Redistricting Matters

Post-census redistricting has begun. There is a somewhat hierarchical list of requirements for good redistricting: population balance (one person, one vote), protection and representation of under-represented and oppressed groups, district contiguity and compactness, party and incumbent neutrality, and representation for communities of interest. A former, long-time state representative once said that politics is about the division or distribution of resources. Basically, who gets what and how much. It is important for the breadth of diversity of a state, county, or city to be represented in the decision makers. With these concepts in mind, a coalition of groups led by Fair Districts New Mexico support the adoption of redistricting maps from the sets of maps adopted by the Citizen Redistricting Committee. We strongly encourage you to write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, print and electronic, and to contact your legislators directly to encourage adoption of one of the CRC maps for Congress, State Senate, State House, and Public Education Commission. The Special Session for redistricting begins December 6, 2021.

GP News

Redistricting–GPNM is part of the coalition gathered by Fair Districts New Mexico to promote citizen involvement in the redistricting process at the state level. The Citizen Redistricting Committee (CRC) forwarded three maps each for redrawing districts for U. S. House of Representatives, the New Mexico House and Senate, and the Public Education Committee. At this point it is up to the state legislature to adopt maps from the CRC or create its own. We ask that you contact your legislators or write letters to the editor of your local news publications about this. Points to emphasize include adopting a CRC map that is strongly population balanced; avoids partisan and incumbent gerrymandering; protects historically oppressed and underrepresented communities; and respects tribal, county, and municipal boundaries to the extent possible. Please point out that the redistricting process should comply with the Open Meetings Act with proceedings open and accessible to the public–no backroom deals! The Special Session is expected to state on December 6th.

Gateway Greens Webinar–This has been a great series. Currently the focus is on agriculture. The next webinar is titled, “Healing a Broken Agricultural System” will be Wednesday, December 1, 2021, 6:00 p. m. MST on Zoom. Topics include moving from corporate-controlled, pesticide-based monoculture to regenerative and sustainable food systems and a discussion of decolonizing agriculture with urban farming. Register in advance at https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYlf-6sqT8vHd1pV91NEjiKQEVztp1rHUwx or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/603408037475032/?ref=newsfeed or https://www.facebook.com/groups/1392269120939428/permalink/2100597693439897/

Petitioning–We continue collecting signatures for a ballot line in 2022. Please reply if you can collect signatures for an hour or two in the parking lot of the Railyards Holiday Market, December 11-12, 10am to 4pm, at the Railyards in Albuquerque. We will not have a booth but will remain outside the event. Please let us know how your local efforts are going. Thanks. In other important ballot access news, one of the onerous requirements for new parties in Montana was declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read more at gp.org/ninth_circuit_strikes_down.

Candidates–We call for candidates for the 2022 General Election with the caveat that the Green Party is still working to obtain a Green Party ballot line. Please contact us for the implications of that with regard to candidates’ signature requirements. Regular local elections across the state occurred early this month. Local elections are non-partisan in New Mexico and are an opportunity for Greens to get elected to public office. The next state-wide regular local elections will be in 2023. Please start thinking now about how you may serve your community on a school board, conservation board, improvement district, governing council, or as mayor. In 2021, approximately 40 Greens were elected to public office in the USA.

Holtec Update–Holtec was late responding to a Request for Additional Information (RAI) from the NRC. The schedule for the publication of the safety evaluation review (SER) will be delayed from the previously planned January 2022. The new schedule regarding the application for a nuclear waste storage facility in Lea County has yet to be determined.

