Friday, February 4, 2011

New Mexico Freezing

Santa Fe Plaza from a live webcam shot around 8:00am 02/04/11

The Governor -- not entirely insane Susana Martinez(R) -- has closed the state offices and has asked New Mexicans to save energy in the face of an outrageous cold snap, lack of natural gas for heating, and electrical grid breakdowns in Texas and elsewhere. The situation in Northern New Mexico looks dire, what with no natural gas supplies throughout the area north of Santa Fe and south as far as Bernalillo (just north of Albuquerque):

Towns without natural-gas service included Española, Taos, Questa, Red River, the town of Bernalillo, Tularosa, La Luz, Placitas, Santa Clara Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, Alamogordo, Silver City and San Ildefonso Pueblo. Many were expected to remain without natural gas through today while crews struggled to re-pressurize the lines. Town emergency personnel and officials worked to set up emergency shelters, and residents rushed to stores to buy food, gasoline and other supplies.

Temperatures are not as low as they were, but they are still bitterly cold over much of the state. The lack of natural gas means a lot of people have no heat. Those who do have heat are asked to lower their thermostats and "bundle up." Yes, well, I'm pretty sure they're doing that already!

The cold front that descended on New Mexico beginning Tuesday also walloped Texas, causing rolling power blackouts across the state. Most of Texas is on an electric grid separate from the rest of the Western grid, but some of it still powers compressor stations necessary to move natural gas through hundreds of miles of pipeline into New Mexico. In addition, El Paso Electric, which is connected to the Western grid and New Mexico, had two of four power-generating stations down, according to company statements and news reports. The company, serving West Texas, also had rolling blackouts for its customers Wednesday.

The intermittent power supply made it tough for New Mexico Gas to keep gas pressurized in the pipeline system, Hussey said. In addition, the freezing temperatures caused a spike in demand by customers across the state, draining existing gas in the lines. As the pressure declined, the gas couldn't reach the farthest towns in the north with enough volume, Hussey said. "Taos and those areas are the end of the line," Hussey said. "The gas just couldn't reach."

And to preserve what pressure was left, crews began shutting down meters.

New Mexico is a prime natural-gas producer and is ranked fourth nationally.

Note the last sentence. Yet parts of New Mexico rely on supplies from El Paso Natural Gas in Texas, and even Californians know how disreputable they are.

What a mess.


  1. bet we won't be seeing any exposé on the MSM about the fraud committed by the gas and electric utils over the last two decades when they pushed deregulation over maintaining service.

    Between the layoffs and deregulation you'd think it occur to the networks there might be a market for information as to why every frickin time a thundercloud or hail storm or a bad winter comes along the phone-electric-gas lines go down and it takes weeks -sometimes a month for service to come back.

    I am still shocked that even after PG&E fried 8 people and destroyed 35 homes because they just couldn't be bothered with checking for leaks and rotting pipes no one seems to give a shit.

  2. Jackson,

    Yes, indeed. Yet again, "Who could have imagined..."

    They are up in arms about this in New Mexico, there is just no excuse. And they have no doubt at all that the crisis is due to deregulation and failed infrastructure. There is going to be hell to pay.

    I fret about our power in NM going off periodically for a day or so. Usually, it's not the co-op's fault, it's because something happens with the provider. Those pesky T-storms and all. That's nothing, though, compared to this. What's been happening because of the rolling blackouts in Texas is nothing short of criminal.

    I hope Texans are as furious as frozen New Mexicans are.

    No excuse.

    Oh, as for the San Bruno Thing, PG&E ran a sort of a test explosion in a nearby suburb about a year before San Bruno blew up. People had been reporting gas smell and such for days or weeks. Finally a PG&E guy shows up. KA-BOOM! One man was killed, a few others injured. One house destroyed completely, the rest on the cul-de-sac damaged.

    After an investigation, it turns out that the pipe was actually repaired incorrectly such that an underground leak had developed and the gas accumulated in the ground and in the home that blew up. The conclusion was 1) they should have repaired the pipe correctly; 2) they should have addressed householder reports and complaints in a timely manner.


  3. Someone from out that way told me that angry mobs were following the power company workers around. A lot of talk about grandmothers freezing to death.