May 18, 2020

Walter A. Brown

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Citizen Action New Mexico Objections and Comments Re:  Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Petrox Northern Extension Pipeline and Associated Fruitland Coal Gas Horizontal Drilling Project.

Dear Sir,

1.      Once again the Forest Service (FS) is adversely impacting human health and environmental protection in the interests of commercial petroleum interests that destroy the character and features of a roadless area.  Citizen Action NM supports Alternative 1 for No Action/No Construction in this roadless area.  Pipeline and well pad construction would result in acres of land and forest being permanently cleared along with potential shallow aquifer contamination and adverse wildlife impacts.   There are zero benefits to public lands or wildlife from this project which defeats the purpose of roadless areas.  The FS needs to recognize the importance of these ecological treasures of roadless areas beyond their potential for pipelines and well pads.  The FS is allowing “spot zoning” exceptions so that one corporation gets special treatment while everyone else has to follow the rules. In essence, the federal taxpayers who own these public lands are subsidizing the profit margin of a private natural gas company at the expense of the ecological integrity of their public lands and wildlife. This constitutes an unethical giveaway of public lands, which increases threats to already-imperiled wildlife species and allows a permanent intrusion into currently roadless areas.

2.      “The HD Mountains CRA is approximately 25,044 acres is size and is comprised of a 10-mile long northsouth mountain range made up of individual peaks and mesas.”  The 2001 Roadless Rule prevents road construction and timber harvest in designated roadless areas, which are typically 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) or larger.  This roadless area is five times the size that can receive protection.  The FS is violating the Colorado Roadless Rule 3.2.2.:  “The CRR defined the following resources or features that characterize roadless areas: high quality or undisturbed soil, water, and air; sources of public drinking water; diversity of plant and animal communities; habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, candidate, and sensitive species and for those species dependent on large, undisturbed areas of land; primitive, semi-primitive motorized, and semi-primitive non-motorized; reference landscapes; natural-appearing landscapes with high scenic quality; traditional cultural properties and sacred sites; and other locally identified unique characteristics (USFS 2012).”  The EA does not protect these resources by seeking to allow and minimizing the effects of the pipeline degradation or destruction of the resources.   

3.      The FS EA fails to present a catalogue of the locations across the United States where it is allowing the intrusion of petroleum and other commercial interests into roadless areas.   A programmatic environmental statement should be provided.  The FS a la carte use of exceptions will lead to the destruction of roadless areas throughout the United States in violation of already federal accepted plans to protect such areas.  The cumulative effects on roadless areas are not analyzed by the FS. 

4.      The existing lease prohibition against surface occupancy and use of the Roadless Area for this pipeline should not be waived by the Forest Service. The No Surface Occupancy stipulation was confirmed by the San Juan National Forest in 2007 explicitly to protect the Roadless Area character of the HD Mountains. The project violates the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule by allowing new road construction.  Bulldozing a 60-foot wide corridor through the Roadless Area obviously violates the contractual terms against surface occupancy and destroys old growth trees, wildlife habitat and water resources.  The FS should not allow the No Surface Occupancy (NSO) to be voided for petroleum interests which are ravaging the environment wherever located.  The disappearance of roadless areas as result of an ongoing FS permission to destroy these areas at this and numerous other locations should be halted.  “The NSO was established to maintain and protect roadless values and areas in the HD Mountains CRA, and for the purpose of avoiding areas of: 1) landslides and landslide hazards; 2) slopes greater than 40%; 3) water influence zones, including riparian vegetation and flood plains; 4) high potential for water erosion; 5) low potential for revegetation; 6) old growth forests; and 7) visual quality objective (VQO) – retention.” 

The EA devalues and destroys these goals.  The EA identifies: “Additional disturbance would be located in a steep area with high-hazard soils, increasing the risk of landslides. Multiple areas of surface bedrock occur in the old road bed near Little Squaw Creek that would have to be removed for pipeline construction.”

The pipeline will transverse a large watershed that feeds Squaw Creek and ponds, springs and wells.

