Friday, January 29, 2016

The Friday Video: It's An El Paso Thing

[Thanks and a hat tip to my old hiking buddy, Tommy Young, for finding this video. If you get elpasonaturally by email, the video won't be embedded. Please go to to view.]

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Glass Pulverizer Is in Operation

Ribbon cutting at the Pendale Citizen Collection Station
Photo by Terry Sunday
The City of El Paso is now officially in the glass recycling business even if it is just a pilot program. Rep. Lily Limón, Environmental Services Director, Ellen Smyth, and other dignitaries were on hand to launch the new recycling program at the Pendale Citizen Collection Station.

The glass pulverizer
Photo by Terry Sunday

All El Pasoans will be able to drop-off their glass beverage bottles and jars at their neighborhood collection stations. (No window panes, automobile windshields, ceramics or glass figurines please.) The bottles will be taken to the Pendale Station where they will be pulverized. The resulting powder or beads may be used as mulch, road bedding, arts and crafts, etc.

Photo by Terry Sunday

Bottles should be separated by color: blue, brown, clear and green.

CDEC Promotes Native Plant Landscapes

Click on image to enlarge.

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC) will sponsor a community wide meeting on Tuesday evening, February 2 to help promote city wide efforts to promote native plant landscapes in El Paso neighborhoods.   Anyone with an interest in helping the community landscape with water saving native plants that also help lower homeowner utility bills and provide food and shelter for local wildlife, is welcome to attend.   CDEC Chairperson, Dr. Gertrud Konings, said: “The City of El Paso has supported our efforts to promote native plant landscapes with a special exhibit at Cleveland Square and a video on the City’s YouTube channel and on Channel 15.  To reach more people with this important effort we need community wide input.”

The meeting will be held at the Garden Center in Memorial Park, 3105 Grant Avenue, from 6-7:30pm on Tuesday, February 2.  For more information see the “Habitat Certification” page on the CDEC website at or call 915-845-1476.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Three Important City Council Items Tomorrow

On tomorrow's City Council agenda there are three very important items that should concern the "green" community:

First and foremost - Discussion and action on a resolution supporting the designation of Castner Range as a National Monument. You can see the resolution HERE. It is Item 21.2 on the agenda.

Next - Presentation on 2016 Glass Recycling Pilot Program. It is Item 21.3. Read more about the pilot program HERE

Finally and very importantly - Discussion and action on a Resolution establishing a Regional Renewable Energy Advisory Council for the purpose of advising the City of El Paso on matters related to renewable energy strategy and industry development. Item 28.1. You can view the summary, resolution and presentation HERE. The one defect in the proposed composition of the Council is the inclusion of "a single technical advisor from the local electric utility as a non-voting member." Given the fact that the El Paso Electric Company wants to destroy the solar rooftop industry in El Paso, they should have no part in a Regional Renewable Energy Advisory Council. Elpasopolitically comments further.

Glass Recycling Begins This Wednesday

Click on image to enlarge.

Glass recycling in El Paso begins on Wednesday. The ribbon-cutting event begins at 10 AM at the Pendale Citizen Collection Station, 1034 Pendale in east El Paso. (MAP

City Council will view a presentation about the pulverizer at its regular meeting tomorrow morning. You can see that presentation HERE.

The good news is that you can take your glass to any of the citizen collection stations in El Paso. 

Laurence Gibson, Chair of the El Paso Group Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club tells us: "El Paso's Environmental Services Department is now collecting glass at all five Citizen Collection Stations for processing into pulverized glass at the Pendale Road Station. All we have to do is take our clean glass containers to a Citizen Collection Station, separate by color, and we're done. If you want free mulch from glass, you may pick that up at 1034 Pendale Road. This is a hot commodity at the Mesilla Valley Landfill, where the bins are almost always empty."

Glassware just needs to be clean and dry. The pulverizer removes labels.

