Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Death Comes For Lamy

They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.”― Willa Cather, Death Comes For the Archbishop  

According to Jack Clark, one of the No Crude Oil in Lamy organizers (Facebook page), the Open House I made sure to attend on January 18th was called to "share facts and reach a consensus for future action." Actions taken would be in response to the almost unbelievable news that Pacer Energy and Santa Fe Southern had struck a deal to convert the rail facility in little sleepy Lamy, New Mexico, into a transfer station for crude oil. Tanker trucks would barrel in and out of Lamy, their engines idling while they wait to offload crude oil to railroad cars, their liquid cargo to be transported to refineries near Albuquerque. That's the plan.

When I saw this sign on 285, I knew the organizers were dead serious about the fight ahead.

And this one too, in front of the recently paved 2-lane road that is the only way in or out of the unincorporated village of Lamy. The woman seated next to me in the meeting groaned, "What fools, we thought the county paved the road for us!"

After announcement of the ground rules, Jack informed us that there would be a presentation by Pacer Energy employees, questions to them from the ten-member Steering Committee, followed by questions from the floor, introduction of the electeds or candidates in attendance, the reading of a statement from Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Hollian who unfortunately for all was in California caring for her ailing mother, and a discussion of possible courses of action including the pursuit of a legal injunction against Pacer, et.al.

Devil take me if Pacer Energy didn't send a couple of know-nothing reps, who by their own admission were “shanghaied into coming to the meeting at the last minute,” to not answer the many astute questions asked by members of the outraged and ultra organized Lamy, Galisteo, and El Dorado voting blocs. These communities, and all the rest of us up and down the 285 corridor, were there en force, united by a deep and urgent feeling to protect our watershed from Oil & Gas at all costs.

What the Pacer grunts didn't know about what headquarters had cooked up for us could fill several blogposts.

They weren't privy to the business terms of the deal, they weren't certain of the number of trucks that could eventually routinely be deployed to our area, they couldn't even be sure of the proposed hours of operation--daylight hours at first, they thought, but that could change to 24/7. Storage tanks weren't likely to be placed at Lamy but couldn't be ruled out, and no, they didn't know why Pacer had not asked to meet with the affected community. The effects of idling trucks, air and noise pollution were quantified thusly: "could be a bit of a nuisance."

The Pacer duo also didn't know the dollar amount of the anticipated profits for one-year's operation, how much it would cost to place the facility at their Plan B elsewhere location; they were not informed as to the present condition of the railroad tracks--that would be a question for Santa Fe Southern. They couldn't comment on issues of liability, insurance coverages, other than to say: "I know we have some." Nor could they remark on how property values would be affected in the area, how owners could be compensated for losses to those values, or what the safety risks would be in case of flooding during monsoon season.

Not ten miles from my casita, on the road to Lamy where 50-100 double tanker trucks, weekly, each weighing 80,000 pounds fully-loaded are proposed to transport crude oil.

Where the historic protest meeting in Lamy was held.

The overflow crowd filled this hall and an adjoining room.

The meeting was exceedingly well run, many voices were heard.

Our two Pacer boyz, with nametags a'blazin!

I wonder if they ever looked up to see where they were?

According to the paper in Albuquerque, the body count at Legal Tender protesting the proposed invasion by oil and gas was numbered at 275. Among us were skilled geo-hydrologists and seasoned water-protection activists with abundant expertise to bring to bear to this serious threat to our bio-region. The nomenclature of engineering sussurated throughout the Q&A—tonnage, stress, road degradation, black ice, hazmat incidents, permeable soil, irreplaceable natural resources, etc.


But after all the brilliant and incisive questions were asked (not a ding-a-ling among them), and the many near incoherent utterances of  "don't know," "have to check," "we'll get back to you on that," "not sure," "hard to say," and out-and-out silence were given--the inescapable conclusion was simply this: 

Spills, accidents and wrecks are inevitable. With Lamy's community well head only 109 feet from the proposed crude oil transfer site, our aquifer is vulnerable.