5.      Given the current outlook for petroleum production prices and a glut of petroleum due to reduction of consumption associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and overproduction, it is probable that this project is not economically viable, necessary or sustainable.  The project contributes further to greenhouse gas emissions causing extreme climate changes. 

6.      The EA does not provide links to documents such as those cited at 3.1.6 Threatened and Endangered, Sensitive, and MIS Species Federally Listed Threatened and Endangered Species.  The inability of the reader to locate referenced documents due to the FS omission of links seriously hides the ball from the public and delivers a defective EA.  The only place that identifies the meaning of “CBM” standing for Coal Based Methane gas production is in the Acronyms.

7.      The commenter cannot assess what specific effects the pipeline construction will have on any of the species it discusses with the exception of elk and mule deer at 3.2.10.  The consequences for those two species are negative in all respects: human intrusion, death from wildlife-vehicle collisions, loss of habitat, poaching, and harassment. 

The EA does not provide links to studies.  By non-identification, the EA pretends that other animal species do not exist for the area and thus fails to identify similar such impacts for other species.  

The EA is required, but fails, to make full identification of wildlife species and impacts on them. Bears, mountain lions and other apex species are ignored.  

Motorized vehicles will use this corridor in perpetuity to maintain and inspect the pipeline and permanently remove vegetation. There is no analysis for the number of road trips from all activities and the expected accidents, injuries and fatalities.  The pipeline corridor will also increase sight-lines for poaching, increase noxious weed introductions and allow abundant new opportunities for illegal motor vehicle use in perpetuity.

8.      A considerable percentage of the project would be on “high-hazard soils due to susceptibility to water erosion and poor revegetation potential.”  No mitigating procedures are provided for the location or at other locations.  Unstable slopes also present danger for pipeline ruptures from rapid downslope movement of snow and rock, floods, erosion, frost heaving.  These forces insert a degree of unpredictability and potential for massive releases due to pipeline breakage. 

9.      3.1.4 Fires/Fuels Management.  This section fails to adequately analyze the potential for more fires during construction and maintenance activities such as thinning and timber removal and increased human intrusion into the area.  The project will involve Coal Bed Methane (CBM).  The potential for coal generated fires for the area is present in another section 3.2.3:  “Coal fires may occur naturally where coal beds are exposed to the surface, and may be ignited by lightning strikes, campfires, wildfires, or spontaneous combustion.”

At p. 30:  “There is a possibility that dewatering of the Fruitland Formation caused by the Proposed Action may expose shallow sub-surface coals to oxygen, releasing heat, and potentially increasing the likelihood of coal fires near the outcrop (USDI 2006).”

10.  The EA lacks discussion for potential causes and effects of pipeline failure or leakage for the proposed action.  Pipeline failures have many causes.  A frequent failure cause is defective welding.  There is no discussion of quality control for the pipeline construction and installation.  Pipeline explosions have been a regular occurrence around the U.S.  The radius of impact for the maximum credible accident for the pipeline is not set forth.  Siting the pipeline along a public transportation corridor of Hwy 160 is unsafe. 

The possibilities for rupture, fires and explosions that may occur are not discussed in the EA.  Pipeline transport of fossil fuels through a roadless area carries the risk of rupture and explosion, threatening resources and values, visitor experience, and human health and safety. 

Methane seeps and spills are inadequately analyzed for increased occurrence, fire potential and impact on human health given increased human intrusion into the roadless area.  Allowing the project in a roadless area creates greater public risk: “Methane seeps can affect the water quality and health of the residences in the area. Methane is highly flammable and explosive under certain conditions. Methane that seeps into confined spaces that are poorly ventilated or unventilated (e.g., water wells or structures) and are exposed to a source of ignition can explode or burn.”

11.  No analysis for seismicity in the proposed area and whether there could be potential for rupture or structural leakages of pipeline and wells. 

12.  The EA does not discuss the potential for habitat fragmentation of wildlife corridors.

13.  Continuation and construction of the pipeline along an older road defeats recovery and maintaining of the roadless area.

