Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Friday Video on Wednesday: The Architecture of Trost

With all the good news about historic restorations in downtown El Paso, Only in El Paso's latest video creation is timely. "The Architecture of Trost" features Dr. Max Grossman, Vice-Chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission, and Malissa Arras, Executive Director of the Texas Trost Society.

El Paso County Historical Commission on Facebook
Texas Trost Society on Facebook

[If you can't see the video in your email, go to]

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Friday Video on Monday: Harvest Rain

Harvest Rain from DSP Media on Vimeo.

"Cultivate" is a project of the El Paso Community Foundation. This past Thursday they showed the above video. Although it is 30 minutes long, do yourself a favor and take the time to watch it. If you get elpasonaturally by email, you won't see it. Just go to

For background information, go to the Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation website.

We may get little rain in El Paso but there are strategies for keeping that rain from running off our land and for recharging our precious aquifers.

Gary Williams is the coordinator of the Cultivate program. You can get advanced notices of future Cultivate forums.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

EPEC Drops Solar Charge

 The best story that I've seen about the PUC settlement between El Paso Electric and a coalition from the solar community and environmentalists was written by Naveena Sadasivam for the Texas Observer this past Friday. Do read El Paso Electric Agrees to Kill Solar Fee for Customers. Do note that EPEC is not giving up its cause against rooftop solar. They'll go after the solar surcharge in the future according to Eddie Gutierrez, an El Paso Electric vice president. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trost Treasure Popular To Be Restored

Popular Dry Goods Building. Photo by Marc Stone.

On its Facebook page, the El Paso County Historical Commission reports that a Henry Trost treasure, the Popular Dry Goods Building, in El Paso will be restored. "Owner Fallas Paredes will hire a contractor in Los Angeles and undertake the restoration of both the interior and exterior! The Popular is one of the most beautiful and significant buildings in Texas and is number 4 on our list of the most endangered buildings in Downtown El Paso. Its restoration is extremely welcome news!" 

Popular Dry Goods Building 1917

The building was completed in 1917. Fallas Discount Stores now occupies the bottom 3 floors. The rest of the building is vacant. After restoring a similar building in Los Angeles, Paredes saw the value of restoring historical buildings. Since the Popular is already on the National Register, he can receive federal and state monies for the restoration. A higher end store will occupy the bottom floors with apartments in the upper floors.

Robbie Gray breaks the story today in the El Paso Inc.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mary Kipp

From Kipp takes over as EP Electric CEO by Vic Kolenc, El Paso Times
Photo by Victor Calzada

Earlier this week I met with the CEO of El Paso Electric, Mary Kipp. The time with her was not just informative but delightful. She has a very spontaneous, often perverse (in a fun way) sense of humor. I told her why I thought that EPEC was wrong regarding their policy toward rooftop solar and she shared her perspective.

The exchange was something akin to a Biology 101 student (me) speaking with a neurosurgeon (her). What I really discovered was that I was discussing solar energy with a fellow environmentalist - not a clandestine agent for the nefarious oil tycoons. (I also learned that Tom Shockley was not the evil minion of the Koch boys. Sorry, Tom.)

From PSEG El Paso Electric Solar Farm Inauguration,
El Paso Inc.
Photo from photo collection by Melody Parra

To be sure, we do have some differences of opinion. To solve the problem of carbon emissions (and, therefore, climate change), Kipp sees flaws in the rooftop solar approach. I was impressed with her sincerity and didn't see her thoughts on rooftop as being excuses to crush the competitors. Saying that she is an advocate of solar energy is an understatement.

If there was a flaw in her argument, it may have been because she was talking about solar in the context of the continuing existence of electrical utilities. (If I'm wrong, she can correct me the next time that we speak.) I still maintain that electric utilities are dinosaurian and already selected for extinction. More localized systems (perhaps as local as a single residence itself), are the future IMHO.

She did recommend that I read Bill McKibben's book, eaarth. I promised her that I would order it rightaway which I did. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it was at my doorstep this morning.

There is no doubt that EPEC's becoming coal free is the work of Shockley and the CEO whom he mentored: Mary Kipp. EPEC will even celebrate becoming coal free in a public event on Wednesday, August 3rd at 9:30 AM in the San Jacinto Plaza. It's a must attend.

Click on image to enlarge.

