Emergency response weighed as drought worsens
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz— Federal officials say it may be necessary to reduce water deliveries to users on the Colorado River to prevent the shutdown of a huge dam that supplies hydropower to some 5 million customers across the U.S. West.
Officials had hoped snowmelt would buoy Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border to ensure its dam could continue to supply power. But snow is already melting, and hotter-than-normal temperatures and prolonged drought are further shrinking the lake.
The Interior Department has proposed holding back water in the lake to maintain Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to generate electricity amid what it said were the driest conditions in the region in more than 1,200 years.
“The best available science indicates that the effects of climate change will continue to adversely impact the basin,” Tanya Trujillo, the Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science wrote on April 7 to seven states in the basin — Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado.
Trujillo asked for feedback on the proposal to keep 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell — enough water to serve about 1 million U.S. households. She stressed that operating the dam below 3,490 feet, considered its minimum power pool, is uncharted territory.
In the Colorado River basin, Glen Canyon Dam is the mammoth of power production, delivering electricity to about 5 million customers in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. As Lake Powell falls, the dam becomes less efficient. At 3,490 feet, it can’t produce power.
Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet for the first time ever last month, a level that concerned worried water managers. Federal data shows it will dip even further, in the most probable scenario, before rebounding above the level next spring.
State adopts stiffer pollution rules for oil and gas
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico regulators have approved more rules aimed at cracking down on pollution from the oil and natural gas industry amid the national debate over domestic production and concerns about global energy market instability.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration on April 14 praised the rules, calling them among the toughest in the nation.
The Democrat has pushed for more regulations throughout her first term and the rules approved this week by the state Environmental Improvement Board mark the second part of her plan for tackling pollution blamed for exacerbating climate change.
High fuel prices are hurting household finances as the New Mexico state government benefits from a financial windfall linked to record-setting oil production in the Permian Basin. New Mexico last year surpassed North Dakota to become the No. 2 oil producing U.S. state behind Texas.
State oil and gas regulators adopted separate rules earlier this year to limit venting and flaring at petroleum production sites to reduce methane pollution.
This latest effort, led by the state Environment Department, focuses on oilfield equipment that emits smog-causing pollution, specifically volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.
It includes minimum requirements for oil and natural gas producers to calculate their emissions and have them certificated by engineers and to find and fix leaks on a regular basis.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which represents producers, expects the new rules will reduce emissions. But industry officials said New Mexico oil and gas production is responsible for only a small amount of the state’s ozone pollution.
The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico criticized the rules, saying the state opted to remove a more flexible regulatory framework for low-volume producers after being pressured by environmental groups. The industry group said on April 15 that the rules will lead to premature plugging of still-productive wells.
State supreme court swears in new chief justice
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Supreme Court has a new chief justice who will oversee the administration of the judiciary and act as an advocate for state courts at the legislature on budgetary and other matters.
Shannon Bacon was sworn in on April 13 to a two-year term as chief justice, a post that also involves coordination with the State Bar that sets professional standards for attorneys.
Bacon was appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2019 and won statewide election in 2020. She previously served nine years as a state district judge in the Albuquerque-based 2nd Judicial District.
Bacon already leads several high-court initiatives including a review of issues related to race and bias in the state’s justice system and efforts to promote diversity among judges and judicial employees. And she is active in efforts to improve eviction and foreclosure programs and reform the state’s guardianship and conservatorship.
Bacon’s years on the Supreme Court have been marked by webcast proceedings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the governor’s authority to impose sanctions under emergency health orders and an opinion upholding the Legislature’s spending authority over federal pandemic aid.
The justice was a dissenting voice in a Supreme Court decision allowing the Legislature to convene without in-person public access to the Capitol building in 2021.
Ex-VP hopeful announces he’ll seek presidential post
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A former Navajo Nation vice presidential candidate announced on April 4 that he is seeking the tribal president’s post.
Buu Van Nygren, 35, is the first to publicly announce his candidacy.
The primary election is Aug. 2. The top two vote-getters move on to the November general election.
More than a dozen people typically run for president of the Navajo Nation, which has the largest land mass of any Native American tribe in the U.S. and is second in population with about 400,000 tribal members.
Current Navajo President Jonathan Nez has not said whether he’ll seek reelection.
Nygren and his wife, Arizona state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, rode on horseback into Window Rock where he told a small crowd about his plans to improve the Navajo Nation.
Nygren’s first language is Navajo, and he’s from the Utah portion of the reservation. His father was Vietnamese.
Nygren recently resigned as the chief commercial officer at the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority to run for tribal president.
Nygren was former Navajo President Joe Shirley’s running mate in the 2018 election. The two lost to Nez and current Vice President Myron Lizer, who now is seeking the Republican nomination for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.
Hungry javelina gets stuck in car, goes for ride
CORNVILLE — A hungry javelina in Arizona ended up going for a drive when it became trapped inside an empty car and bumped it into neutral.
Deputies in Yavapai County responded to a call last week in Cornville, a community 10 miles south of Sedona, about a javelina stuck in a Subaru station wagon. Javelinas are pig-like animals that are native to desert environments.
After speaking with the car’s owner and other residents, they determined the car’s hatch back had been left open overnight.
The javelina jumped in to get to a bag of Cheetos. The hatch then closed, trapping the animal inside.
Authorities say the javelina ripped off a portion of the dashboard and the inside of a door in an attempt to escape.
The animal then managed to knock the car into neutral, causing it to roll down the driveway and across the street. The Subaru came to a rest, and the javelina was not injured.
A deputy opened the hatch, and the javelina was able to run back into the wilderness.