Remember glass recycling is just a pilot program. How can we help make it permanent? Laurence Gibson offers these suggestions:

  • Talk about it with everyone.
  • Offer to take your neighbors' glass to a Citizen Collection Station.
  • Watch for Environmental Services' how-to handouts. 
  • Attend the Jan. 27 Ribbon Cutting (10 a.m. at 1034 Pendale).
  • Tell your City Council Rep you appreciate glass recycling and want a pulverizer for your CCS.
  • Thank District 7 (Eastside) Rep. Lily Limón for initiating the Pilot Program 
  • Enjoy and take pride in a cleaner El Paso

Rep. Lily Limón will have two community meetings on Wednesday. They will be regular district meetings. However Romie Ruiz, the Partnerships & Public Programs Coordinator for the City of El Paso, will offer a special presentation on the glass pilot project at both. (1st Meeting – 7:30 AM – Denny’s – I-10 at Lomaland; 2nd Meeting – 5:30 PM – Carolina Rec Center – 563 N. Carolina Drive)

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Friday Video: Robert Newman "The Trailblazer"

Robert Newman is a legend. If you are a hiker, mountain biker, conservationist or just a lover of the Franklin Mountains, you know this man. Mountain Biker and publisher of GeoBetty, Don Baumgardt wrote on Facebook that Newman is "the man who single-handedly built some of the best bike trails in El Paso (and therefore, some of the best trails in all of Texas.) What the world needs now is more Robert Newmans. We don't have to all build trails, but we can do something we love and for the benefit of others."

[If you get elpasonaturally by email, the video won't be embedded. Go to to view. Thank you.]

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Castner Range Conservation Clears First Hurdle

Please ask President Obama to designate Castner Range as a National Monument.

David Soules gives a presentation about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Photo by John R Miller, Happy Destiny Photography

Frontera Land Alliance Executive Director,  Janae' Reneaud-Field, announced at a joint annual dinner last evening that her office has now received well over 1,000 letters addressed to President Obama asking him to designate Castner Range as a National Monument. Of course, many more letters will need to be signed; but the first deadline has been reached.

The dinner at the elegant El Paso Club was a joint meeting of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and the Friends of the Rio Bosque. Richard Teschner, President of the Friends of the Rio Bosque, made arrangements for the event. 

Scott Cutler, President of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coaltion, spoke about FMWC and Castner Range and introduced the guest-speaker, David Soules, who was instrumental in having the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks designated as a National Monument.

John Sproul, the Manager of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, then spoke about the huge difference that year-round water has made at the Rio Bosque. The park is truly beginning to be a sustainable wetland thanks to the PSB/EPWU which constructed a pipeline from its Bustamante Water Treatment Plant to the Bosque.

Scott Cutler speaks with Congressman (and future President) Beto O'Rourke.
Photo by John R Miller, Happy Destiny Photography

Of course, what really generated enthusiasm last evening was the buzz about Castner Range. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who has introduced legislation for its preservation, greeted members of both prominent El Paso environmental groups.

Again, more letters - many more letters - are needed. Please go HERE to download a letter to President Obama asking him to designate Castner Range as a National Monument. Then print and mail your letter to Janae' Reneaud-Field, Executive Director, Frontera Land Alliance, 3800 N. Mesa St., Suite A2-258. El Paso, TX 79902. You can also scan and email your letter to her at Don't mail your letter to President Obama. Janae' will do that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Help Save Our Franklin Mountains from CEMEX

Please take action NOW to save our Franklin Mountains from more destruction by CEMEX. Tell Park officials to do an official survey.

Click on image to enlarge.

I have had several posts recently about the destruction of our mountains by CEMEX. Their McKelligon Canyon quarry is quickly eating through the mountain. Here are my posts:

Cemex Continues to Eradicate Mountainside

Cemex Has Much More Mountain to Destroy

TPWD Has No Idea

Unnatural Paths at Wilderness Park

The quarry is bounded by the Franklin Mountain State Park. When I asked FMSP and TPWD officials back in November if they knew whether CEMEX had encroached on their land, they had no idea. 

Laura Russell, the TPWD attorney, told me: "According to our staff, the best available data currently is the El Paso City / County parcel data maintained by the Paso Del Norte Mapa, a coalition of local agencies. ( This parcel data is the foundation of the data TPWD presently uses in our GIS to depict the boundary of Franklin Mountains SP.  Franklin Mountains SP does not have a boundary survey.  It is described in the 1987 deed by Sections included in the park."

Click on image to enlarge.

In a comment to that post, Mr. Dan Knapp wrote: "If PDNMAPA is the authority, Cemex is encroaching 66 feet into the State Park on the north of Cemex property."

What needs to happen now is that the Franklin Mountains State Park and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department need to do a boundary survey immediately.