During our meeting Ms. Kipp was pleasantly straight forward. However, I do think that she misinformed me about one thing. She claimed that on her last birthday that she is older than she really is. I'm pretty sure that her Board would still approve of a 30ish CEO and take her knowledge, experience and expertise and not her age as the reasons to have made her CEO of EPEC.

Monday, July 18, 2016

TPWD Won't Survey Quarry; Gives away Responsibility to Cemex

Elpasonaturally has previously noted that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has no idea whether Cemex has encroached on state land at their quarry at McKelligon Canyon. TPWD as well as the Franklin Mountains State Park were urged to do a boundary survey.

We have now learned that neither TPWD nor FMSP are willing to go to the expense of a survey and will defer to Cemex. In other words, as one astute environmentalist points out: citizens and TPWD have abrogated their responsibility. 

Efforts have begun to determine whether the State will buy the land and close the quarry and end the destruction of the Franklins once and for all. The hitch may be that the General Land Office probably will fight any such efforts because it wants the royalties from mining (and destroying) the Franklins. 

It had previously been thought that the new FMSP headquarters might hold up efforts to get the quarried land from Cemex. There was some fear that the $3Million for the headquarters might vanish. However, new efforts to re-locate the headquarters to Tom Mays from the proposed site at Wilderness Park next to the Archaeological Museum may have saved the day. Although Tom Mays has neither water nor electricity, it seems that both John Balliew of El Paso Water and officials at EPEC are willing to make the new plan work.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Friday Video: Ron Coleman Trail

From the west side of the Franklins you can look at the east side from the "window" on the Ron Coleman Trail

There are some great videos on the Franklin Mountains State Park Facebook videos page. You will have to go to the link because there is no embed code that I can use to put any of the videos on this blog. The first video about the Ron Coleman Trail is especially fun. It's done tongue in cheek but gives you the basic sweep of the hike.

Be sure to visit the Franklin Mountains State Park page and like it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

With Triple Digit Temperatures, Time to Conserve Electricity

From Blue Planet Green Living

Today will be our eleventh straight day of triple digit temperatures. The weather prognosticators are already telling us that we are on our way to breaking the earlier record of 21 straight days. With such high temperatures, El Paso Electric is concerned about making up for the increased load and are asking for all of us to conserve energy. Wouldn't it be terrible if we have a blackout and we are stuck without air conditioning in 100+ degree weather? The toll on the elderly, the poor and our workplaces would be horrendous.

Alejandra Chavira, the El Paso Electric Company Coordinator of External and Public Affairs, sent out this message yesterday: "As our region continues to experience triple digit temperature days this week and into the next, El Paso Electric is encouraging the conservation of energy and other methods of energy efficiency across our service area." 

You can read EPEC's energy conservation tips HERE.

For more ideas and more comprehensive lists, check out the following:

100 Ways to Save Energy at Home

21 Tips: No-Cost Ways to Save Electricity

Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting (LEDs are much more energy efficient than CFLs)

I should point out that EPEC could really encourage energy savings by promoting rather than thwarting the rooftop solar energy industry.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"The rocks are viable for production"

So saith Rich Masterson, the consulting geologist to Torchlight Energy Resosurces, and perhaps the father of the coming decimation of the Otero Mesa/Diablo Plateau ecosystem just next door to El Paso, Texas.

Masterson is quoted in a July 5, 2016 newsroom report from Market WiredTorchlight Announces Scientific Information on University Founders B-19 Well #1 in Orogrande and Plans for Completion. Founders B-19 Well #1 is one of Torchlight's test wells in Hudspeth County just across the county line from El Paso, Texas. Here's a longer quote from Masterson cited by Market Wire:

"We are encouraged with the initial results from the scientific component of the Founders B-19 #1 well," stated Rich Masterson, Torchlight's consulting geologist. "The scientific information gathered to date gives every indication that the University Founders B-19 #1 well is as good or better than the Rich A-11 #1 well. To this point in the geological evaluation, rock brittleness looks very good with low frac gradients, good oil cuts in samples and cores and excellent porosity and matrix permeability for oil shales. We are also seeing good calcite and dolomite cementation and low clay content. The University Founders B 19 #1 well is comparing closely to analogies in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp A and B and Lower Spraberry. Production will be validated once the frac is delivered in the coming weeks and providing a successful frac is delivered, the rocks are viable for production."

