NM adopts oil and gas emissions rules
New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board yesterday adopted new air quality rules more than two years in the making. They’re designed to reduce harmful emissions of “ozone precursor pollutants,” described in an environment department news release as “volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen,” by approximately 260 million pounds annually. Starting this summer, compliance obligations for new and existing oil and gas operations will begin to take effect in New Mexico counties with high ozone levels: Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan and Valencia. NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement to the department over the next few months “will begin robust and innovative compliance assurance activities to ensure oil and gas operations are adhering to these new requirements.” gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham described the new rules as “a momentous step forward in achieving our goals of lowering emissions and improving air quality.” You can view videos of emissions from oil and gas operations in the San Juan Basin and Permian Basin here and here. Various environmental organizations heralded the new rules, including Jon Goldstein, senior director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, who said in a statement the new standards “represent historic progress for the health and safety of communities across New Mexico” and “ offer a powerful example for the [Environmental Protection Agency] to build on as it advances nationwide methane protections.”
El Santuario de Chimayó Pilgrimage resumes
Following a pandemic pause, Good Friday’s pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó returns today, with 38 agencies coordinating public safety measures for hundreds, if not thousands, of expected travelers to El Santuario de Chimayó as Easter weekend begins. Traffic patrols began increasing last night and will continue through the weekend. Motorists can expect significant delays on the roads leading to and around Chimayo. In a statement, Santa Fe County Emergency Manager and Assistant Fire Chief Martin Vigil recommends walkers wear sunglasses or eye protection due to the strong sun and wind expected today. In addition, he said, “Given the strong winds and very low humidity, fire presents a significant risk; all participants should avoid smoking and any open flames such as barbecues and fire pits.” Additional advice includes: staying on the path and following signage; dressing appropriately for the weather (layers); wearing bright and visible clothes; carrying a flashlight; bringing ample water and snacks; not walking alone and making sure someone knows where you are. All of the City of Santa Fe’s offices and recreation centers close at noon today; the pools at the rec centers close at 11:30 am; and the libraries close at 1 pm. Santa Fe County offices also close at noon today. And, ICYMI, taxes are due on Monday.
Progress reported on Hermit’s Peak Fire
Fire officials yesterday announced progress on the Hermits Peak Fire near Las Vegas, most recently reported at more than 7,000 acres and 10% containment. According to a news release, a combination of firefighter efforts, availability of aircraft and more favorable weather conditions resulted in smaller growth on Wednesday, with firefighters continuing to evaluate and minimize risks to structures in the surrounding communities; evacuation statuses for nearby communities are unchanged; and red flag advisories remain in place. Officials reported more than 200 homes destroyed in Ruidoso from the McBride Fire, which remained 0% contained as it edges toward 6,000 acres. Approximately 4,500 people have been evacuated as a result of the McBride Fire with, as reported yesterday, two lives lost. All of Nogal Canyon remains in evacuation status due to the Nogal Fire, which is 4% contained and at 394 acres. The Big Hole Fire burning on state and private land in the Belen Bosque in Valencia County is now 51% contained and estimated at 890 acres. No evacuations are in place; officials say one home and 18 outbuildings were destroyed in the early stages of the fire.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported April 14:
New cases: 176; 519,681 total cases
Death’s: 10; Santa Fe County has had 269 total deaths; there have been 7,400 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 60; Patients on ventilators: six
Breakthrough cases: According to the most recent weekly vaccination report, over the four-week period of March 14 through April 11, 39.3% of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 22.1% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 38.6% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 59.6%,18% and 22.4%. The percentages shift to 56.8%, 16.2% and 27% for fatalities.
Community transmission: According to the health department’s community transmission report for the two-week period of March 29 through April 11, only DeBaca County has low transmission. Twenty-one counties have moderate transmission; nine counties, including Santa Fe County, have substantial transmission; and two have high rates of transmission: Harding and Hidalgo. According to the report, Santa Fe County had 180 new cases during that two-week period and has a daily case per 100,000 population of 8.6. According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—all 33 of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.
Vaccinations: 91.1% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 77.9% have completed their primary series; 46.3% of adults 18 years and older have had a booster shot; 12-17-year-old age group: 71.2% of people have had at least one dose and 61.7% have completed their primary series; Children ages 5-11: 39.4% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 31.6% have completed their primary. Santa Fe County: 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 87.6% have completed their primary series.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
On the fourth and most recent episode of the first season of Santa Fe Public Schools Inside SFPS podcast, “Push Through and See More,” Board President Kate Noble talks about working at the BBC, returning home to Santa Fe—Noble is a Santa Fe High School graduate—becoming interested in education through her work in economic and community development and a whole lot more.
Travel & Leisure magazine takes the measure of “desert towns,” offering up the 11 best ones whose “otherworldly landscapes, arid climate, mystical vibes, or unique flora and fauna…offer an escape unlike any other. Even better, they have modern amenities, but you can still get away from it all for a bit of solitude.” Two such New Mexico towns make the list. Ojo Caliente receives mention for—you guessed it—its hot springs: “the only ones in the world with four different types of sulphur-free mineral waters.” The magazine recommends visiting Ojo Caliente Spa to experience them. Silver City, on the other hand, is “the place to be when it comes to finding your new favorite gem in terms of a desert destination and in the literal sense. You see, the town is a thriving arts community, filled with creators crafting gorgeous paintings, pottery, and jewelry.” Come for the crafts and stay for the festivals, T&L proclaims, such as the Silver City Blues Festival in May and the Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo in June.
National National Parks Week kicks off tomorrow and runs through April 24, with the theme of “sPark Connections” (that’s a play on the word “sparks” and not a typo). You could celebrate on social media with #nationalparksweek and #sParkConnections hashtags, but first go outside and at least take some photos. Any national park with a fee is free tomorrow, April 16, including Bandelier National Monument, where park entrance fees are normally $25 per private vehicle, $20 per motorcycle, or $15 per bicycle/individual (the waived admission fee doesn’t include camping fees ). While you’re in the Los Alamos area, the National Park Service operates two other sites: the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. You can find the complete list of national parks in New Mexico here. The More Than Just Parks website recently did a run-down of some of the highlights of 18 sites, complete with history and photos. Note that Carlsbad Caverns National Park yesterday enacted preventative measures effective today due to fire danger.
The National Weather Service forecasts higher temperatures today and through the weekend, with sunny skies and a high near 71 degrees and into the mid 70s on Saturday and Sunday. Wind forecasts at this point are a little less extreme—15 to 20 mph in the afternoon—but much of the state remains under a fire weather watch advisory due to “strong winds, relative low humidity and an unstable airmass.”
Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed perusing a selection of the late and great singer Amy Winehouse’s book collection, displayed next week at the 62nd Annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. She sure was amazing.