Friday, April 23, 2010

EP Electric Petitions for Indefinite Suspension of Rate Hearings

The El Paso Electric Company filed a motion yesterday with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas for "an indefinite suspension of the procedural deadlines" in the proposed rate hikes for its customers in El Paso, TX. You can see the full petition here. If the petition is approved, hearings on the merits of the proposal would be suspended.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Incentives Now for Solar Energy in El Paso

La Greenga is taking charge on this issue so please follow her blog. Here's the issue:

The El Paso Electric Company wants to raise your rates. If their proposal is approved by the Public Utility Regulation Board of the City of El Paso and the Public Utility Commission of Texas, then you will be paying almost $6 more per month for electricity. (See the El Paso Times story.)

Marie Gilot (La Greenga) and others had the great idea that the rate hike should be tied to an incentive for renewable, solar energy. There should be an upfront rebate on the installation of PV (Photovoltaic) systems and any other renewable energy system such as wind turbines in the amount of $2.50 per watt which works out to a $7,500 rebate for a 3kW System which is the average size of such a system in El Paso. El Paso Electric pays its New Mexico solar homeowners a 12-cent per kW/h rebate for each kilowatt/hour of solar electricity they generate. But El Paso Electric has no Renewable Energy Credit payment program for El Pasoans.

This seems to be a no-brainer and the way renewable energy systems are encouraged in other cities across the country. Why not here?

So, what can you do?

The office of Joe Moody has put together a Rate Case Letter and is asking members of the public to sign it. To do so, just email Amy at Joe Moody's office and say you want to sign the Rate Case Letter. Amy's email is

The text of the letter is on Marie's blog.

Tell Amy that you want to be a signator before May 10 when the Public Utility Regulation Board will take-up the rate hike proposal again. They will meet at 7 a.m. in the El Paso City Council Chambers. (Read Marie's blog entry about what happened at the last meeting and the plans to bring the rate hike back up on the 10th.) You may also want to be present or speak about this important matter - this no-brainer.

Read Marie's Solar Page. There is so much information there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are the Franklin Mountains the Next Christmas Mountains?

Texas Land Commissioner JerryPatterson takes aim at the Christmas Mountains

From time to time a rumor floats to the top and doesn't seem to want to go away. It goes like this: Texas Governor Rick Perry has an eye on selling off Franklin Mountains State Park. The rumor seems to get kicked up whenever there is news about the sale of the Christmas Mountains next to Big Bend National Park near Terlingua. However, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials both here and in Austin are unaware of any action regarding the FMSP.

Tootin' shootin' Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has long argued that the Christmas Mountains would be better suited for hunting (after stocking up on game, of course). The National Park Service wants to procure the Christmas Mountains to add to Big Bend National Park. Since hunting is now allowed in the parks, you might think that Jerry Patterson would back off of his obsession to sell the land. Instead, he now seems to want to go ahead with a sale of Christmas Mountains to a private land holder. One wonders whether Patterson is interested in conservation or deals. And that's what begins to make me nervous about rumors of selling off all or part of the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Of course, such a proposed sale, if it ever were to be made, would have to have public hearings and then the approval of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. I think there would be little chance of a sale happening.

Nevertheless, when I see the over-exploitation of our mountains and region by Jobe Materials and I know that Jobe is a huge contributor both to Jerry Patterson and Rick Perry, I'm concerned. Follow the Money reports a pending contribution of $10,000 for the 2010 Perry campaign from Mr. Jobe. In 2006, Mr. Patterson's campaign received a whopping $56,000 from Stanley P. Jobe. These contributions are just the start. Add to them that, in December 2008, Stanley Jobe flew Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and two cohorts (Bill Warnick and Louis Renaud) from San Antonio to his ranch in Culberson County on his plane. Patterson, et. al. concluded some leases while guests at the ranch. One such agreement concerned land in El Paso County. Jobe flew them to Austin Bergstrom International Airport after a weekend on the ranch.

The whole thing makes me uneasy.

Why be concerned about the Christmas Mountains besides any rumor about our mountains? Big Bend is a key part of the eco-tourism of our region. Bringing more people to El Paso for all of its great outdoor resources is tied with tourism to the Guadalupes, the Davis Mountains, and Big Bend. Conservation there means eco-tourism here. Patterson should know that El Pasoans are keeping their eyes open especially this year when Democratic challenger, Hector Uribe, is finding traction in his race against gun totin' Jerry.