14.  The entry of motor vehicles and supplies, drilling activities and later abandonment of the wells give no guarantees that the shallow aquifers of the roadless area will remain uncontaminated.  “Surface spills or inadequate wellbore integrity could potentially contaminate the shallow groundwater aquifers used for domestic water well supply. Spills may result from the release of drilling, completion, or production fluids on the well pads or surrounding areas, or from CBM or produced water released from pipeline leaks.”  Mitigation is not adequately described.

CONCLUSION

There is no public or environmental benefit from allowing the road, proposed pipeline and well construction to proceed.  The need for roadless areas to remain roadless and free from such projects should be respected by the Forest Service. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Citizen Action New Mexico

David McCoy, Executive Director

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May 9, 2020

NNSA Los Alamos Field Office

Comments: LANL SWEIS SA

3747 West Jemez Road

Los Alamos, NM 87544

By email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Subject line: LANL SWEIS SA

Dear LANL SWEIS SA Document Manager,

            Citizen Action New Mexico submits these comments for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Draft Supplement Analysis of the 2008 Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Continued Operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for Plutonium Operations (DOE/EIS-0380-SA-06, March 2020).

It is clear that the NNSA and DOE intend to go forward with more nuclear weapons production no matter what public comments, rational thinking or valid legal arguments may be presented against such a monumental waste of resources, finances, public health and safety and continuing threat to world environment, peace and security. 

The individuals in the NNSA and DOE that are involved in this effort have no moral or ethical scruples and are part of a nuclear mafia.  The last round of pit production brought cancer, generational genetic disorders, disease and the flash annihilation of more than 250,000 people. One questions why there needs to be “modernization” of nuclear weapons when there are already some 5,000 deployable such weapons in the US arsenal and with more than 15,000 plutonium pits that still exist in addition with a long lifetime.

The unsafe location of LANL and its facilities for producing more pits has long been criticized to no avail for:

  • Poisoned workers dying early deaths from cancer and disease,
  • birth defects for children,
  • Above ground test of its nuclear weapons spreading radiation in New Mexico and creation of a large class of uncompensated downwinders,
  • Illegal seizure of tribal land,
  • seismic vulnerability,
  • contamination of groundwater with hexavalent chromium,
  • defective ground water monitoring,
  • spread of laboratory radiation by fire,
  • contamination of the Rio Grande with alpha radiation,
  • accidents contaminating workers and giving them cancer,
  • ongoing plan to dump tritium into the airspace of New Mexico,
  • creation of long-lived radionuclides that will remain toxic for millions of years,
  • Increased need for disposal of radioactive and hazardous waste that has resulted in Area G and the Sandia National Laboratories Mixed Waste Landfill without cleanup.

There is a need for a Programmatic EIS, but even if such a document were produced it cannot bring about a reckoning with the absolute, abysmal idea that there should be further nuclear weapons production.  The problem lies in the first instance with the Atomic Energy Act that gives one man the power to decide that the production of nuclear weapons should go forward.  Clearly, the U.S. should consider that the President alone should not be granted such extensive power for production or use. 

Public comment cannot suffice to deter the DOE or the NNSA from its injurious, ruinous plans for New Mexico and their threat to stimulate greater proliferation of worldwide nuclear weapons production. 

We say to the individuals in the DOE and the NNSA, you should leave your jobs and refuse to be participants in further planetary oppression of the world’s peoplesandenvironment.

No matter how you choose to rationalize what you are doing for a living it is ethically and morally wrong and counter to life to continue nuclear weapons production. 

David B. McCoy, Executive Director

Citizen Action New Mexico

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USDA Draft Revised Forest Plan (FP)

Citizen Action New Mexico Comments

April 16, 2020

Adam Mendonca

Forest Supervisor

Gila National Forest

3005 E. Camino del Bosque

Silver City, NM 88061

 

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Citizen Action New Mexico is a 501 (c) (3) Project of the New Mexico Community Foundation with environmental concerns for radiation and chemical contamination throughout the State of New Mexico.  Citizen Action requests an additional 90 days extension for review of the FP due to the impact of the Covid-19 on our research staff and resources. 

