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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Water Saver? Conservation Hero?

This little hour glass really helps you stick to a quick shower.

Have you made some great strides this past year to conserve water? If so, you could be recognized on the field of Southwest University Park during an El Paso Chihuahuas home game in June and you will receive four free tickets for that game. You may even know someone who you would like to see nominated. For an application go to Every Drop Counts and download the application.

Also, if you are doing something to cut your water consumption, take a picture and post it on EPWU's Facebook page. You will have a chance to receive Neon Desert Music Festival tickets. For more information about Water Savers go HERE.

Be sure to read the EPWU press release below.




Monday, May 2, 2016

Breaking News: CEMEX Sells McKelligon Canyon Quarry

This doesn't sound like good news. GCC will just continue to operate the quarry without the baggage that CEMEX had. I doubt that the new owner will sell to the State for preservation as part of the Franklin Mountains State Park. I don't know any more details. For now, go HERE to read the press release from Business Wire.

Excessive Burden on Taxpayers

[Below is another op-ed piece by Charlie Wakeem which appeared in yesterday's El Paso Times. elpasonaturally reprinted the same piece with additions under the title of Political Influence Costs Taxpayers Millions.]

Ray Adauto, who represents the El Paso Association of Builders, wrote a response April 17 to a guest column I had previously submitted to the Times. His response contains so much misinformation that I must respond to it.

Before I do, please remember that I served on the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee with Adauto for five years and we’ve always treated each other cordially and with respect.  Nonetheless, Adauto serves his industry.  I serve no one (except El Paso) when I serve on boards and committees.

I am not now nor have I ever been against development.  Development is vigorous business activity and healthy for any community.  The question is not whether there should be development, but how and where it should take place.
Adauto states that “there are dozens of reasons people live in El Paso.”  He’s right, but one reason should be “quality of place.”

Land development is the industry that is most responsible for our city’s appearance together with good but fair city codes which promote complete neighborhoods, multi-modal transportation and walkability.

Adauto states, “One thing that makes our community special is the ability to find affordable housing…”

Providing affordable housing is important, but it should not place an excessive burden on taxpayers who subsidize it and eventually pay for the infrastructure that the developers leave out.

Adauto states:  “Proponents of impact fees, like Charlie Wakeem, keep espousing the notion that if you raise fees then you can keep growth out.”
That is not true at all!  Impact fees are not designed to punish developers or stifle growth.  They are designed to make sure new growth is financially fair to all stakeholders.  (Why should residents of older neighborhoods subsidize the development of new neighborhoods?)

This concept is set forth in Chapter 395 of the Texas Local Government Code.
Adauto states:  “Surprisingly, it is conveniently never explained that a large portion of the monthly water/sewer rate a new home buyer pays goes toward subsidizing replacement of older, outdated infrastructure.”

He should know better.  Chapter 395 strictly forbids the use of impact fees for replacement of old infrastructure.  The fees can only be used for infrastructure necessary to serve new growth.  All taxpayers and/or ratepayers are obligated to pay for repairing and replacing old infrastructure.

Adauto states:  “That’s why the PSB purchased thousands of acres of desert back then (early 1950’s) to have land to sell to try to keep the cost of water and sewer service down.”

Just the opposite is true.  The Public Service Board purchased the land so that El Paso wouldn’t run out of water (as it almost did in 1952).  The PSB determines whether the land is “inexpedient to the system” and can be sold.

When it established the PSB in 1952, City Council wisely assigned it the responsibility for “management and control” of the city’s water and land resources.  The more we sell the PSB land, the scarcer our water resources become.

The PSB Selection Committee met in late 2014 to recommend—to City Council—someone to fill the “engineer” position on the PSB.  David Nemir was the incumbent and was eligible for another four-year term.

A policy states that land-development engineers don’t qualify to serve on the PSB due to a possible conflict of interest.  One of the applicants was such a person.  I pointed this out.

The committee was told that the applicant had recently sold his firm and retired. If he did so, then why is he still representing land developers at the City?
The committee recommended Nemir by a wide margin. However, Council inexplicably appointed the land-development engineer.

Charlie Wakeem

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Friday Video: Climate Narrative: 3 Climate Message That Win

In case you didn't attend the lecture and didn't see the story earlier this week in the Times, HERE is the story again about the Udall lecture at UTEP on climate change and drought in the Southwest.  According to the Times, Udall "explained how climate change and future water scarcity in the West are inextricably linked."