Webinar: “Nonviolence in a Violent World: Making a Difference Through Direct Action and Civil Disobedience”

Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 6 pm MST 

The Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX) presents speakers directly involved in these struggles followed by Q & A.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace
  • Allen McGonagill, Extinction Rebellion
  • Christopher Velazquez, Veterans for Peace
  • Henry Stoever, PeaceWorks Kansas City
  • Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Candidate 2012 & 2016
  • Kelly Maracle, Water Protector & Land Defender – Line 3 Arrestee

Co-Sponsors

  • Cleveland Peace Action
  • IRTF (InterReligious Task Force on Central America) 
  • PeaceWorks Kansas City
  • Missouri Green Party
  • Extinction Rebellion Boston

Register here: https://www.gp.org/nonviolence_in_a_violent_world

Stand Up for the Green New Deal

I was very sorry to see Bernie Sanders terminate his presidential campaign. It is true that the opposition was already pouring fortunes into combating him and his ideas, and the arrival of COVID-19 was preventing a continuation of the very well attended campaign rallies he inspired. Nonetheless, Senator Sanders was better able to bring attention to his policies and proposals while he was in the national spotlight as a candidate for President. Because the focus has passed to other candidates and to the crises that demand more of our attention, I am writing this letter in hope of restoring public awareness to the Green New Deal.   Several of Senator Sanders’s most important campaign issues remain of vital importance to our country and need to be rescued both from the continuing chaos of the pandemic response and from electoral politics. We must supported these policies, which address our deepest needs and those of our ecosystems and our planetary home!

The Green New Deal originated in the Green Party, where it differs from Senator Sanders’s version in that it is more detailed. But at this point, either New Deal offers immense opportunities for improvements of incomparable importance to our lives. An emergency Green New Deal will turn the tide on climate change by investing in renewable energy sources, will thereby make wars for oil obsolete, will invest in public transportation, sustainable renewable agriculture and restoration of our ecosystems. Twenty million jobs will be created in the renewable and the infrastructure areas by this national transition. A Green New Deal will retrain workers, pay and benefits will be generous, and there will be a guarantee that no worker is unable to shift to employment in the transitional and renewed infrastructure and ecosystem. Fracking, tar sands, natural gas and uranium mining will give way to a democratic, worker-owned national electric grid powered by renewable sources. The money devoted to research into finding oil and gas reserves will be invested in restoration of our ecosystems. The important of recycling our waste sustainably will return to our society’s attention and unconditioned by funding discussions; its importance will be greater than many of the objectives of the failing economy we are replacing.

Medicare for All or Single Payer Health Insurance – we will join the family of developed nations where universal publicly funded health care is the standard in place. No person because of age, income, gender, race, or religion will be left out. Such systems cost far less than what Americans are asked to pay for health insurance for profit administered care, and if unable to pay, are often allowed to die. We have to ask ourselves how we allowed such a monstrous system to take control of our precious health, which is and must be seen as a civil right.

In order to have an educated populace and young people prepared to be productive citizens with the knowledge and skills to fill the new planet-saving work force, we must make education free to them. The vast amount of money being funneled into more and more military infrastructure, drone and other warfare, and international military base support will serve us better if it is used to restore and improve our agricultural productivity, our transportation and communication infrastructure, and contributions to building a livable world. We can have a sensible national defense policy for a fraction of the excessive wealth funneled into the Pentagon, some of which must be channeled into keeping the public scared of any other nation cast in the role of enemy.

This is a time of great danger but even more a time of great opportunity! We are a polarized society today! If we can overcome the deleterious effects of more than a century of advertising and public relations harnessed to the goals of corporate capitalists and political opportunists, we will find our way back to rejoining each other to work for common goals that transcend party politics, caste and class divisions, race and income and the sort of mutual mistrust that such divisions foster. This is our time if we reach out for it and make a new society out of the ashes of what is falling down around us. Neo-liberalism has shown its hollowness after forty years and more, and only neo-liberals would reject the principles on which we can erect our new society. To accomplish these goals will take the sort of effort that the country invested in preparing for World War II, but they are within our power. They are objectives we can work for and achieve, and a Green New Deal is a tremendous starting point.

Susann McCarthy
Co-chair, Green Party of Taos County, New Mexico

Earth Day 2020

What’s up Taos! It’s been weeks of complete isolation for many families in our community. It is crucial to do our part by staying home. Even though our movements have been limited, there’s always room to alter our daily habits.

Some of the Greens have decided to do things like pick up trash in our own yard, making masks out of recycled material, reduce carbon and water footprint (responsible water use). 

Remember that Earth Day doesn’t come just one day a year. Let’s remember our neighbors, friends and family. We are sending positive vibes and appreciate you. If you have any stories, feedback or ideas and would like to share, please contact us anytime. We’d like to hear how you will be celebrating Earth Day.