Now the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club following the lead of the El Paso Group Sierra Clubis calling for action to save our mountain. Please visit the action page and send your message to the Superintendent of the FMSP and the Director of TPWD.

El Paso Group Sierra Club Facebook page

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cards Stacked Against Solar

Very bad news. The Director of the Tariff and Rate Analysis for the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) filed his office's report with the PUCT yesterday. Here is the report's summary:

"EPE's requested establishment of a Partial Requirements rate class with a three-part rate design that includes a demand charge is a reasonable move towards more just and reasonable rates, is not unreasonably discriminatory or prejudicial towards distributed generation owners, and should be approved. The recommendations of parties opposed to this proposal should be rejected."

Jim Schwarzbach posted on the Facebook page Citizens Against El Paso Electric's Attack on Solar: "Goes to show how badly the deck is stacked against solar."

Indeed it is because Texas ought to change its name to "BigOilandia". (Check out how the University of Texas profits from their land holdings and the air pollution and spills for which that powerful institution is responsible for.) The petroleum industry, which brings you all the free methane that you will ever want along with destruction of ecosystems, earthquakes and water pollution with fracking, does not want any energy competitors. Ditto for power utilities. The result is a concerted effort all across the country to destroy the solar industry. 

You know who owns the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality not to mention the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and most of the Legislature. If you don't know, just start looking at campaign contributions.

If you want to read El Paso Electric's playbook on solar just read the position paper on net metering by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, "the primary political advocacy group" (Wikipedia) of the Koch Boys. David is currently chairman.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Rooftop Solar Makes Sense - EPEC Just Wants to Steal

The State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) "partners with Texas consumers, businesses, educators and local governments to reduce energy costs and maximize efficiency." In December 2008 they issued a report: Texas Energy Resource Assessment. To save you from reading all 196 pages, Plano Solar Advocates wrote a summary today,Valuing Distributed Generation.

The bottom-line is this: "Small renewable energy generation systems located at the point of use capture the benefits of renewable energy while reducing utility costs." These "generation systems" consist of "rooftop solar water heaters and solar electric systems, small wind energy generating systems, and ground-source heat pumping systems."

The report recommends that energy sources (such as rooftop solar) are critical to providing power within a distributed, aggregated system. In other words, we aren't dependent on one source of power - e.g., El Paso Electric Company power stations. Those who add this power to the system - rooftop solar users - should receive compensation for the energy that they produce. To do so requires net metering. The report recommends incentives for small renewable energy generation and fair compensation through net metering.

The El Paso Electric Company wants just the opposite. They want to destroy the rooftop solar industry in sunny El Paso and continue their monopoly of power. The huge natural gas and coal lobbies are behind them. They want you to buy from them and only them. 

If you want to know what can happen to El Paso and to El Paso jobs, read Nevada solar industry collapses after state lets power company raise fees. The Nevada power and utility commission granted the state's one utility, Nevada Energy, the ability to raise the fees and rates that rooftop solar users must pay. In essence Nevada Energy has now turned all rooftop solar panels into one big solar farm for themselves. Who is stealing from whom? Yet EPEC continues to lie that solar owners in El Paso aren't paying their fair share. Read between the lines. Solar owners (and all of us) must pay for the infrastructure needed because EPEC wants to remain its monopoly and do so on the bucks and backs of ratepayers rather than shareholders.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Promote Reusable Shopping Bags

Some claim that the official El Paso flag is the plastic grocery bag. When the wind blows, it adorns ocotillos, hangs in trees and sticks to shrubs and brush. Several years ago an effort to ban plastic shopping bags did not make it past a City Council committee. The excuse was that too many El Pasoans can’t afford the bags.

Now the Sierra Club El Paso Group plans to hand out 500 large reuseable shopping bags to shoppers for free. They hope that the idea will catch on with other organizations that want to promote the use of reuseable bags.

Any group that wants to participate can get in touch with El Paso Group Vice Chair Jim Tolbert at 915-525-7364 or Their own logo will be imprinted on the tote bag and there are a number of colors of bags from which to choose.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Start the Countdown to Recycling Glass in El Paso

Handling crushed glass. Picture from Las Cruces Sun-News
Get ready to recycle your glass bottles.