The Forest Service Draft Revised Forest Plan (FP) discusses several ecological, economic and social challenges for the Gila National Forest.  The Forest Service has historically allowed serious unsustainableovercutting of forests and the use of herbicides that sacrificed ecological considerations to commercial interests of logging, grazing and hunting.  Unfortunately, that bias toward commercial interests is still present in the revised FP and should be changed more favorably toward protection of the Gila National Forest environment.  Citizen Action strongly opposes the inclusion of the Silent Spring plan to use 21 herbicides for chemical management in a setting that includes several endangered species and numerous wildland-urbaninterfaces.

Notably, while there is FP discussion of climate change impact on e.g., water, species and fire, there should be accompanying discussion for how management plansfor the reduction from the impact of ongoing and proposed human activities necessary to protect the forest.  The vulnerability to climate change requires consideration of reduction of damage to the ecosystem by limitingor reducing the level of ongoing human activities orexpected increases in

  • stream clogging road construction,
  • commercial tree cutting,
  • vehicle traffic,
  • mining,
  • fires,
  • hunting of animals and foraging for plants,
  • recreational activities,
  • utility corridors, etc.

Details should be provided e.g., for how much motorized new road construction is anticipated for mining claims, corridors for utility and microwave transmission, increased grazing herd levels, for allowable tree cuts and how such impacts can be avoided or eliminated.

There should be discussion regarding what limits will be set in place for human activities so that the forest can return to its historical level of density for trees, vegetation and species.  A correlated problem is that there is no baseline given for what those historical levels were for differing environmental categories of tree density and species levels so that it is unknown what are the quantifiable levels to be set asreasonable targets for recovery.  Discussion of supporting ecological features in the FP is appreciated.

There should be a presentation of a specific commitment and management plan not to engage in logging or fuel wood gathering, road construction, livestock grazing, herbicide use or any other activity that further threatens endangered species such as the Mexican Spotted Owl,Mexican gray wolf within the Gila. While the endangered and threatened species are listed as various points throughout the FP it is unclear what the management plan is to actually protect these species from human activities. 

There should be an in depth FP discussion of what would represent a sustainable level of forest harvest for

  • different use categoriesfor the units as a whole and with respect to other national forest in New Mexico
  • varying climate change levels that can be expected for water and
  • increased fires from climate change induced drought.

The Forest Service plans for large-scale commercial logging in southern New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest are less than reassuring that the Gila NF will be given protection from excessive logging activities.The discussion in the FP section Timber Harvest is less than encouraging that overcutting in the Gila will not continue well beyond its regeneration capacity and that old growth forest will be maintained.  The FP states:

“… [T]here will always be challenges. However, they will not be insurmountable if there is collaboration and cooperation between Gila managers, State Forestry, and local governments.”

There is no statistical presentation of what management considers the allowable cut to bethat could sustainably be made while bringing the forest back to historical levels.  There needs to be more than vague reassurance.

The FP jumps to an expansion from present day cultural local firewood “gathering” to “Using commercial fuelwood harvest as a restoration tool.” The FP should set forth an explanation of why the firewood process should now cater to unknown commercial interests, their magnitude or how forest restoration would thereby be accomplished by commercial harvest.  Consideration of illegal taking of trees should be considered.

How an increase in tree density will be accomplished needs to be discussed in relation to each of the various categories of human use such as tree harvesting, firewood gathering, grazing activities, road construction, mining, etc.  The impact of current timber removal methods needs attention with respect to topsoil loss.  There should be discussion of how the different tree and vegetation species use will be balanced so that the forest does not simply become skewed toward production of a particular type of commercial species with the ensuing reduction of quantity and size of species that may possess that commercial value.  The use of herbicides is particularly suspect in that regard where forest species are wiped out for monoculture forestry. 

