Wednesday, November 25, 2015

O'Rourke to Lead Campaign for Preservation of Castner Range

Click on image to enlarge.

I just got this from the Director of Frontera Land Alliance, Janae' Reneaud-Field:

Important announcement from Congressman Beto O’Rourke: He will lead the campaign to make Castner Range a National Monument, preserving it forever! 

On Nov. 12 we met with Congressman Beto O’Rourke and five members of his senior staff at the El Paso Community Foundation’s “Foundation Room.” There, Beto announced that he himself will lead the campaign to make Castner Range a National Monument, thus preserving it forever!

And now we’ve got our marching orders: “Work harder than ever to conserve Castner Range!!!” Since Nov. 12 we’ve been collecting letters of support, with the goal to get 1,000 letters by January 6, 2016, 5,000 by April and 10,000 by September. We’re also seeking City of El Paso and El Paso County resolutions. We are setting up a Castner Range National Monument webpage, twitter, and Facebook site. Until the sites are up and running you can learn more about Castner Range by watching a 10-minute summary:

As all of you know, Castner Range occupies 11 square miles on the eastern slopes of El Paso’s Franklin Mountains, just east of the state park. The Range is in nearly pristine condition thanks to the stewardship of the US Army that owns the land, and the unexploded ordnance that possibly lies thereon. But commercial development of Castner has been a constant threat for decades and is still a threat today. 

Anyway, please send us your letter of support to designate Castner Range as a National Monument. Mail or email the letter to Janaé Reneaud Field, Frontera Land Alliance, 3800 N. Mesa St., Suite A2-258. El Paso, TX 79902. E-mail:

If you’d like to help in these efforts or if you want additional information, please call Janaé at 915-351-8352 or send her an e-mail.

One way to sign the letter is to visit Santa at the El Paso Zoo December 12-13. Go see Santa, the Meerkats, the other animals, and stop by the Frontera booth to sign the letter.

Below is the letter. Click on the title above it, then download and print. Please sign, print name, address, etc. underneath your signature. Send to Janae' at the address above and NOT the President.

Former Congressman Silvestre Reyes laid a foundation for the Castner preservation. He arranged for "a $300,000 grant to the Castner Conservation Conveyance Committee, which from early 2010 through September 2015 did a ton of background work (including two book-length publications and a ten-minute video) and truly prepared the way for O’Rourke’s current effort," according to CCCC member, Dr. Richard Teschner.

O'Rourke made the announcement that he would lead the preservation effort this past Saturday, November 21st, at a town hall meeting at Fire Station #5 in South Central El Paso.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Saudis Draining Billions of Gallons of Water from Arizona

Alfalfa Farm under irrigation, San Miquel, California
Picture by Ken Figlloll taken 7-22-12, Flickr creative commons
Nestle and other companies that bottle water continue to drain California of its precious water. (Think about what you are doing when you next buy a case or two of bottled water at the store.) But get this: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking billions of gallons of water from Arizona in the form of hay. Because they have drained their own wells, they can no longer raise alfalfa to produce hay to feed their dairy cattle so they bought land in Arizona with good wells. Read or listen to the NPR story, Saudi Hay Farm In Arizona Tests State's Supply Of Groundwater.

As we know in El Paso, alfalfa likes a long growing season that it can get in the desert southwest. Only problem with that is that alfalfa takes lots of water to grow. Long growing season, lots of water, lots of alfalfa, lots of hay. (My English teachers are now spinning in their graves - well, lots of them.)

Besides the fact that the Saudis can now drain our aquifers, it's the reaction by local Arizona farmers according to the NPR report which astounds me: 

"No one we talked to has issue with these corporations coming in and wanting to make money. And the fact that it's going to Saudi Arabia or China, the locals simply didn't care. But what they did care about is that their water tables are falling. So their domestic wells that they use for their homes are increasingly dropping, and at some point, they're going to lose access to water."

See the problem. They don't object to making money. Capitalism, of course, is the true religion. But they are worried about their water. In this case, making money = using up the water supply. 

It's the same here. Every farmer has a right to make money and plant whatever crop will be the most lucrative. So the aquifer is dropping, the water is getting more brackish, and so the PSB/EPWU must go searching for water to import in the not too distant future. (Some private companies are already doing it.) Yet we should never attempt to regulate what is grown and where. Capitalism is the true religion. 

I sure hope that the Saudis don't buy land here. With the private property laws of Texas and the right of capture rule, we won't have to worry about importing water. All of us will just move to the Pacific Northwest. (I love the Seahawks anyway.)

One last thought. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are exporting billions of gallons of water in the form of hay. How many Syrian refugees are they taking? Hmmm?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rodriguez Says "No" to El Paso Electric

Who will EPEC hurt? Not the rich but young, struggling families such as the Villalreals
The modest central El Paso home of Rick and Donna Villalreal and their little boy was the setting this morning for Senator José Rodriguez's press conference. The Senator was joined by board members of Eco El Paso, students, builders, solar installers and energy experts. All spoke out against the attempt by El Paso Electric Company to destroy the rooftop solar energy industry in El Paso as well as the onerous rate hikes on non-solar users.

Senator José Rodriguez addresses the press

One speaker, Blanca Gadney-Moss, said that she opposed the solar rate hikes because it would hurt her 88-year-old mother. 