Even while the heaviness of our situation was settling upon us, as we each struggled with this new proposed reality being foisted upon us, a bit of radical relief was fortunately on the way. Former elementary school teacher Rainy Upton rocked the casbah when she coolly asked the Pacer stooges in the same measured cadences with which she might totally devastate a couple of misbehaving third-graders: “Why did you come here looking for trouble?”

Rainy's question was like a refreshing rain falling on a community in the process of being seriously shit upon, and it was a welcome, cleansing rain. The pathetic, almost pitiable, response from Pacer? "Um. Uh. That's a good question. We asked that ourselves. We're not looking for trouble. It's a hard question to answer. We don't have an answer."

Moments later, and even with the pointed reminders from our facilitators to remain civil, and notwithstanding the presence of a couple of armed law-enforcement personnel standing by (!) inside the meeting hall (!!), local democracy, that ole messy thang so loathed by oligarchs and plutocrats alike, was spontaneously, anarchically asserted. After a bellyful of Pacer's biz development lingo—“cost-effectiveness,” “path of least resistance,” and pointless repetition of the totally banal phrase “best practices”—we took a vote, an impromptu one. With quiet fury, the man directly behind me rose and demanded of the crowd: “Anyone want this?” Nary a hand was raised, to which he thundered: “Nobody wants this!” 

It was a rare public moment of pure, unanimous, absolute consensus, charged with all the fervor and frustration that a collective act of withholding assent in no uncertain terms can muster. 

Santa Fe Southern--the little engine that shouldn't.
 
At Lamy's rail yard in this evening's twilight. A magical, peaceful place.

This is the landscape at risk. We have so precious little water.
Is Oil & Gas so arrogant that they've completely misread the power potentiality of our regional alliance, especially now that we are galvanized and united against an immediate and dire threat?

Have they been unattentive to the willful challenges to corporate oil and gas interests posed by our neighboring counties—in San Miguel and especially Mora, the first county in the nation to ban fracking and be sued in federal court by Royal Dutch Shell's US subsidiary? Do they not understand that many of us are committed to protecting Mother Earth from their ravages, come what may?

Painting by New Mexico modernist Juane Quick-to-See Smith

One is forced to presume that in New Mexico--a state so nakedly corrupt as to be ranked last in the U.S. in child well-being--that it must be standard operating procedure in business dealings such as the one Pacer has made with Santa Fe Southern, to have a quid pro quo of one sort or another between the powers that be, whoever they are. The path of least resistance, etc. Staci Matlock indicated in the announcement of the meeting that appeared under her byline that it was curtains for Lamy, that we could "weigh in," the unstated implication being that the deal was done and our lawful compliance a big fat fait accompli

Is the pro-Pacer camp under the foolish impression that all they have to do is go through some (loco) motions—make a few vapid appearances at community meetings, relinquish some small number of inexpensive concessions, announce that they'll hire a couple of local dopes as security guards to watch over the tankers, terminal, floodlights, and ("no plans at present for") storage facilities? In short, impose their will on us with impunity because the State bureaucracy has sold us down arroyo?


Coincidentally, I've just finished reading this classic of the Southwest, an explosively comical fiction, that reminds us via its vivid characters: Another way of being in the world is possible.

 Thought experiment: How many New Mexicans would it take to peaceably  block the Pacer trucks on a little road like this? And who would the local peace officers stand with--us, or them?


Gunther Worrbein, volunteer sign painter, standing by his handiwork after the eventful session.
[Miracles] . . . seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made fine, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears hear what is there about us always.”  ― Willa Cather, Death Comes For the Archbishop



4 comments:

  1. https://www.facebook.com/LamySaysNoToCrudeOil?ref=hl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much, Amanda. I replaced the Facebook page link.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you, Amanda.

    And heartfelt thanks to santafe.com for picking up the post and publishing it on their website: http://www.santafe.com/blogs/read/death-comes-for-lamy

    ReplyDelete