Here’s one idea:

Future Water Budget for Taos County

A water plan has been developed by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer entitled Taos Regional Water Plan. This plan indicates that water use in the county is already exceeding capacity. A graphic from this water plan, shown below, illustrates the notion that demand has exceeded supply (at least in a drought year) and that our current trajectory with increased demand is unsustainable.

Water management is a complex matter requiring on-going research that Green Party of Taos County (GPTC) members have been studying for the past year and a half. GPTC members are committed to continue their investigation and propose a future water budget that is within our means.

Please read the plan and let us know your thoughts on this issue that is crucial to current and future Taos County residents in the comments section below.

Taos Regional Water Plan Supply and Projected Demand

Letter to the Bureau of Reclamation regarding “Mutual Benefits Projects”

Rick Brown sent this letter to the Bureau of Reclamation on November 20, 2019:


PUBLIC SCOPING COMMENT CARD


November 19 2019
Rick Brown, Secretary Green Party of Taos
info@greenpartytaos.org
P.O. Box 329
Taos, New Mexico 87571


I live in Taos County in an area where, like many other parts of the county, everyone is on a private well and does not presently have access to municipal water. I am also on an acequia, and I am a parciante and active user.


I am very concerned about the “Mutual Benefits Projects” (very misnamed in my opinion because they benefit very few people) for several reasons. As I mentioned I am on a private well which I depend on like everyone around me and in other parts of Taos County as well. The “Mutual Benefits Projects” call for drilling several new water supply wells into the deep aquifer which will have very large pumps to draw out a large amount of water. This has the potential to draw down the water table so that we would lose our wells.


We have learned that people like us who drilled their wells in recent years have no legal recourse if we were to lose our well. In the short term this would leave us with no access to running water for drinking, washing, and for our radiant heating system.


If the town were to extend water lines to us, I have reason to believe that our water would be much more expensive. The deep aquifer water is known to be highly mineralized which would require expensive treatment, the cost of which of course would be passed on to us. This would not be just an economic impact but a cultural impact to the area as well because many of the people whose families have been here for generations are struggling to make ends meets as it is, and having to pay higher water bills could be the last straw forcing people to leave. They would most likely be replaced by people moving in who are more affluent and used to a higher cost of living, or property being used as short term rental to tourists which we are already seeing.


And the fact is that we do not need new water supply wells with such a large capacity. The Town of Taos is consistently meeting its current water needs with its existing wells which have much smaller capacity, with the few disruptions we have had due to mechanical problems, not lack of water. If some wells need to be moved due to impacts to the Taos Pueblo land it should be possible to replace them with wells of similar capacity, sited to have a minimum impact to domestic wells.


My other concern is the impact of these wells to the acequias that many of us use to water crops and gardens and which also serve a vital function to recharge the shallow aquifer in the Taos Valley.


The model which is the basis for the Abeyta Settlement predicts that when the “Mutual Benefits Projects” are fully implemented the water table will be lowered to the extent that there will no longer be springs to feed the rivers that come down from the mountains and water our valley and feed our acequias. The Abeyta Settlement has proposed an answer to this which is Mitigation Wells. These are another series of wells into the deep aquifer which would be used to pump water uphill to put into the streams or acequias near the base of the mountains.


There are many problems with this idea. One is that, as noted previously, the deep aquifer water has high concentrations of minerals which would make it unfit to put into streams as-is because the water could be toxic to fish and wildlife that depend on the streams, and would also be detrimental to agricultural use because the minerals could build up in soil over time and damage the fertility of the soil. Treatment would be necessary and likely required for putting this water into streams. The cost of such treatment is not covered under the Abeyta Settlement and would have to be borne by mutual domestic water suppliers or acequia organizations that would be responsible for the wells. Operation and maintenance of the pumps and treatment systems would again be very expensive and this would change the whole character of the acequia system if it could continue to exist at all. This would be a huge cultural impact.