A separate Programmatic EIS should be developed and considered separately from the Forest Plan for consideration ofthe use of 21 herbicides.As an attorney, I can assure that the inclusion of the FP plans for herbicide usage in such broad strokes constitutes grounds for a lawsuit.  The FP approach that “On the Gila NF, all the tools are ‘in the toolbox,’ ” for herbicides needs to be fully ventilated and dismissed before the FP proceeds. Herbicides pose:

  • Particularly toxic effects and risks for the fetus, infants, children and many species of flora and fauna including endangered and threatened species are in evidence from herbicide use.
  • The FP pretense of “monitoring and adaptive management,” fails to define what, when, or how monitoring of herbicide use would proceed, or how management would adapt to adverse results.
  • The toxification of the Gila ecosystem should be avoided and
  • Primary consideration instead given to human management and employment.
  • Recent studies of the use, for example, of Roundup have resulted in a $250,000,000 cancer lawsuit settlement against their manufacturers. The jury award was originally for $2 Billion.
  • 2, 4 D is relatively persistent in anaerobic (low oxygen) aquatic environments (half-life ranges from 41 to 333 days). This has implications for fragile wetland areas, especially those under conservation.
  • Dicamba is highly mobile in the soil and does have the potential to contaminate ground or surface water. Dicamba can drift and damage Gila NL species.
  • Hermaphroditic, demasculinzed frogs have resulted from exposure to the Department of Agriculture approved use of the herbicide Atrazine.
  • Whether there is contemplateduse of fire suppression chemicals containing perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),human-made chemicals which have been linked to cancer,is not discussed in the FP. PFAS have been destructive to groundwater resources, destroyed entire lakes (Lake Holloman) and riparian areas, and endanger fire fighters.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/us/california-firefighters-chemicals.html
  • Mists from herbicide sprays on hot days can drift for miles in high winds and result in damage to nearby crops.
  • Runoff from treated areas may impact algae, aquatic organisms, and fish.
  • Careless cleaning of equipment can contaminate soil, ground and surface water, and desirable vegetation. Proper transport, storage, disposal and spill procedures are not described in the FP.
  • Off-site application can occur if boundaries are not clearly marked and applicators are not aware of their location.

The FP overemphasizes the significance of hunting activities without providing any statistics that compare the educational, economic and ecological benefits of hunting with non-hunting uses of the forest.There is no reason, other than license fees, that non-hunting education and appreciation of forest diversity cannot be encouraged instead of the FP excessively touting hunting. 

The FP demonstrates bias in baldly saying that “Hunting … provides food, bonding opportunities between parents and children, and can be used to teach children about nature and natural lands.”  No other balancing statement is provided anywhere that children could be possibly be even better educated about nature and conservation of natural lands by means other than killing animals!My son is a field biologist specializing in endangered species identification and directing habitat renewal projects.  We didn’t kill any animals along the way although we ate a hellish amount of mushrooms.

In fact, the following graphs from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation (FHWAR) that has been the gold standard for decades and conducted every five years chronicle the steady decline of hunting both nationally and in New Mexico compared with wildlife watching participants.(New Mexico and other states were not surveyed in 2016 for revenues).  As can also be seen in the graphs below, there are substantially more participants, greater expenditures and economic impact, jobs, salaries and wages, state and local taxes generated by Wildlife Watching compared to Hunting. Hunting participation on New Mexico has reduced from 15% to 10% participation. Data sources:
https://www.census.gov/content/census/en/programs-surveys/fhwar/library/publications.html/

https://www.fws.gov/wsfrprograms/Subpages/LicenseInfo/Hunting.htm

 

 

 

 

FHWAR New Mexico Participation 1991

FHWAR New Mexico Participation 1996

FHWAR New Mexico Participation 2001

 

 

FHWAR New Mexico Participation 2006

 

FHWAR New Mexico Participation 2011

              


 

New Mexico Hunting license data

 

There should be FP recognition of and the quantification of the positive economic impact of the non-hunting recreational users with respect to achieving restoration and protection of the forest. Theabove statistical presentation for the different uses of the forest and those activities should be weighted in favor of forest and species preservation.

