Impending battle over massive Santa Fe solar development

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, construction of the proposed Rancho Viejo Solar facility is under consideration on 800 acres of private land about a mile off N.M. 14. Not surprisingly, pushback is already coming from residents who live near the proposed industrial development.

Before construction can begin on the Rancho Viejo Solar facility, the project must gain approval from county officials.

And, as much as the denizens of Santa Fe usually support wind and solar, I expect this to be a  knock-down battle. While often touted as “green,” the reality is that deploying wind and solar takes a great deal of land (much more than a nuclear facility for example).

As this article from the UK Guardian notes, “What was an oasis has become a little island in a dead solar sea.”

Kevin Emmerich worked for the National Park Service for over 20 years before setting up Basin & Range Watch in 2008, a non-profit that campaigns to conserve desert life. He says solar plants create myriad environmental problems, including habitat destruction and “lethal death traps” for birds, which dive at the panels, mistaking them for water.

He says one project bulldozed 600 acres of designated critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise, while populations of Mojave fringe-toed lizards and bighorn sheep have also been afflicted. “We’re trying to solve one environmental problem by creating so many others.”

While RGF often finds itself at odds with the NIMBY crowd, we support opposition to heavily-subsidized, not really “green” energy.

Virgin Galactic Launches successful test flight from Spaceport, stock price plummets

Congratulations to Virgin Galactic for successfully launching their final test flight from Spaceport America today. Shockingly, as noted in the CNBC article and below, the Company’s stock plummeted by more than 8 percent on the news.

One issue MAY be this Motley Fool article (released today) which highlights the precarious condition of Virgin Galactic’s finances and outlines the tremendous pressure facing the company to get its commercial operations going at a rapid pace this summer.

Here is one particularly concerning statement from the story,

Thus, it seems most likely Virgin Galactic will in fact burn through somewhere between $370 million and $400 million in cash through the end of 2023, leaving it with at most $504 million at the start of next year. If the company manages to fly more frequently than once every other week next year, that might be enough cash to last Virgin Galactic through the end of 2024. But if it can’t, it won’t.

Albuquerque Public Schools unveils mind-blowing $2.16 BILLION budget

At the Rio Grande Foundation we have commented regularly in recent years on the rapid growth in per-student spending at New Mexico school districts. This is driven by two major factors, New Mexico’s massive budget growth and the ongoing decline in student numbers.

Albuquerque Public Schools, the State’s largest district unveiled its FY 2024 budget (next school year) and it’s a doozy. As noted on the APS website, total district spending for the upcoming fiscal year will be $2.16 billion.

According to the just-passed budget (which we obtained) the District’s enrollment will have dropped (again) to 68,902. So, dividing the $2.16 billion budget by 68,902 students gets you a mind-blowing spending number of $31,349 PER STUDENT!

That’s an increase of almost 69% since 2020 PER STUDENT. Will APS or any of New Mexico’s other school districts be able to move the needle on student outcomes or is the State just pouring good money after bad?


Media falsely claims NM pre-K is improving early childhood education

The Santa Fe New Mexican recently ran a story touting yet another study which supposedly promotes the benefits of pre-K and early childhood spending. The report is the National Institute for Early Education Research’s State of Preschool 2022 Yearbook. The report claims that New Mexico’s early childhood programs are “a rare bright spot in New Mexico’s education system.”

Does the report tout the success of kids who have gone through New Mexico’s pre-K programs starting in 2005-2006 school year with the enactment of the PreK Act? No, in fact the study doesn’t even consider student outcomes. Everything is based on access, spending, academic credentials, and class sizes. 

Sadly, for nearly two decades New Mexico has had some kind of taxpayer-financed pre-K yet we have no evidence of outcomes one way or the other. We DO know that 2022 NAEP scores were (if anything) a big step backward due to our dead-last overall ranking but this report provides zero evidence that New Mexico’s new universal pre-K system is going to improve our State’s lousy education outcomes.


506 Spaceport Launch, MLG on Energy and Guns, Free College, Tax Vetoes, Hydroelectricity to the Rescue, Debt Ceiling Fight and “Free” Buses

Virgin Galactic says it will launch its latest mission from the Spaceport on May 25. We wish them the best.