We are mostly small growers, few big operations or people with a lot of money are using the acequias. It is a very simple low-tech system maintained mostly with mattocks and shovels that uses natural gravity flow to bring water from the mountain streams to our fields following historic channels. We don’t have to pay much for water from the acequias, on ours we can earn most of our annual dues by participating in the yearly ditch cleaning. If we had to pay for expensive treated water and maintenance of the pumps and treatment system very few of us could afford to continue using the acequia. Continued agriculture in the Taos Valley would be limited to a few big operations that could afford to pay for the water, if that would be economical. The result would be that more and more former agricultural land would be sold off for residential to newcomers, more descendants of the original families would have to leave, and the community that presently exists around the acequias would be lost. And if there is much less agriculture using irrigation water we would lose the aquifer recharge that we are getting from it. And even our deep aquifer, which is finite, would eventually be drained.


To summarize, I request that the Programmatic Environmental Assessment be comprehensive, to cover the long term cumulative effects of all planned wells, not just the relatively small impacts of each one individually, and include all environmental, economic, and cultural impacts. My recommendation is that the “no action” alternative be chosen, that no federal dollars be appropriated for any part of the “mutual benefit projects” as currently conceived, and that new studies be done to develop ways to meet actual needs under a limited growth scenario that employs conservation first before developing additional water supplies.


Endorsed by the Green Party of Taos County

WATER SUSTAINABILITY FOR TAOS

by Susann McCarthy

I arrived in Taos after a lifetime of the poisoned air of Los Angeles and lived in Taos, rejoicing in its clear skies and clear air, for quite some time before I fully realized that water shortage is our Achilles’ heel.  Taos was not highly urbanized when I arrived; but now in 2019 it is.   One hundred years ago Los Angeles was in its own water crisis.  In 1974 Phil Lovato was expressing serious concerns about a possible water crisis developing in Taos Valley.  In the context that elected Phil Lovato as Mayor of Taos in 1980 because he was an expert on water law, discussions had begun on what is now commonly known as the “Abeyta Settlement.”   Taos Pueblo, the oldest community in the Taos Valley, has the ancient claim from “time immemorial” to all of Taos Valley’s water. The Abeyta Settlement recognizes that it is to the mutual benefit of all signatories of the Agreement to share some of the water in the Taos Valley with non-Pueblo users. In future, other competing claims to Taos Valley water will certainly arise under pressure of increased populations and impending climate disturbance.  It is also evident that water users outside of Taos Valley have wanted in the past, and will continue to want in future, to capture any available water rights to meet their own anticipated, increasing water needs.  

In 1969 the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer completed a hydrologic survey of water use and rights in the Taos Valley (Rio Hondo, Rio Pueblo and Rio Fernando, Rio Chiquito, Rio Grande del Ranchos watersheds).  The hydrologic survey is the basis of adjudication of water ownership in the Taos Valley, resulting in the Abeyta Settlement, which in essence established a water budget for Taos Valley water users.

After half a century, there are changes in water use that the Abeyta Settlement did not anticipate.  Perhaps the major area of difficulty for a current water budget arises from the fact that the Settlement was formulated prior to general awareness of the climate crises we now know we face.  Consequently, it lacks provision for meeting the challenges that disruption is certainly causing to current and future water availability.  Fortunately, though, the Settlement contains within its terms the responsibility of any one or more of its signatories to request adjustment of the hydrologic model if aspects of the model are not consistent with new information. The terms of the Settlement also provides for the drilling of deep wells to draw up aquifer waters to augment an otherwise restrictive water supply; it remains to be seen whether this option is a wise designation, because, for one thing, the quality of water from such depth is unknown.  This summer a much-anticipated conference of the parties to the Settlement, intended to be open to the public, was to be conducted in Taos by UNM’s Utton Center.  Whether the Bureau of Reclamation may also participate in this conference is currently not known.  We hope this important gathering will take place soon.

Our community is at a critical juncture in the matter of water.   How effectively town, county and tribal governments adopt and implement policies to control the use, storage, conservation and sustainability of our shared water will determine our future in Taos Valley.   Will the Town and County governments continue to follow the growth and development-friendly policies with associated high water usage, delaying a vital community-wide commencement of a sustainability model?   To further delay turning our attention to water use management risks the danger that, like some ancient civilizations, perhaps distant in time but geographically near to us, we might be forced to abandon our community in search of water.  

