Rio Grande Chapter Year in Review


  • Donald Trump takes office as U.S. president, bringing with him policymakers intent on destroying protections for clean air, water, habitat and wildlife.
  • Sierra Club, San Juan Citizens Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, Navajo chapter presidents and residents rally at the Santa Fe Bureau of Land Management office to oppose the lease sale of 843 acres for oil and gas drilling in Greater Chaco. In an unprecedented response to public outcry, the BLM applies conditions on leases regarding noise, light pollution and traffic safety, as well as unspecified mitigation conditions.
  • A bill to outlaw coyote-killing contests passes the New Mexico Senate and reaches the House floor, where time runs out before Speaker Brian Egolf brings it to a vote.  The bills to ban traps on public land stalls in committee.
  • Wolf supporters outnumber detractors at hearings for the new Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan in both Truth or Consequences and Albuquerque. Public pressure results in some modifications of the plan.


  • Owners of the West’s largest coal-fired power plant, Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona, announce plans to retire it by 2019 because it is not cost-effective.


  • PNM announces that it may retire coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in 2022, when current contracts expire, because it will likely be more expensive for ratepayers to keep it operating.
  • XCel announces plans to build 1.2 gigawatts of wind capacity in New Mexico and Texas for Southwestern Public Service, which serves eastern New Mexico.
  • Legislative session ends. Bills that would make solar energy more affordable and accessible and would increase renewable-energy requirements to 50% by 2030 die in committee. A bill banning wildlife trafficking and one that would have put renewable energy on state buildings passed both chambers but died on the governor’s desk.


  • PNM announces it will likely abandon its stake in coal-fired Four Corners Power in 2031, 10 years early, because of cost concerns.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announces, as a tipoff to industry, that he will stay the EPA methane rule when it goes into effect in July. The 90-day stay would begin as soon as the rule was meant to go into effect and would allow the agency to do a more formal rollback and avoid industry having to comply with the rule.
  • President Donald Trump orders an Interior Department review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996. Two New Mexico monuments, Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte, are on that list.


  • In a major victory for the climate, the Senate fails to reverse the BLM’s methane-reduction standards through a Congressional Review Act vote; three Republicans join all Democrats in denying the move. If the vote had succeeded, the BLM would have been permanently barred from creating a substantively similar rule without an act of Congress.
  • Santa Fe Water Sentinels begin to test Santa Fe River for contaminants.
  • Sierra Club Southern New Mexico-endorsed candidates Kevin Bixby and Craig Fenske win seats on the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, making inroads on a politicized board that had promoted anti-conservation ideology far outside its scope.


  • Sandoval County publishes a draft oil and gas ordinance, and it lays out different requirements for different parts of the county.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposes a 90-day stay of the EPA’s methane standards. Groups sue, arguing that the agency failed to follow proper administrative procedure. The agency also proposes a two-year stay that will include public comment and a hearing; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stays parts of the BLM methane rule for 90 days.
  • Sierra Club-endorsed candidates Karen Dunning, Joaquín Baca and Derrick Lente win seats on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Board of Directors.


  • The DC Circuit court overturns the EPA’s proposed 90 day stay of its methane standard and requires that the agency’s rule go into effect; New Mexicans travel to DC to oppose the two-year stay of the EPA rule; Groups sue to stop the BLM’s 90-day stay.
  • Comment period ends for Interior Department review of national monuments. An independent review finds that a whopping 97 percent of respondents support keeping current protections for monuments.
  • • Rio Grande Chapter hits funding goal to help Global Warming Express kids group expand its after-school education program.


  • New Mexico Game Commission grudgingly approves the federal draft recovery plan for Mexican wolves in order to give themselves the opportunity to sue when the final plan is issued. Wildlife biologists oppose the plan because it is damaging to lobos’ survival prospects, but Game commissioners criticize it for being too protective of wolves. N.M. Game Commission chair Paul Kienzle comment: ‘This problem started December 28, 1973, when Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act.”
  • BLM notifies Navajo Nation president of the March 8, 2018 lease of 25 parcels in Greater Chaco. Some parcels are within the 10-mile buffer that protects Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
  • A Sandoval County Planning and Zoning commissioner introduces an oil and gas ordinance that would allow one county employee to approve all drilling applications within 10 days, with no public notice or input.


  • The New Mexico Public Education Department proposes to implement Next Generation Science Standards, as science teachers had been urging, but to delete the curriculum’s references to climate change and the age of the Earth, among other essential scientific knowledge.
  • The All-Pueblo Council of Governors signs a resolution demanding that the BLM and BIA halt any further drilling or leasing on lands in New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region.


  • The BLM proposes a one-year stay of its methane rule;  Wyoming federal court strikes down the agency’s 90-day stay.
  • Public Education Department holds public hearing on proposal for edited science standards. Hundreds pack the hearing room; many are turned away. Some wait seven hours to give two-minute comment. No one supports department’s edits.
  • Public Education Department announces it will adopt the full, unedited framework of Next Generation Science Standards, with six New Mexico-specific additions instead of dozens.


  • The New Mexico Legislative Indian Affairs Committee hold a meeting at Ojo Encino Chapter House, in Greater Chaco, to hear about issues affecting communities in the Tri-Chapter area.


  • Interior Department report recommending management changes to New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks monuments is released.
  • BLM finalizes its year-long stay of methane-reduction standards.
  • PNM retires Units 2 and 3 at San Juan Generating Station a few days early because of mechanical problems. The retirements were part of a 2013 settlement with the state of New Mexico and EPA. PNM committed to no layoffs from the retirements.
  • President Donald Trump signs Defense Authorization Act that, thanks to U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, includes a provision to protect El Paso’s Castner Range from commercial development.
  • Coalition for Clean, Affordable Energy (of which the Rio Grande Chapter is a member) and other parties agree to support approval of 1.2 gigawatts of wind facilities in New Mexico and Texas in exchange for provisions encouraging local labor and contractors and ratepayer protections.
  • The Sandoval County Commission plans to vote to publish and post weak oil and gas ordinances that are deeply unpopular with residents. After hours of citizen comments, at 1:10 a.m., the commission votes 4-1 to scrap both ordinances and orders the Planning and Zoning Commission to start over.
  • Chaco Coalition convenes to plan 2018 strategy to pushback against the March 2018 BLM lease sale, protect Greater Chaco, forge ahead with the health assessment and more.
Rio Grande Chapter Year in Review