a chorus of bugling elk, coyote and a lone wolf. As a listener, I could almost hear the dark starry sky incapsulating this soundscape. It was soulfully mesmerizing.

He ended the talk by giving us a piece of advice that will stick with me for a very long time to come. He reminded us, with a very direct gaze, what our obligation to the earth entails during these dangerous times for our planet : obey the laws of nature before the laws of man. 

Thank you Jack.

On April 30th, Si Abiquiu is bringing us Steve Harris with a talk entitled, A River Thirsting For Itself. You can see the line up of talks at their website here.

OCC Adopts Oil and Gas Enforcement Rules

According to a front page article in the Rio Grande Sun, San Juan Basin Rancher and activist Don Schreiber described extremely lax oil and gas regulatory rules that have been in operation in the state for the last decade as, “a remarkable hole in environmental protection for New Mexico”. Under a new ruling January 16th, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) granted the authority to issue administrative penalties to oil and gas companies for violations of the New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Act. 

Some of the fines that the Oil and Gas Division may now issue to bad actors in the oil and gas industry are for practices regarding pipeline safety, failure to report a spills or handling of oil and gas in a way that results in toxic waste. Fines can range from from $2,500 per day and can reach up to $10,000 per day. 

Our state is now 3rd in crude oil production. In 2018 our state was 9th. 

According to an 2019 Earthworks report, oil and gas related spills increased nearly 100% since 2008 and more than 500% since 2000, while fines are rarely issued to companies violating the rules.

“Enforcement of oversight of oil and gas facilities in northwestern New Mexico is a critical step forward to protect communities that live with extensive oil and gas development.”

Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizen’s Alliance

National and Local Frack News

A national FRACKING BAN ACT, introduced recently in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), would ultimately help protect the Rio Chama Watershed from fracking development by the year 2025.

The new laws, if passed, would also prohibit fracking within 2,500 feet of homes and schools by February 2021. They would also provide a transition for working families in the fracking industry.

An article out in Rolling Stone Magazine entitled, America’s Radioactive Secretexplains just how toxic frack waste is. When we think of radioactive waste our minds tend to go to nuclear explosions and the deadly radiation left behind. A little know fact is that frack waste, via the produced water “brine”, can be laced with naturally-occurring radioactivity when it resurfaces after drilling. That brine waste is then hauled away in trucks and disposed of. Workers are not necessarily given safety instructions on radioactivity. Check out the article link above and follow one worker as he takes samples of the of the brine he hauls and investigates the contents.

“Targeting uranium-containing deposits for oil and gas deposits unavoidably gets radon into the natural gas (methane) which decays rather rapidly into 210-Polonium. The HUGE Taylor Ranch/Aliso Canyon leak in California, no doubt, exposed a large portion of the population to 210-Polonium in their lungs as the radon they breathed in decayed, in situ, to stick to the lining of their lungs and surrounding areas permeated by the radon before it could be exhaled. White women in the San Juan basin may have already been identified as having a higher incidence of lung cancer due to the pumping of discount natural gas directly into homes without aging the gas sufficiently to decay and precipitate Polonium before being pumped into homes for water heaters, furnaces, oven ranges, and other applications with insufficient venting to remove the radon/polonium contained, therein.”

Galen Knight, PHD Chemistry

Meanwhile, as the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper put it, “the race is on to find uses for wastewater from fracking.” Apparently, supporters of this idea see a day when treatment technologies are far enough along to make frack water safe for irrigation and maybe even safe enough to drink.

New Four Corners Methane Map 

With methane venting and flaring in the Permian Basin doubling since 2017, and the existence of a methane cloud the size of Delaware over the four corners area of our state, we thought it would be a good idea to look at a current map that shows methane in relation to the Rio Chama Watershed.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, oil and gas industry groups claim a decline in methane emissions overall while other studies indicate more methane and carbon dioxide is being vented than ever. You can read the article from the New Mexican here.

The Guardian just published an article highlighting a new study that indicates human fossil methane emissions in general have been underestimated by up to 40%. You can read that article here.

And here is a link to the methane map and article from the Environmental Defense Fund’s website. The map is interactive. Look for Lake Abiquiu to give yourself an idea about proximity of the methane cloud to our watershed.

Local Writer Reports from COP25

Tierra Amarilla activist and writer Lori Glover is a recent arrival in the watershed and we are grateful to her for filing this report with us.

Lori Glover has been working in environmental activism since 2014 when Fracking and a large gas pipeline threatened her community in Alpine, TX, near Big Bend National Park. She is a wife, mother of 4, and grandmother of 2. Last June 2019, Lori and her family (husband Mark, daughter Mesa, son Reef, and 3 cats) moved to Tierra Amarilla, NM to get away from Texas politics, restore 2 one-hundred-year-old adobe houses, and enjoy the beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes of northern New Mexico. 

When oil and gas development first reared its ugly head in the pristine and undeveloped Big Bend area of West Texas that had been the Glovers’ home for over 20 years, Lori had been teaching English composition courses at Sul Ross State University for over 8 years. Both Lori and Mark were Conservation Chairs of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club Executive Committee and later Lori was elected chair of the BBRSC and was awarded the Texas Lonestar Sierra Club Conservation Award in 2017 for her efforts to stop the Trans Pecos Pipeline. She is also the co-founder of the Big Bend Defense Coalition and currently works for Earthworks as a Texas Pipelines Organizer.
Lori also organized and helped collect emissions data all over the Permian Basin including the New Mexico side with Sharon Wilson and Nathalie Eddy of Earthworks as a CEP Texas Field Organizer.