". . . the rocks are viable for production." Read it and weep. Now here is more to make you really bawl and tremble: the investment community is catching on. 

In his energy report for Streetwise Report, Shining a Light on Torchlight Energy, Bob Moriarty had this to say yesterday about Torchlight: "At $70-$80 oil Torchlight would probably be a billion dollar company." (In case you haven't noticed, the price of oil is leaping upwards.)

The current price (right now as I type this) for TRCH on the NASDQ is $1.30. If you are into fracking, here is a bargain. If you aren't and shouldn't be, then you may want to do some trips soon from the Huecos to the Guadalupes to enjoy the beauty of the mesa. Before too long that beauty will be gone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Let’s return the wolf to Texas!

Mexican Wolves courtesy Larry Bohlin of Bohlin Creative 2015

For the sake of wilderness and our ecosystem, a growing number of people believe that the Mexican wolf should be given the chance to reclaim its rightful role in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas.

Please tell Texas Parks and Wildlife to support wolf-reintroduction efforts

Imagine the return of the “grand opera of Texas” while sitting around the campfire, hearing howling wolves in the distance, heads upturned, singing at the night sky. Imagine, the return of the gray wolf.

With all the attention on wolf restoration elsewhere in the Southwest, many people are not aware that the last wild Mexican wolves in the U.S., before the species went extinct in the wild in the 1970s, were killed just north of Big Bend National Park in Texas.

The fact that Texas is not part of the plan for saving the species is unacceptable. People need to know about this if we are ever going to see the wolf return to Texas and conserve our natural heritage.

The El Paso Sierra Club group has launched a Return the Wolf to Texas educational initiative, and we need your help in sending letters of support to Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith.

Please act today to return the Mexican gray wolf to Texas

Texas needs to put wolf reintroduction on its conservation radar screen, and with your help we can make it happen.


Rick LoBello, El Paso Group Executive Committee,
P.S.: Be sure to take action today and share this petition on Facebook and Twitter!

To learn more about the work of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter’s El Paso Group, visit our Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Glass Crusher in Full Operation

Recently it was reported that the glass crusher at the Pendale Collection Station was not working and that recycled bottles were just being trashed. The good news is that the crusher is fixed and operating and that glass bottles were never thrown away.

Miguel Parra of Environmental Services explained the the machine had been down for a week. The operator, he said, "had to refabricate, by hand, the cutting blades of the grinder which resulted in the extended downtime." He added that "all bottles [had been] stored in extra bins until the repairs could be completed."

It's easy to recycle your glass bottles. I just collect mine in a big 5 gallon bucket and then take them to the nearest Citizen Collection Station.

Apparently people are using the glass "mulch" since all of it is being taken - so much so that some are suggesting another crusher or a larger one. The program is working.

Monday, July 4, 2016

TxDOT Contractor Violates City Ordinance

The image above and all images in this post were taken by Dr. Rick Bonart.

The picture above is what the O'Rourke hike/bike trail should look like all along Transmountain. Instead, the pictures of uprooted trees below are more descriptive:

Instead of trees, TxDOT is now planting cacti and ocotillos:

So, what's the story? Although there is an irrigation line including bubblers to the trees, the area is above any local water tank. It seems that no pumps were provided so the trees went without water and died. To remedy the situation, TxDOT directed the contractor to plant cacti and ocotillos. Tim Twomey of TxDOT explained:

"Most of the trees died in the Paseo to Plexxar section.  This was due to the fact that there was no water service in the area and the proposed irrigation system could not feed this area due to the steep grade.  We attempted to establish the trees by change order with an installed pump system followed by hand-watering efforts.  As we only have 6-months remaining on the two-year plant maintenance period, we directed the Contractor to remove the dead vegetation and replace them with native landscaping (cactus).  We plan on continuing hand-watering for the remaining six-months that should be sufficient to establish the new vegetation."

Removing the trees and planting with something other than trees is a violation of the development ordinance which clearly states planting native evergreens at 12 feet apart.

The contractor is obligated to water the vegetation for only six more months when the care of the landscape is turned over to the City of El Paso. It is doubtful that the City will follow its own ordinance. Instead expect it to merely keep the cacti and forget about the trees. John Balliew of El Paso Water (formerly EPWU) has offered to help but will he be asked is the question.

Hikers and bicyclists were counting on the shade - something neither TxDOT nor its contractor seems to be willing to provide in violation of the terms of the development.