As we contemplate this precarious moment in planetary and community life, and work toward a comprehensive water budget for our future, it is already possible to discern ways we can improve on our own, individual, self-restraining water use. For example, shorter showers, washing dishes in less water, planting less thirsty plants, not hosing down concrete and automobiles to clean them.  Addressing this water shortage, like addressing climate disruption itself, ultimately demands systemic strategies to correct some of the most destructive policies impacting local water availability over time.  Restoring the acequias and revitalizing local agriculture are such systemic tactics, and will greatly advance our continuation as a stronger, self-sustaining local region of New Mexico which does not exceed its carrying capacity.  Many more ways will emerge through discussion and consensus by which we will come together as neighbors and Taos residents to see water with new eyes and work to preserve it from waste with new habits and practices.

Susann McCarthy

Co-Chair of the Water Committee of the Green Party of Taos County (GPTC)

The Steering Committee of the GPTC endorses this statement.

Susann McCarthy is co-chair of the Water Committee of the Green Party of Taos County. The Steering Committee of the GPTC endorses this statement.

This article also appeared in the Taos News, November 7, 2019 edition. https://www.taosnews.com/stories/climate-change-will-impact-abeyta-water-settlement-taos-water-supplies,60558

Primaries

Kudos to you greens out there who tried to vote today.

Remember: it’s not because the party isn’t relevant. It is only because we didn’t have any candidates competing to represent the greens in the General Election.

However, if a candidate does decide to run in the general NOW! They still can.

It’s never to late to #GoGreen
www.greenpartytaos.org

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook
@greenpartytaos

GPTC Adopts Los Alamos National Laboratories Resolution

Adopted at the Annual Convention of the Green Party of Taos County on March 24, 2018:

“Whereas: the City of Santa Fe on October 25th, 2017 adopted the resolution

REQUESTING THAT THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT STRENGTHEN THE REVISED LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABS CLEANUP ORDER TO CALL FOR ADDITIONAL SAFETY TRAINING; AND SUSPEND ANY PLANNED EXPANDED PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION UNTIL SAFETY ISSUES ARE RESOLVED; AND DIRECTING THE CITY CLERK TO TRANSMIT COPIES OF THIS RESOLUTION TO ASSOCIATED PARTIES.”

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/2017-76-LANL-Cleanup.pdf

and;

Whereas: This resolution has been adapted as in the attached and proposed to be adopted by the Town of Taos,

Be it Resolved: The Green Party of New Mexico supports adoption of similar resolutions by all local governments in the State of New Mexico.

Signed Mark Henderson Secretary of the Convention Green Party of Taos County

page1image8584

Town of Taos, NEW MEXICO RESOLUTION NO. 2018-___

COMMITMENT TO LANL CLEAN-UP RESOLUTION 2018

A RESOLUTION REGARDING THE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND REGIONAL CONTAMINATION ISSUES AT LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY:

REQUESTING THAT THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT STRENGTHEN AND ENFORCE THE REVISED (2016) LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABS

CLEANUP ORDER TO CALL FOR ADDITIONAL CHARACTERIZATION OF LEGACY NUCLEAR WASTES, INCREASED CLEANUP FUNDING, SIGNIFICANT ADDITIONAL SAFETY TRAINING AND CLEAR ENFORCEMENT; AND DUE TO CONTINUING LIFE- THREATENING NEAR-CRITICALITY ACCIDENTS, EGREGIOUS REGIONAL CONTAMINATION AND THE EXISTENT DANGER OF POTENTIAL EARTHQUAKES AFFECTING VULNERABLE PLUTONIUM PIT FACILITIES (PF-4 AND OTHERS), HALT CURRENT NUCLEAR BOMB CORE PRODUCTION UNTIL SAFETY AND EARTHQUAKE ISSUES ARE RESOLVED AND CERTIFIED SAFE BY THE DNFSB; HALT PLANNED EXPANDED PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION; AND HALT LANL’S PROPOSED UNDERGROUND MODULAR PIT MANUFACTURE THAT WOULD BE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE TO EARTHQUAKE ACTIVITY; AND DIRECTING THE TOWN CLERK TO TRANSMIT COPIES OF THIS RESOLUTION TO ASSOCIATED PARTIES.

