Friday, July 3, 2015

A Gas Pipeline Under the Rio Grande? Watch Out San Eli

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A few persons in Far West Texas (i.e., El Paso) are aware of the controversy of building a gas pipeline from the Waha Oil Field in Pecos County through the most pristine land in Texas: the Big Bend. Plans to build this pipeline have fueled quite a rebellion led by the Big Bend Conservation Alliance. Naturally folks down there should be concerned for their environmental and cultural treasures. 

It is the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) of Mexico that wants to import gas from Texas for domestic consumption while Pemex develops the infrastructure it needs to take advantage of natural resources in Mexico. One of the pipelines, the Trans Pecos Pipeline, is the one that is planned to run through the Big Bend region. A Mother Jones story, The Pipeline That Texans Are Freaking Out Over (Nope, Not Keystone), outlines the anger of people in Presidio County, Texas.

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Except for a very few people, almost nobody in El Paso County knows about the sister pipeline of Trans Pecos - the Comanche Trail Pipeline. It will go from Waha through Culberson and Hudspeth Counties and then cross into El Paso County and cross underneath the Rio Grande at San Elizario. Read the Hudspeth County Herald's story from earlier this spring: Survey Work Begins for New Natural Gas Pipeline Through Hudspeth County.

Beyond an obligatory newspaper post about the project (you know - the fine print in the classifieds that almost no one reads), there has been little mention of nor furor over the proposed pipeline. The environmental and cultural (archaeological, tribal, etc.) impacts have been largely glossed over. Concern for a possible contamination of our Hueco Bolson and the Rio Grande have gone without comment. What's worst of all is the potential of a gas line explosion at San Elizario. If that happens, bye, bye people of San Eli.

Both pipelines have been railroaded by the State agency which regulates them: the Texas Railroad Commission. However, to cross the border requires a Presidential Permit which triggers more rigorous reviews of the project. The Comanche Trail Pipeline people refer to their pipeline as "intrastate" and neglect to tell anyone about this one small detail - it becomes interstate when it crosses over into Chihuahua, Mexico. The Big Bend Conservation Alliance realizes this fact and are making a good argument that the companies behind the Trans Pecos are "segmenting" on purpose. They don't want the stricter federal guidelines, they want the complicity of the Texas Railroad Commission.

The same argument can be made about the Comanche Trail Pipeline. 

Time is of the essence. Comments or interventions by stakeholders (the Audubon Society, local tribes, the County of El Paso for example) must be submitted by 3 PM this coming Monday, July 6. To efile a comment, you can go to and follow the directions. You probably should read the Comanche Trail Pipeline, LLC; Notice of Application first.

One does wonder what will happen to the natural gas going to Mexico once Pemex is able to exploit its own resources. The 42 inch pipelines have a capacity of up to 1.1 billion cubic feet per day. (CFE estimates that 1,475 million cubic feet per day will pass through the Comanche Trail Pipeline and that 1,350 million cubic feet per day will pass through the Trans Pecos Pipleline.) So where will the excess go, if indeed there is an excess? And will it all stop once Pemex is ready. Frankly, I find that the conjecture in the Big Bend Conservation Alliance blog quite possible if not probable.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

What You Should Know About

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Bill Addington shared this graphic the other day on Facebook. It's from Sciencegasm. Yesterday, as I was checking out at Albertson's, the people behind me were perusing the magazine displays at the beginning of the aisle. They began talking about important things: who's getting a divorce, why's so and so having drug problems and on and on. I've heard this conversation in a thousand different places.

Although the chart above is certainly a list of important things to those of us who are green ("greenies" as David K. affectionately calls us), there could be other lists generated by serious people of other persuasions. The point is, our society lusts for the trivial and unimportant. Why vote or demonstrate or write your Councilperson or Representative when one's focus is on the Real Wives of Atlanta? 

The oligarchy that really runs this country wants a populace that is dumbed-down and apathetic. With our eyes off what really matters, guess who runs the show?

Have a Happy 4th of July weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Can We Afford to Recycle?

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Importing garbage for energy is good business for Sweden from Sweden on Vimeo.