Mark your calendars for January 27th at 10 AM for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new glass crusher at the Eastside Collection Station, 1034 Pendale. MAP

I wrote about the glass recycling pilot program in an earlier post. Representative Lily Limón championed the program. Laurence Gibson, Chairman of the El Paso Sierra Club Group also helped to bring glass recycling to El Paso. Under his leadership, glass recycling for the city has been a Sierra Club Group "Smart Goal". 

The glass will be finely crushed into a sand-like material which is non-abrasive, thus posing no risk of injury. It can be used for mulch in landscaping, sand decorations and as a replacement for gravel.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Should Low Flush Toilet Users Pay a Higher Rate for Their Water?

Want to know what to do with El Paso Electric Company's rate hike proposals and attack on solar?

Western water blogger, John Fleck, informs us today about the fact that using low-flush toilets is helping to conserve water across the country:

"Every toilet currently in stock at my local Home Depot has the EPA WaterSense label, even the cheapest ones, meaning they use 1.28 gallons per flush or less. This is a big part of why we see water use – on a per capita basis, but also in some cases on an absolute basis – going down in the United States."

Before the Energy Policy Act of 1992, toilets used 3 to 5 gallons of water when flushing. After implementation, toilets have used just 1.6 gallons. Now comes the 1.28 gallon per flush toilet. As Fleck shows in his graphs, low flush toilets have really contributed to water conservation (and money savings by owners).

So, why doesn't the El Paso Water Utilities/Public Service Board follow the example of the El Paso Electric Company? Shouldn't low flush toilet owners be put in a separate class of rate-payers who must pay higher rates for their water? These customers are using less water, so according to EPEC's logic, they are not contributing their fair share to the costs of infrastructure.

EPEC wants to put rooftop solar users into a new rate class and make them pay for electrons at a higher rate. They argue that these nefarious solar panel owners are stealing from their neighbors because they don't pay their fair share for new capital projects which benefit EPEC shareholders - not to mention benefiting EPEC executives and board members who are richly compensated for coming up with more ways to make you and me pay more.

So, why doesn't EPWU follow the example of EPEC? I suggest it's because EPWU/PSB has honesty and integrity and is fully aware that water conservation means that there is less of a need for new infrastructure except what's required by water scarcity, a reality all of us share.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Starve El Paso Electric Company

As a matter of conservation, I try to use as little power as possible in my home. I turn-off lights when I'm not using a room. I use a clothesline as long as the weather isn't inclement. I've been switching to LEDs. However, I now have another reason for cutting power: I want El Paso Electric Company to get as little from me as possible. They want to raise our rates and they want to destroy the rooftop solar industry in El Paso. I say that all of us boycott their product (electrical power) as much as we can.

So, I asked a friend who knows the utility industry better than anyone and has been at it probably longer than Edison and Tesla how to really, really slash electrical costs. Because he is well-known in the industry, he wants me to refer to him as "Silent Running". So, here are Silent Running's recommendations to all of us:

1. Use the clothesline as much as possible. This will be a solar clothes drying campaign. Let the El Paso Electric Company put a demand charge on that one! LOL!

2. Replace all lightbulbs with LEDS. Lighting is 8 to 11 % of the average person's annual bill. However, if everyone had LEDS, they would lose over a 100 megs or so of load at night. Conservative figure based on 240,000  residences and apartments with 500  watts on each  estimate  equals 120 megs. Also replace out doorway 60 watt lights or those  150 watt spot lights with LEDS That will reduce the draw down to the 22 to 13 watt range depending on what you replace them with.  

LED's  reduce  wattage around 78% from incandescent lights is a good rule. 

3. Get solar chargers for all cell phones and computers. This would hurt more than people think in the aggregate. It's HUGE! 

4. Make coffee with a gas percolator type coffee pot if you have a gas stove. If you have to use a Mr Coffee, make the coffee and then unplug it and reheat in microwave. Coffee makers draw something like like 1,500 or 1,800 watts more when on warm. Or, just buy a good thermos bottle.

5. Try to turn the heater down by 2 degrees. Every degree usually saves 3 % so give it a try.  

6. STOP VAMPIRE POWER LOSSES. Unplug  large electronics when not using so you reduce the Vampire power usage. Some of these TV's and other entertainment devices draw power when they are off. It's called vampire power loss.  Some studies say it's 10 to 15 %  of power usage in the modern entertainment center type of home. This is true of computers also. So there are now circuit switches that  can be hooked up between the device  and the wall power socket and they can cut the power draw. The  big box hardware stores have them. Some of the Energy Star rated appliances have this feature built in now. People have to ask the store people or go online to the manufacturers as some are responding to the need to limit Vampire power draw. This  would cut off El Paso Electric's gravy train of energy sales from refusing to feed the Vampire!