WHEREAS, in June 2016, DOE and NMED signed a new revised Consent Order governing cleanup that incorporates giant loopholes whereby LANL can avoid comprehensive cleanup by simply claiming that it is “too difficult or costly”;

and

WHEREAS, the new Consent Order bases LANL cleanup on projections of future funding availability instead of what is actually needed to accomplish comprehensive cleanup; andWHEREAS, in August 2016, based on the new Consent Order, DOE released an estimated cleanup baseline that extended the timeframe for LANL cleanup completion to 2040, asserting that only 5,000 cubic meters of waste needs to be cleaned up, while an estimated 30 times that much legacy waste (150,000 cubic meters) would be subject to “cap and cover”, i.e., leaving said waste buried where it is currently located on LANL property; and

WHEREAS, LANL’s radioactive and toxic wastes are buried in unlined pits and shafts, unlike the composite liners and leachate collection systems that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) requires of all local governments; and

WHEREAS, contamination includes perchlorate and hexavalent chromium (as in the film Erin Brockovich) in the top 80 to 100 feet of Santa Fe’s sole source aquifer, and PCBs in the Rio Grande at 40,000 times over EPA standards protective of human health

WHEREAS, radioactive and hazardous contaminants produced as a result of nuclear weapons research and production at LANL have been and continue to be released into the Rio Grande and the Española Basin Aquifer, designated by the EPA as a Sole Source Aquifer; and

WHEREAS, sustainable futures and regional property values depend on preventing ground- water contamination of the Española Basin Aquifer, surface contamination of the Rio Grande and tributaries; and preventing air contamination from repeated wildfires at or near the Lab; andWHEREAS, LANL’s legacy radioactive and toxic wastes are located as close as 60 miles or less, as the crow flies, from Taos; and

WHEREAS, LANL has been threatened by 3 recent very large wildfires: the Dome Fire (April, 1996), Cerro Grande Fire (May, 2000) that burned 400 homes in the city of Los Alamos and 43,000 acres including 7500 acres on LANL property, and Las Conchas Fire (June, 2011) which came within a mile of Lab boundaries and burned 156,000 acres; and the Cerro Grande fire spread over several hundred waste disposal sites and contaminated areas; and

WHEREAS wildfires near or on Lab property over the last 2 decades have become more frequent and dangerous and the smoke has spread contaminants to the Taos area and beyond; and contamination regionally includes carcinogenic and mutagenic radioactive and hazardous wastes including Plutonium, Tritium, Americium, Strontium, Cesium, explosives, etc. found in local area plums, lettuce and house dust.

WHEREAS, full cleanup of LANL would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our precious groundwater resources and the Rio Grande while creating hundreds of high paying jobs for more than twenty years when wastes are fully removed; and
WHEREAS, the Governing Body of the Town of Taos supports the total and permanent cleanup of all toxic and radioactive health and environmental hazards related to nuclear weapons research and production at Los Alamos (Resolution 08-56); and

WHEREAS, the Town of Taos has historically opposed “cap & cover” with Joint Town & County Resolution #08-24/08-27 in 2008; and Santa Fe City and County passed Resolutions similar to this: Resolution #2017-76 (10-25-17) and Resolution #2017-129 (11-14-17); andWHEREAS, the Department of Energy has determined, “Required improvements to the [Nuclear] Criticality Safety Program are moving at an unacceptably slow rate… [and] The number and latency of infractions in the plutonium facility is of concern,” for which LANL received the only “red grade” in nuclear criticality safety in the DOE nuclear weapons complex in the 2016 report of the DOE to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), an independent panel that advises the U.S. Department of Energy and the president; andWHEREAS, nuclear criticality entails accidents resulting from an inadvertent self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction that produces a potentially fatal blast of radiation resulting in fires and deadly radiation releases into the environment; and