Cactus Garden Tour and Plant Sale This Weekend

This weekend is the Third Annual Cactus Garden Tour and Plant Sale sponsored by the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club.

Read the El Paso Times story about this event.

The Cactus and Succulent Society of America's web site is a good place to learn more about cacti. To learn more about the natural history of the Chihuahuan Desert go to UTEP's Chihuahuan Desert Home Page.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Victory . . . Again

Osab - Enabling Ordinance Recommendations to Cc

Your Open Space Advisory Board won . . . again. After a lengthy presentation by Mr. Jim Carrillo of Halff Associates regarding their study (A Review of the Role and Duties of the City of El Paso Open Space Advisory Board) and other presentations including the one above by OSAB Chairman, Charlie Wakeem, Representative Susie Byrd once again moved that the duties of the Mountain Committee and the oversight of Hillside Developments be given to Open Space. Representative Steve Ortega, who seconded the motion, even asked why Council was considering this matter again. The vote: unanimous although Representatives Holguin and Quintana were not present.

Slide 6 above is what Rep. Byrd moved to reaffirm.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Democracy in El Paso Is under Attack

How City Management wants your Open Space Advisory Board to operate

This is a critical message. Charlie Wakeem, the Chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board, explains the seriousness of the situation:


Item 9 on the City Council Tuesday, April 13 agenda is the important Open Space Advisory Board Enabling Ordinance. The changes include recommendations requested by OSAB in which City Council directed Halff Associates to submit a report. Several of the key provisions, including advise to the CPC and including the Hillside Development Area, are not being recommended by Halff Associates and would severely limit the effectiveness of the Board if excluded – i.e., if the Halff report is accepted. Following is the attachment under Item 9 with the Parks Department Summary and the Halff Report.

You can sign up to speak with the City Clerk at

Charlie Wakeem
Chairman, OSAB

OSAB recommended to Council at the end of 2009 to include the responsibilities of the Mountain Committee. A Rep. Susie Byrd amendment to an ordinance sunsetting the Mountain Committee placed those responsibilities under OSAB and not under the CPC. When a written copy of the ordinance came back, the intention of Council was not included. In other words, the critical paragraph about the Mountain Committee responsibilities had not been included as Council had directed by vote. Several of us pointed this out and Council once again voted for its inclusion and, under advise from staff, asked Halff to report how best OSAB could best proceed. I believe that, under pressure from City non-elected management, the Halff report came back watering down OSAB responsibilities – something I predicted in an earlier e-letter to you. Background here and here.

If City staff prevails to thwart the intentions and two previous votes of Council, then your Open Space Advisory Board will be no more than a sub-committee of Parks and Recreation – a dysfunctional relationship which failed to work in the past. It will be powerless to fulfill the vision and mission statement of City Council and the people of El Paso.

More than open space is threatened here. Democracy in El Paso is under attack.

I sincerely hope that many of you can make tomorrow morning’s meeting of City Council. I suggest getting there by 9 a.m.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

City Council Unanimously Passes NOS Ordinance

Slide show courtesy of Rick LoBello, Education Curator El Paso Zoo

By a unanimous vote, the El Paso City Council passed the Natural Open Space Ordinance this morning. A compromise was struck between representatives of the Open Space Advisory Board and City Staff on conditions for setbacks and buffers between protected wildlife refuges and certain industrial/recreational uses of land abutting the protected areas.

The original OSAB proposal called for 10 foot walls to be paid for by land owners wishing to use the property for commercial, industrial or manufacturing purposes when that land abuts an NOS zoned property designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Depending on the type of usage, the buffer between the property and the sanctuary could have been as much as 100 feet. The compromise struck was for an 8 foot wall and a buffer of no more than 25 feet. Council was acting on confidential advice given it by legal counsel as part of their fiduciary responsibility. All sides were happy with the final "product".

A number of people spoke for the NOS ordinance including the El Paso Zoo Education Curator, Rick LoBello, and Wildlife Biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Lois Balin. Both Rick and Lois gave power point presentations as did OSAB Chairman, Charlie Wakeem. You can see Rick's powerful presentation above.

Keystone Heritage Park was represented by attorney, Alex Neill, and Bernie Sargent as well as Kevin VonFinger, who is the principal author of the ordinance.

Also on hand were Robert Ardovino, member of the OSAB Board, John Moses of Texas Parks and Wildlife and yours truly.