She has spoken at several marches, shareholder meetings, and conferences including the shareholder meeting at US Bank in Albuquerque and the Eastern People’s Conference held by Dine Care in Counselor, New Mexico in 2018.  Last Fall 2019, she co-organized the Permian Gulf Coast Convening in Corpus Christi. The conference united organizers from New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana who are all fighting Permian Basin oil and gas buildout and infrastructure to form the Permian Gulf Coast Coalition (PGCC). In December, Lori and other members from the PGCC from New Mexico and Texas attended COP 25 in Madrid. She has recently been invited to join the Chaco Coalition continues to work raise awareness of the increasing air and water pollution and oil and gas infrastructure development in the Permian Basin and across the state of Texas.

COP25 Delegates Press for Action while the UN Dallies 

By Lori Glover, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

This was my first COP, and I truly believed the UN was sincerely concerned about climate change. After all, #TimeForAction was plastered everywhere in Madrid. But as the monolithic metal door of the IFEMA conference center slowly began to close, I rethought that premise. 

Two hundred delegates and I stood shivering, coatless, while dozens of security guards blocked re-entry to the United Nations Climate Conference after we delayed party negotiations and demanded action. Despite 25 years of COPs, the Arctic is melting, Australia and the Amazon are burnt to a crisp, and, yet, still no solutions. Unforgivable. 

We shouted, “Shame on you, shame on you!”  The door stopped, reversed direction and began to rise. We cheered, then silence–all eyes on the door. It again began to shut. We were locked out of COP 25. 

The UN claimed protestors posed a safety risk and must be removed. The only true risk was inaction. While heads of state haggle over carbon markets, emissions and global temperatures are rising and superpower countries like China and the United States continue expanding fossil fuel production. The Permian Basin alone is projected to release 65 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in the next 20 years, threatening to push global warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

COP often felt frantic. Our collective purpose tenuous with agendas, pleas, and brilliant save the world schemes competing for attention. We rode a wild carousel of press conferences, presentations, meetings, sanctioned protest events, performances, and a Climate Strike March of 500,000 people demanding bold action in the streets of Madrid.

My head was still spinning as I rode the AVE train south through the tranquil olive orchards of the Andalusian Hills after the conference was over. The train passed charred ruins of WWI, villas and cottages with roofs punctuated by gaping bomb holes, painful juxtapositions of historical trauma. I tried to make sense of it all. I wondered at the complex abstraction of human violence. We are now in a global war against ourselves and climate change. In a hundred years, will we even be here?

Maybe Not.

The fuses are burning on 3 carbon bombs on our planet right now: the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, the Tar Sands in Alberta and the Vaca Muerta shale formation in Argentina: the three largest most rapidly expanding oil and gas regions in the world. 

During COP, Permian Gulf Coast Coalition delegates–Crystal Moran of West Texas; Juan Parras, Ana Parras, and Yvette Arellano of Houston, TX; Rebekah Hinojosa of Brownsville, TX; Ethan Buckner, Earthworks’ Energy Campaigner, and I–stood in solidarity in with our Canadian and Argentine allies holding banners and telling our stories to protest the unconscionable fossil fuel expansion. 

This is what we hoped for—to gain foreign allies and support, and grow the ranks of what, at the recent Davos Climate conference, President Trump called “perennial prophets of doom”. Seven out of 10 Americans believe global warming is happening; yet, the U.S., the 2nd largest emitter of carbon emissions after China, recklessly races to extract and burn fossil fuels at breakneck speed. We need global pressure to put on the brakes.

If promoting extinction and planetary destruction were crimes, the U.S. and China would be the most dangerous criminals in the history of humankind . Perhaps, the COP fossil of the day awards should be renamed “global super villain awards.” Rather than rally the power of over 200 countries to commit to urgent action and hold these super villains accountable, the UN parties dallied unsuccessfully with negotiations for two extra days. 

“The Permian Basin is an oil and gas carbon bomb that’s exploding, and it’s happening right now. If we can’t defuse it, the world cannot avoid catastrophic climate change.” said Ethan Buckner. 

According to a new report from Oil Change International, “Between 2018 and 2050, production of new U.S. oil and gas reserves could unlock 120 billion metric tons of new carbon pollution.”

Tensions are rising as quickly as global temperatures.  If we’re going to prevent further conflict and global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, the UN must take action immediately and hold all members accountable. Phasing out oil and gas production by banning imports and halting expansion and bringing impacted communities and indigenous leaders to the negotiating table in a People’s Tribunal would be a good start.  

The UN parties seemed detached from the people experiencing the devastating realities of climate change and fossil fuel exploitation. Indigenous-led demonstrations at COP and the U.S. and Canadian embassies declared governments to be complicit with fossil fuel corporations, therefore, in violation of International Law and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. When confronted directly, the UN foolishly chose to crush dissent, and, on the first day displayed a blatant disregard for indigenous voices when the COP President excused herself at the beginning of a meeting with indigenous leaders. 

Let’s change COP so there is genuine, real-time dialogue between UN parties of countries, indigenous leaders, and organizations in a mandatory People’s Tribunal.  Let’s put climate criminals on trial! Organizations present facts and demands–the UN responds with solutions.

Do you love the Rio Chama Watershed but also travel by airplane regularly to visit family and friends across the U.S.? R.A.C.C. is dreaming up a local, alternative energy, carbon off-set project that you might want to consider contributing to. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, for a fun-to-watch video about how carbon off-setting works, click here.

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