WHEREAS, the now for-profit nuclear weapons complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory has suffered several “nuclear criticality” accidents in recent years, documented in a 2017 multi- part series from the Center for Public Integrity;

and

WHEREAS, these criticality events include:

1. In March 2011, in violation of nuclear material handling protocols, a manager placed an amount of nuclear material in a glove-box that exceeded the criticality limit of the box; and

2. In August 2011, technicians, seeking a photo-op, in violation of nuclear material handling protocols, placed eight rods of plutonium in close proximity to each other – several more rods would have triggered a deadly nuclear chain reaction;

3. A 2013 LANL study found that glove-box leaks in PF-4 (plutonium production facility) occurred roughly three times a month, costing $23,000 each to clean up, and often the result of avoidable errors;

4. In December 2013, LANL sent a drum containing radioactive material to the WIPP storage facility near Carlsbad that ruptured inside the facility – a result of improper mixing of ingredients – costing the government $1.5 billion to “clean up”.

5. In May 2016, a trolley used to carry nuclear materials in a facility at LANL fell from the ceiling and crashed into a glove-box, which was fortunately empty and not in use;

6. The DOE annual report to the DNFSB, released in February 2017, found that LANL was the only nuclear production site whose performance did not meet expectations in the functional area of criticality safety expectations;

7. The April 19th, 2017 fire incident at PF-4, where 4 metric tons of plutonium are also stored, highlighted, once again, a pattern of consistent mismanagement in the maintenance and cleanup of some of the most dangerous materials on Earth. This pattern of problems also has prompted the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to question whether the facility should continue to operate and handle increasing quantities of plutonium in coming years. The Board questions the lab’s ability to safely carry out future nuclear missions at PF-4., and

8. In July 2017, a LANL employee sent “special nuclear material” across the country by air by FED-EX in direct violation of nuclear safety standards; and

9. In August 2017, two further incidents of mishandling of plutonium metals occurred, one of which was acknowledged as a ‘criticality safety event’; and

WHEREAS, recent near-criticality accidents at LANL include one that was very similar to one in Japan that required mass evacuation and a shelter-in-place order for 310,000 people; and since nuclear criticality and resultant fires have the potential to contaminate the entire state; andWHEREAS, the 2011 near-criticality accident led to an exodus of nuclear criticality safety experts, leaving only 1 out of 14 criticality safety experts when the required number is over 30; resulting in a 2013 shutdown of plutonium handling operations for nearly 4 years; andWHEREAS, Between 2005 and 2016, the lab’s persistent and serious shortcomings in “criticality” safety have been criticized in more than 40 reports by government oversight agencies, teams of nuclear safety experts, and the lab’s own staff.;

and

WHEREAS, DOE should increase and allocate sufficient funding to ensure all contractor staff working with radioactive and hazardous material are trained in the handling of said material, overseen by federal nuclear safety experts, in order to ensure the safety of the employees, the nuclear stockpile and the surrounding communities, including the Town of Taos; andWHEREAS, Los Alamos National Security, LLS, now a for-profit contractor, has historically prioritized spending for plutonium pit production, while skimping on environmental protection of the surrounding communities, witness the spreading contamination in the underlying aquifer, the Rio Grande and the Buckman well fields. The 2018 requested budget of $2.48 billion includes around 80% for pit production and 7.6% for clean-up

WHEREAS, DOE plans to expand production of new plutonium pit triggers at LANL for the nation’s nuclear weapons from 20 to up to 80 pits per year by 2030, which is estimated to nearly double related radioactive and toxic wastes; and

WHEREAS, plutonium pits are used as the “triggers” for the nation’s nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction; and
WHEREAS, plutonium is a substance with significant health and environmental risk, including many cancers in humans and animals; and

WHEREAS, billions of our United States federal tax dollars are being used to manufacture plutonium pits, the triggers for WMD, a product that must never be used;

and

WHEREAS, Los Alamos County ranks 4th in per capita income in the United States and the state of New Mexico ranks 4th lowest in per capita income in the United States, with the highest poverty rate for children, the trickle-down from LANL is not benefitting New Mexicans or Taoseños; and