Ellen Smyth, the Director of our city's Environmental Services, sent me a link to a very provacative article: American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why. It is well worth taking time to read (and it won't take but a few minutes). First bottom line: prices for recycled goods have been dropping which means that the business of recycling is becoming less profitable. Second bottom line: guess who pays to make up the difference?

I've often wondered why El Paso and other municipalities don't use the practice of cities in the Seattle (King County), Washington area. People get three small bins: one for paper, one for plastics and metals and one for glass. On pick-up day the bins are placed curbside and are distributed in three different compartments of the collection truck. Nevertheless, there are are still those falling commodity prices.

It isn't all bad as the article explains. There are some silver linings. But shouldn't we ask ourselves whether we should be recycling differently or recycling less items.

If you haven't visited the City of El Paso curbside recycling pages, please do so by starting HERE and following the links. It clearly tells us what we can and cannot recycle and has some helpful videos.

It's time to have a serious debate about garbage to energy. The Swedish program is exemplary. (Want to talk about alternative sources of energy? Here you go.) 

Is garbage to energy green? In Sweden there really is no debate and their process scrubs down emissions to more than meet standards.

Finally, are there ways that we can reuse or repurpose some of the items that we recycle? You can get creative. There are plenty of suggestions such as HERE and HERE. (Just Google "reusing recyclables".) 

We can even build using recyclables. (Now Google "building with recyclables".) I liked Build Your House From Recycled Materials from Mother Earth News. Can you imagine the pushback if we attempted to change building codes to allow recyclables? There would be much screaming and moaning and gnashing of teeth. 

However, it it time to start thinking outside of the cardboard box.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When Will T Rex Ever Learn?

You would think that after his staff (Tommy Gonzalez doesn't meet with any of us peon citizens directly) met with representatives of the West Texas Urban Forestry Council and then made some staff changes, that he would reverse a very expensive edict issued from his office. The edict: plant only 4" caliper trees.

What T Rex ("rex" means "king") doesn't understand is that, in order to procure 4" caliper trees, city workers and contractors must use vendors as far away as Florida or Dallas. 3" caliper works just as well and a 2" certainly catches up in time. But why pay less than $100 for a tree, when you can pay a $1,000 or more?

So much for Lean Six Sigma.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green". 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Living Green in the Southwest: What NOT To Put Down Your Drains

[Each Monday elpasonaturally© will discuss ways to live more "green" in the southwest. (Actually, the tips can be followed most anywhere else.) Living "green" means living simply while recycling, reusing and repurposing. It means not only having a green home or business, but also being a good neighbor, knowing that we are part of a community and that our actions affect others, our ecosystem and the world. Today the subject is what NOT to put down your drains. BTW, for those of you who receive elpasonaturally© via email, videos do not display. Please go to to view a video.]

I asked El Paso Water Utilities for a list of things not to put down a drain or flush down a toilet. EPWU's Pretreatment Manager, Nancy Nye gave me this list and reasons for following each item:

Food scraps (especially from meat), dairy products, cooking oil and grease and condiments and sauces that contain oil or butter. All of these contribute to sewer line stoppages and overflow.
Paper (besides toilet paper), cloth, sanitary supplies such as paper towels, wipes, etc. These also contribute to sewer line stoppages and can cause damage to pumps when they become entangled. (Guess who pays for the pumps?)
Paint, solvents, motor oil and other automobile fluids. These are toxic to the microorganisms used in treatment of wastewater and they are harmful to aquatic organisms and human health.
Medications/drugs (human and veterinary) can accumulate in the environment and lead to accumulation in human tissue and blood. They are associated with other health effects including endocrine system disruption. gives a similar list along with some suggestions about what to do instead. also tells you What Not To Put Down Your Drain.

Angie (Angie's List) Hicks tells us that a minor clog can cost us from $100 to $200 and even a $1,000 (or more) if pipes need to be replaced. (All of us who have ever had sewer blockages can verify these numbers.)

The fact is that fat clogs (including those in human arteries) can be as tough as cement. Here's a video from London (England not Texas) of a "fatberg". I was totally repulsed:

Go HERE to read more.

Southern Water (this is not Mississippi and Alabama but Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight) has a very informative web page about the effects of fat, oil and grease on sewage systems. Particularly watch the video HERE. (Scroll down.)