Overhunting of apex species is a particular problem throughout the western United States.  While the revenue from the sale of hunting licenses may be desirable from an agency standpoint, the revenue from recreational activities, e.g., hiking, wildlife and bird watching, photography, kayaking, etc., to local business and taxing authorities far exceeds the revenue from hunting licenses.  The problem of bias is thereby created in the absence of a reasonable funding mechanism for wildlife agencies and the overloading of agencies with commercial grazing, logging and hunting interests.

There should be adequate attention given by the FP to the presence of the apex predators, notably mountain lion, bear and wolves.  While there are 25 FP references to hunting, there is only one mention of mountain lion and black bear with no details as to the ecological importance or protection of those species. There is no inventory presented for the apex species. (Inventories are grievously lacking for other species as well).  The mountain lion and black bear are only mentioned in reference to hunting (p. 102) as if their sole importance is to be gunned down:

“People enjoy high-quality hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing in the Gila NF. All of the native big game species in the state occur in the forest: black bear, bighorn sheep, elk, javelina, turkey, mountain lion, pronghorn, mule deer, and white-tailed deer.“

The Forest Service should consider the importance of the apex predators in the context of their contribution to control of species that can overrun the forest and damage riparian areas especially ungulates associated with grazing as well as feral domestic species.  Damage to streambanks in the Gila NF from the irresponsible grazing of domestic animals needs much further enforcement control or elimination.  The experience in Yellowstone National Park with restoration of riparian areas by the re-introduction of the wolf population is instructive. 

While the Mexican gray wolf is mentioned as an endangered species, there seems to be no real consideration of how the Mexican Gray Wolf, the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, Mexican Spotted Owl or other endangered species will be protected from adverse human activities.  It is unacceptable for the FP to merely present that the protection of endangered and threatened species constitute a “management problem” with no thought or presentation as to solutions. Then, inthe next sentence the FP promotes restoration projects as having the goal of meeting local demand for forest products:

“[P]rotection of endangered and threatened species can pose range management challenges. Forest restoration and landscape-scale restoration projects can help sustain forest and watershed health, and maintain the ability to sustainably meet local demand for forest products.”

The local demand for forest products is not quantified however. 

Livestock and Wildlife Conflicts.The lack of protection of the Mexican Gray Wolf is egregious and winked at by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture.  The FP needs to have a realistic discussion about halting the trapping, poisoning and shooting of wolves as if only the cattle industry is of importance.  This again is bias in favor of commercial cattle interests and lack of protection while giving lip service in a FP document. 

Memos obtained in March 2020 by the Center for Biological Diversity are evidence that the “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surreptitiously authorized the killing of four endangered Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico on behalf of the livestock industry.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program killed one wolf on March 23 and three more on March 28.“Scientists have long recommended that ranchers be required to clean up or render inedible (i.e. by applying lime) the carcasses of cows that die on their watch in order to prevent wolves from being drawn to the proximity of vulnerable livestock. Yet the Fish and Wildlife Service opposes making such measures mandatory to prevent predation on stock.Ranchers are allowed to graze their private livestock on public lands with little accountability.”

The riparian corridors suggested for wild and scenic river protection of 450 miles are far too limited by half.  Utility corridors, microwave corridors, transportation corridors, trail corridors and alternative energy sites are discussed.  The amount of expected area of land to be used for these corridors is not set forward with respect to quantification for loss of habitat from road building and destruction or interference with sensitive habitats.  There should be planning for protection and development of corridors for animal movement to other wildlands or national forests. Corridors for large animal movement is not set forward except in the riparian context.  

The Forest Service should adopt the wilderness recommendations in Alternative 5 for 150,000 total acres rated as Outstanding by the Forest Service itself.  The amount of wilderness recommended in the FP is without justification for only 46,685 acres which is only 31% of what is Outstanding.

Please acknowledge receipt of these comments.

Respectfully submitted,

 

David B. McCoy, J.D., Executive Director

Citizen Action New Mexico

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