WHEREAS, independent experts outside of the Department of Defense have found that all plutonium pits, including those created when the existing nuclear stockpile was created over the last 60 years, have reliable lifetimes of a century or more, arguing that expanded production of plutonium pits is unnecessary; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. arsenal includes 4,480 nuclear warheads, of which 1,740 are deployed, nearly 1000 are on hair-trigger alert, 2,740 are in storage, with nearly 2500 within a mile from the Albuquerque Airport and around 15- 20,000 plutonium pits in Amarillo, TX; andWHEREAS, in a 2013 letter, the independent DNFSB stated that the Board “remains deeply concerned with the seismic safety posture of the PF-4 at LANL. The Board believes a recent analysis demonstrates that PF-4 is vulnerable to structural collapse. The large plutonium inventory of PF-4, coupled with the facility’s proximity to the public, creates the potential for very high off-site dose consequences if the building were to collapse”;

and

WHEREAS In January, 2018, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wrote to then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, that despite upgrades at the Los Alamos plutonium facility that would allow it to better sustain an earthquake, “significant questions remain regarding the suitability of the Plutonium Facility (PF-4) for long term operations,” including the adequacy of its fire- suppression system and an excess of “material-at-risk,” (onsite radioactive material). New issues discovered by the DNFSB as a result of the April 19 fire at PF-4 include failures in identifying legacy waste, unclear directions from management about cleanup activities and an overall lack of clarity about who has authority in an emergency;

and

WHEREAS, in July, 2017, at the United Nations, 122 nations adopted a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, prohibiting nations from developing, testing, production, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons, killing 170,000 civilians in split seconds at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with many thousands more dying from radioactive fallout; and through the United Nations declaration, the global community has condemned these acts as indiscriminate and internationally illegal “crimes against humanity”; and

WHEREAS, the Taos Governing Body has previously passed Joint Town/County Resolution Nos. 8-24/8-27 opposing expansion of plutonium pit production at LANL;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE Town of Taos that the Governing Body hereby requests that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen and enforce without exception the revised cleanup Consent Order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training, thereby incentivizing DOE to seek increased funding for these tasks. Current plutonium pit production must halt until all nuclear criticality safety issues are resolved, and certified to be safe by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governing Body requests that the United States Department of Energy halt any planned expanded plutonium pit production at LANL. Earthquake vulnerabilities of PF-4 must be addressed now. Underground modules with tunnels to PF-4 must not be considered for expanded pit plutonium at LANL due to earthquake vulnerabilities delineated by the DNFSB. The facility sits atop 7 earthquake faults.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governing Body directs the Town Clerk to send copies of this resolution to the New Mexican congressional delegation, the Governor of New Mexico, the President Pro Tempore of the New Mexico Senate, the Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, and the Secretaries of the United States Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department.


References:

Excerpt Joint Taos Town/County Resolution 08-56/08-40:
“NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Governing Bodies of the Town of Taos and Taos County request that the Governor of New Mexico use his authority, by the powers vested in him by the Constitution of New Mexico, to request that the Department of Energy commit to remove all waste buried at the facility, and that no additional waste be allowed to be buried at the facility.”

Excerpt Joint Taos Town/County Resolution 08-24/08-27:
A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE TOWN OF TAOS AND TAOS COUNTY OBJECTING TO PROPOSED NUCLEAR WEAPONS “COMPLEX “TRANSFORMATION” ACTIVITIES AT THE LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY, INCLUDING EXPANDED PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION.


Criticality: Center for Public Integrity: Nuclear Negligence https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/near-disaster/

The Impact Area Groundwater Study Program: http://nuclearactive.org/Water/GroundwaterFS4-17-07.pdf

Local contaminants: NMED, DOE Oversight Bureau and Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group; 2005 Environmental Surveillance in Embudo Watershed

4 metric tons plutonium stored at LANL: http://www.lasg.org/FactSheets/2016/LASG_Pits_Jun2016.pdf

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/10165/qr_2014516_24736.pdf

Los Alamos Environmental Monitoring Records https://www.intellusnm.com/home/about_intellus.cfm