If you think that municipal sewage clogs is something endemic to Merry Ole England, know that it is a problem in every urban water system across the Good Ol' U.S. of A. costing each large municipality millions of dollars per year. (And you know who pays for it so help out.)

This is why the City of Bothell, Washington has a web page devoted to fighting F.O.G. (fat, oil and grease). Oklahoma City too. Et. al. 

Bottom line: read the EPWU list above and in the links provided. Follow the directions.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green". 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pay Attention to the Colorado River Crisis

Here's a little light reading for the weekend: Pro Publica's series Killing the Colorado. The analogies to our own situation with the Rio Grande are acute: highly subsidized cotton farming, urban sprawl, demand for water outgrowing supply and, thus, water importation. The water problem in the west exemplified by the situation with the Colorado River, is human driven and not climate driven although, often the power needed to "solve" water shortages releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Read End of the Miracle Machines in the series.)

Since sprawl and growth are such sacred cows here in El Paso, read the 'Water Witch'. (Apologies to my Wiccan friends.) Be sure to use the interactive map showing the sprawl of Las Vegas. Wish we had one for El Paso. Of course, it would probably make the ticky-tacky building sprawlers of El Paso lustfully drool.

The environmental reporter who investigated for the Pro Publica series, Abrahm Lustgarten, was recently interviewed on NPR. You can listen to that interview by going HERE.

Since this is video Friday, here is a whimsical look at the Navajo Generating Station of Page, Arizona. Subtitle: "Combining Carbon and Oxygen for a Warmer Tomorrow!"

Help El Paso Naturally turn El Paso "Green".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Juarez Valley Groundwater Crisis Should Be a Warning to Us

[Many might shrug their shoulders when they see the article from New Mexico State University's Frontera NorteSur reprinted below. It's a problem in Mexico not here, they might say. That's why elpasonaturally© continues to publish the map above. People in the Juarez Valley draw from the same groundwater that we do - the Hueco Bolson. If they are having to dig farther for good water, farmers in our lower valley have to be drilling farther as well.  

To subsribe to Frontera NorteSur by email go HERE.]

June 23, 2015 

Ciudad Juarez-El Paso News

Border Wells Drying Up 

A groundwater crisis is literally deepening in the Juarez Valley across from Texas. Mexican officials report that wells drilled to a depth of about 400 feet are drying up or producing poor quality water, forcing users to contemplate drilling new wells of depths of 750 feet or more. 

Gabriel Urteaga Nunez, municipal president of Guadalupe, blamed the situation on recent drought. 

“It’s due to the lack of rain, because the level of aquifer is going down and some wells are beginning to be exhausted,” Urteaga was quoted in the local press. “The quantity of water that is extracted from the wells that supply the town of Guadalupe here has been considerably reduced.” 

Three municipalities in the rural Juarez Valley-Juarez, Guadalupe and Praxedis G. Guerrero-are reportedly affected by groundwater supply problems. Historically, the Juarez Valley has been an important producer of cotton and other farm products. 

But Urteaga insisted that the overexploitation of water for agricultural purposes is not to blame for the aquifer’s depletion since local crops are irrigated with recycled water drawn from wastewater treatment plants in neighboring Ciudad Juarez. 

The Juarez Valley shares an aquifer with Texas that encompasses the growing Lower Valley of El Paso and adjacent rural communities where pecans, cotton and other crops are grown. Besides the availability of groundwater, some communities in the Juarez Valley report supply troubles related to the malfunctioning of pumps and other infrastructure. 

Chihuahua State Representative Fernando Rodriguez Giner said he expected the state legislature to begin taking action on the Juarez Valley water crisis this week. 

According to Rodriguez, scientifically-based legal reforms will be proposed to adopt “very extraordinary” measures designed to counter aquifer depletion, an issue the lawmaker called of global concern.  For the short-term, the Federal Electricity Commission and Central Water and Sewerage Council of Chihuahua have been petitioned to repair broken wells and fix other technical problems, he added.  

Sources: El Diario de Juarez, June 19 and 20, 2015. Articles by Horacio Carrasco. 

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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