MLG recently spoke to Politico on energy. She made numerous factually incorrect statements. Paul fact-checks her comments and wonders why she’d say so many obviously wrong things. MLG ALSO claimed AR-15’s are “automatic weapons” which is not in fact true.

A California city that has banned gas stoves has exempted a celebrity chef and his new restaurant from the ban.

UNM’s budget explodes thanks in part to “free college.” This is on top of an already big higher education infrastructure.

MLG’s alcohol tax vetoes anger the left (and they’re not entirely wrong).

California’s wet winter/spring could save the west from blackouts and brownouts. 

As the battle continues to wage in Washington over raising the debt ceiling Democrats have claimed that Trump’s tax cuts are causing the budget shortfall. The reality is federal revenues rose after Trump’s tax cuts.

Local advocates argue that “free” buses are working for the City. Based on what?

AP “discovers” Mississippi miracle

In May of 2021 we at the Rio Grande Foundation noticed that Mississippi, a state that has traditionally been at the very bottom when it comes to K-12 results, had “moved the needle” on education outcomes. Numerous others have noted the same trend and the AP’s story further highlights how other states have embraced ideas that have helped improve outcomes in Mississippi.

Reforms adopted by Mississippi and others included in the AP report include: “reforms that emphasize phonics and early screenings for struggling kids.”

They “trained thousands of teachers in the so-called science of reading, which refers to the most proven, research-backed methods of teaching reading. They’ve dispatched literacy coaches to help teachers implement that training, especially in low-performing schools.”

“Mississippi, for one, holds students back in third grade if they cannot pass a reading test but also gives them multiple chances to pass after intensive tutoring and summer literacy camps.”

As the AP notes, “Mississippi’s legislation was based on a 2002 law in Florida that saw the Sunshine State achieve some of the country’s highest reading scores.” This, of course is what Rio Grande Foundation pushed at the time and then-Gov. Susana Martinez attempted to get through New Mexico’s union-controlled Legislature.


Fact checking Gov. MLG’s recent “Politico Energy Summit”

Gov. Lujan Grisham recently appeared via teleconference at an energy summit put on by Politico. You can watch the full video below. As the saying goes, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” So is it the case with our Governor who tends to make her own facts up as she pleases while the media often cover for her. In this post we time stamp her faulty and simply inaccurate statements:

Four Day school weeks do save money, but Lathrop students now have 25 more instructional hours than before, and that’s brought a couple added bonuses.

“Our ACT scores have really shown some improvement. If there was anything, that’s one area we’re up. The first four years, up every year, and five out of the last seven, they’ve been increased.”

The article also noted that “Attendance has also improved for students and staff.”

    • 10:50: “I’ve done $500 million tax cuts, largest in history of the state.” According to the FIR for 2022 tax reduction bill HB 163, the tax cuts signed by MLG will cut taxes by $424 million by FY 2026.” Richardson’s tax cuts of 2003 (passed by a Democrat-controlled Legislature) reduced taxes by $524 million once fully phased in and adjusted for inflation (using the BLS inflation calculator):
    • 14:15: Moderator: Your state is NOT on track to meet its clean energy goals.” MLG, “I think we ARE on track.” At 16:15 still responding to this question MLG states “We have free college.” “I’m producing workers in the renewable energy sector.”
    • 16:43: “New Mexico was framed, and in fact I might…I do disagree with that frame as an energy state and a leader in energy…” On what planet is New Mexico NOT a a leader in energy. Watch her say this within context below:

The Gov.’s full remarks can be found here:

California city exempts celebrity chef from gas stove ban

As we’ve discussed in this space, Sen. Martin Heinrich has been a leading proponent of getting rid of gas stoves. But, when it comes to government-imposed inconveniences we all know that certain favored celebrities and wealthy individuals often exempt themselves or are exempted from the most onerous rules and regulations.

So, it was no surprise when media outlets reported that Palo Alto, California (which has a gas stove ban in place) decided to exempt celebrity chef Jose Andres from its ban when the chef threatened the City with a lawsuit.

In her letter to the City attorney Anna Shimko wrote  that (Andres’ proposed restaurant) Zaytinya relies on traditional cooking methods that only natural gas appliances would grant “to achieve its signature, complex flavors.”

We support Chef Andres’ in his battle but only hope that ALL restaurants are exempted from the gas stove ban.