Several salient points were made:

Solar is clean energy.
Solar reduces the use of our scarcest resource - water.
The rates will penalize the poorest El Pasoan.
Solar adds not subtracts to the electric grid.
Solar technology is 21st Century technology. El Paso Electric Company is operating on 20th Century technology and business model.
Most powerfully - solar is about jobs and not just for installers but for electricians, plumbers, roofers, construction workers and more.
In fact the solar industry nationwide employs more workers than the oil and gas industries combined.
With El Paso's unemployment rate going up, solar should be encouraged.
Students see the potential for jobs and careers in solar.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rodriguez Press Conference on Solar This Monday

Senator José Rodríguez, solar advocates 
to have news conference on EPE solar proposal

El Paso -  State Sen. José Rodríguez and advocates for solar – who includes consumers and homeowners, solar companies and employees, and others involved in economic development and renewable energy – will have a news conference to discuss a  proposal by El Paso Electric (EPE) that would create a new fee for customers who have solar panels installed on their homes as well as increase their rates by 24 percent. Rodríguez will be joined by multiple experts, customers, workers, and others with expertise or experience with solar energy at the home of an electric customer who has installed a solar device.

What: News Conference to discuss El Paso Electric's proposal on solar rates

When: 11 a.m. Monday (Nov. 23), 2015

Where: 3208 Tularosa, El Paso TX, 79903

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Friday Video: Derek Spear's "Inspired"

Derek Spear is great! Here's a compilation of some of his drone videos showing just how beautiful our El Paso home is.

Eco El Paso Says "Don't Get Shocked"

Eco El Paso announces “Don’t Get Shocked” Outreach 
Campaign Saying “No!”  to all rate Increases

El Paso, Texas – Eco El Paso and multiple community partners announced the launch of their “Don’t Get Shocked!” outreach campaign.  The outreach will focus on directly contacting 10,000 homeowners in high voter turnout precincts throughout the entire city and providing information about the detrimental effects the proposed rate increase could have on El Paso as well as motivating consumers to directly contact their city representative and express their concern. 

“Eco El Paso is working on behalf of the citizens of El Paso to keep rates reasonable for all rate classes and encouraging economic growth,” stated board president Fred Dalbin.  “The rate case is about keeping all energy generation and conservation technologies, such as solar, accessible for everyone.”

Outreach will initially focus on consumer contact and utilize volunteers to reach homeowners across the city.  In addition to volunteer efforts, Eco El Paso is working to develop and deliver paid outreach in the form of mail and broadcast television over the coming weeks. 

In August 2015 El Paso Electric Company (EPEC) filed Rate Case #44941, which raises electric rates by 16.45%, proposes higher demand rates that will impact the vast majority of El Pasoans and increases rates for rooftop solar owners by over 36%. Eco El Paso has filed as an intervener in this case arguing that the creation of a separate rate for solar owners is discriminatory and regressive and without reasonable justification. Being an intervener requires EEP to engage an attorney in Austin, where the case will be heard and voted on by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). We are telling the community and PUC not to let El Paso Electric raise ANY of our electric rates.

Eco El Paso is a non-profit organization that promotes eco‐sensitive and energy efficient community planning, building design, construction and facility maintenance in El Paso’s region to professionals in the design, construction and building maintenance industry. It provides educational training seminars and presentations from experts in the various trades for residential, commercial and institutional projects.  Go to for more information.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rodriguez Opposed to EPEC's Attempt to Destroy Solar

[Below is a press release from Senator Rodriguez's office issued earlier today. I have been told to expect more details about "a news conference Monday where multiple experts, customers, workers and others with expertise or experience with solar energy will be available to discuss the issue further."]

Sen. Rodríguez: Solar energy benefits El Paso, EPE proposal does not

El Paso - State Sen. José Rodríguez today announced his opposition to a proposal by El Paso Electric (EPE) that would create a new fee for customers who have solar panels installed on their homes as well as increase their rates by 24 percent. He urged the El Paso City Council to reject the proposal. [See attached letter.]

"I have long been an advocate for advancing public policy that incentivizes the growth of renewable sources of energy in Texas, including solar. To that end, I passed legislation in 2011 (S.B. 1910) that established solar net metering in EPE's Texas service area," Rodríguez said. "Consistent with that history, I cannot now remain silent when the utility's current proposal may well undo the deliberate progress El Paso has made in truly realizing its potential as the 'Sun City,' a leader in solar energy for the rest of Texas."

Solar energy is a growing field in El Paso, with nearly 300 customers added since August alone, bringing the number of households with rooftop power generation to nearly 800. Additionally, some builders in the area have begun to add solar panels as standard equipment on new affordable housing. This helps reduce a homeowner's electric bill while also reducing the power load on the grid, which benefits everyone. It also promotes economic development with high-paying jobs.

The Senator outlined his opposition to the proposed increase in a letter to City Council; the Council will review EPE's proposal targeting solar customers in early December. The proposal is part of a rate case in which the company seeks to raise overall residential rates by about 12 percent. It is based on the assertion that customers with rooftop solar energy generation burden the power grid because they require service from EPE during times when the sun is not as strong—in winter, or on cloudy days, for example. However, rooftop solar customers also lessen demand on the grid because they produce energy during the hottest times of year—in the summer, when the sun is shining during periods of peak demand.

"To be clear, I would not oppose charging solar customers in a different manner, provided that manner fairly and accurately accounted for a customer's actual cost to EPE while also taking into account the value these customers add," Rodríguez said. "However, at present, I do not think it's appropriate to apply a steep demand charge, usually reserved for commercial actors, to a neighborhood home. This effectively punishes that customer for choosing to invest in solar."