Summer Time

1.  Lower  house shades to keep the sun rays and heat out of your home.

2.  Wash clothes at night since there is less heat in the house. Then dry outside on your clothesline with good old solar rays. If you have to iron, do so at night when it is cool.

3.  Get a solar oven and have solar powered barbecues  with no air emissions or pollution. Invite your friends and start block parties so people don't use electricity or gas to cook in summer months  - also less heat in the house too.   Solar cook out parties  could grow into events  and people could get other ideas about using solar in different ways to  bypass the meter. 

4. If your refrigerator is movable, pull it away from wall and clean the dust buildup  so the coils are clean. Then keep jugs of  water in the refrigerator when food  volume is low. That way there is less empty space in the refrigerator and it cools off the objects and works less hard. Then as you buy more food remove the jugs as needed. Keep it full is the concept. It helps.

5. Get Solar powered  battery chargers and run your radio and stereo off batteries. A couple of solar panels at 300 watts each hooked up to some batteries could probably store enough power for 5 or 7 hours of TV and computer time. This would really cut into their gravy train.

6. Use the money you save to buy a DC powered refrigerator and hook it up to some solar panels and bypass the meter. 

As long as something isn't connected to a meter, El Paso Electric can't meter it! No special rate for these lifestyle habits.

Let them conspire to have lifestyle special electric rates to seek even more profit from the people.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Killing Coyotes Should Not Be Fun

When asked why the family including three children kill coyotes, the mother responded, "For fun." For fun. . .For fun. . .Destroy another creature, take its life which is just as precious as ours, just for fun - not for food or clothing - but just "for fun." You are probably just as disgusted as I am. 

Yet coyote hunting is done by thousands of people just for fun. There are even coyote-killing contests. The winner is the one with the most kills. If these people could just understand how important a coyote, or any predator species is to our own well-being, maybe they would just buy a telescope and go star-gazing or get a real life.

Predators regulate a food chain in an ecosystem. By keeping down populations which feed on grass and brush, a predator helps sustain plant growth which, in turn, benefits other species such as birds. Simply, they create biodiversity which is healthy for all species in the area including humans. (Read The Importance of Predators.)

"Healthy natural systems provide us with clean water, trees and forests, seed dispersal, natural pest control, climate regulation, healthy amounts of vegetation, pollination, soil fertility, regulation of disease, and many other 'ecosystem services.'" (Why Are Predator Species Important)

Writing about another predator, the wolf, local field biologist and blogger, Soraya R. says, "Apex predators encourage thriving ecosystems by causing a trophic cascade effect which impacts the entire ecosystem." (Rewilding the Wolf in Texas: A Beautiful Thing)

Watch the following video (a trailer for the documentary, American Coyote). Then visit Project Coyote to learn more. BTW, if you receive elpasonaturally by email, the video won't be embedded. Go to to view.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Thoughts on Being Green

Below is a message that is circulating on blogs, Facebook, email messages, etc. In spite of its acerbic generational slant, the suggestions are great for green living. To be accurate, there are many younger people today who are living lifestyles that are very green - bicycling, using public transit, recycling, not buying plastic water bottles, etc. They get it. The unknown author of the piece below is also part of a generation (and I include myself) that has gone along with all of the anti-green technological advances. So, to be fair, it isn't a matter of a generation conflict, but a matter of having more green lifestyles. Sigh. If we had only kept the "green thing".

Author Unknown

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment.  

The woman apologized to the  young girl and explained, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days." 

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations." 

The lady said that she was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day.  The lady went on to explain: 

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day. 

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things.  Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books.  This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings.  Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.  But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then. 

We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building.  We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. 

But she was right.  We didn't have the "green thing" in our day. 

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220volts.  Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room.  And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief(remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.  In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.  Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn.  We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. 

But she's right; we didn't have the "green thing" back then. 

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.  We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. 

But we didn't have the "green thing" back then. 

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the"green thing."  We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint. 

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then?