Yet, there is still a large population of climate change deniers who influence policy and marketing decisions in the United States and around the world.

A strategy to persuade climate deniers is conversation. Check out climatenarrative.org. Download their free guide.  Grist.org discusses climatenarrative's conversational approach in How to convince the climate slacker to get serious. and tells us everything they know about how to talk about climate change

So here's our Friday video, Climate Narrative: 3 Climate Messages That Win:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lights on Transmountain?

There has been some email chatter today about the possiblity that TxDOT is planning to "light up" Transmountain with a string of light poles. I'm not sure how this rumor got started, but here is the response from TxDOT's Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek:

"There is no lighting included as part of the current project and we currently have no plans to install lighting along TransMountain.  In the future, if there were a drastic increase in the number and severity of nighttime accidents along the roadway we might consider continuous lighting; however, given the lack of electric service and the cost of such an installation I expect we would look for other options first.  Let me be clear however, I don't expect there to be a sudden increase in accidents along TransMountain so any discussion of what might happen is just speculation."

Rest easy.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Modest Proposal

At this time I am very skeptical about utilities ever working with the rooftop solar industry. What the utilities want is an assurance that they will be the only game in town. If they own the solar panels, that's one thing. If you own the panels, that's another. Besides, the Koch Brothers and the petroleum industry do not want to lose control of their monopoly over energy. That is, of course, until peak oil has really peaked. By that time, the dinosaurian oil and gas industry will just about become extinct.

As Jim Schwarzbach posted yesterday on Citizens Against El Paso Electric's Attack on Solar, EPEC believes that it "has an inalienable right to any and all rate increases" and that they are "entitled to anything and everything they ask for."

By the way a prominent El Paso businessman who does business on both sides of the border told me yesterday that he pays more for electricity in El Paso than he does in Juarez. El Paso already has the highest rates in Texas.

So, here is my modest proposal. For every additional fee (or whatever EPEC calls it) that they tack on to the bill of rooftop solar owners, those owners get twice that amount by way of a reduction in or refund on their property taxes.

El Paso can go a step farther. They can reduce the cost of going solar by the same means—a property-tax reduction or refund.

Sooner or later, when there are so many mini-generating stations on homes and businesses, the City can tell EPEC that they are no longer needed … or even wanted for that matter.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Stop Mountain Development in Northeast El Paso

From our friends at Franklin Mountains Wilderness Society:



ATTEND City Council! 
An outpouring of attendance at City Council can spur their action.
!!  Attend  !!
What:  City Council Meeting, Call to the Public
Date:   Tuesday, 19 Apr 2016
Time:  8 am
Location:  City Hall, 300 N. Campbell. MAP
Sign up to speak during Call to the Public HERE.  
Sign up to speak on “Save Our Sierras” (SOS) even if you change your mind later.  That way your opinion counts.  

Why:  City Council must commit to, and initiate negotiations with willing land owners in order to preserve privately owned land around our mountains.  The owners of this land have stated their willingness to sell or trade.
Background:  Land owners plan to develop over 600 acres in Northeast El Paso between Hondo Pass and McKelligon Canyon, including the Sierra del Puerte development.

Recent Events:

On 5 Apr, SOS and Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition (FMWC) members asked City Council to stop the Sierra del Puerte development on our mountainside in Northeast El Paso.  City Council heard us.  Now we need to follow through.  Our message is simple: “Only City Council has the power to protect our mountains.” and “What has the City done on negotiating with the land owners?”   You can view the entire 5 Apr meeting HERE under City Council Meetings for that date.

On 9 Apr, the El Paso History Radio Show interviewed land owners Sherry Mowles and Dan Knapp about their plans for developing and the history of their land.  You can listen to the entire interview HERE.  

On 24 Mar City Planning Commission approved all exceptions to the Planned Mountain Development subdivision code that the developer requested.  The reason the developer needed exceptions was because of “severe topographical conditions.”  Members of Save Our Sierras spoke in opposition and you can view the entire meeting HERE under City Planning Commission for that date.

!!  Attend  !!
!! Sign up to Speak!!

Our Mountains need your presence and your voice.

Save Our Sierras!