With more than $8 billion in federal funding available, four Western states have announced plans to launch a regional hub with the idea of supporting the sustainability of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
In a Memorandum of Understanding, the governors of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming said they are committing to building facilities in each state that will advance the production and storage of hydrogen.
The Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub hopes to additionally promote the latest available science to generate and transport hydrogen.
The coalition of states, said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon in a statement, “represents a shared vision for the future of hydrogen in the mountain west region,” and in so doing “expands the resources beyond what each state has individually.”
“These states are uniquely situated to become a clean hydrogen hub given the presence of high-quality wind, solar, biomass, natural gas, and other energy resources,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press release.
“Make no mistake, New Mexico and our partner states will succeed in developing the nation’s most productive clean hydrogen hub.”
It is expected that there will be at least 4 regional hydrogen hubs created via the Department of Energy. Those hubs, according to DOE, will be tasked with improving clean hydrogen production, as well as “processing, delivery, storage, and end use.”
The $8 billion is being made available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Official applications for funding through the Energy Department will open this summer.
By Garry Boulard
In an effort to untangle continuing national supply chain problems, the federal Department of Transportation has issued a comprehensive report looking at both the ongoing problems with the supply chain, as well as actions both taken and still needed to speed up the movement of goods.
The report, Supply Chain Assessment of the Transportation Industrial Base: Freight and Logistics, notes that in recent months the Department of Transportation has worked to successfully reduce congestion at the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Savannah.
Improvements at Savannah have additionally seen the creation of smaller inland ports, at a cost of $7 million, leading to “decreases in container dwell times and the number of ships at anchor outside the port.”
A Short-Term Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force established last summer by President Biden, says the report, has pushed ports across the country toward 24/7 operations, reducing in the process the number of containers sitting on docks.
Meanwhile, an initiative called the Trucking Action Plan is both recruiting new truck drivers while improving the “quality of existing jobs to tackle the profession’s persistently low retention rates.”
The action plan includes an apprenticeship program for truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 and emphasizing “safety through rigorous training standards, driver compensation studies, a driver leasing task force, and more.”
In a statement accompanying the report, it was noted that the Transportation Department has just announced funding of up to $450 million for the nation’s ports to take on any number of infrastructure upgrades from “constructing new berths, to restoring docks to extending rail lines, and more.”
The report additionally calls for a greater overall investment in all phases of freight infrastructure and improved supply chain data and research, along with “partnering with stakeholders across the supply chain, including coordination with both the public and private sector.”
By Garry Boulard
Members of the El Paso City Council are expected to decide later this summer on whether to call for a referendum to fund a series of public facility construction projects.
But before matters get to that point, city officials are holding a series of public input meetings designed to prioritize the most needed and/or desired projects.
As envisioned, the projects, to be designed and built over a period of 5 to 10 years, could include new road construction and improvements, as well as upgrades to parks and other public spaces throughout the city.
As part of a public input process, the City is also hosting what is officially called a Capital Planning Survey allowing residents to provide their thoughts online.
The input process follows on the heels of a council vote taken last December approving the development process for a bond package.
Should the public input result in an actual referendum proposal, its chances for success, judging from the results of recent elections in El Paso, would appear great.
In 2012 El Paso voter approved a sweeping $473 million bond project, otherwise known as Quality of Life bonds, for dozens of community center, library and park projects.
In 2019, voters similarly ratified a $413 million public safety bond designed to fund El Paso Fire Department and El Paso Police Department facility projects.
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced for the construction of a 1 million square foot manufacturing facility in Casa Grande, Arizona, that will belong to an internationally known bathroom and kitchen products company.
Based in Kohler, Wisconsin, the nearly 150-year-old Kohler Company specializes in a wide variety of plumbing products as well as cabinetry, furniture, and tiles.
The company now wants to build a new plant that will specialize in the production of bath and shower fixtures on some 216 acres in Casa Grande.
In a statement, Shawn Oldenhoff, Kohler president, said the new facility will provide “the needed capacity to support our strong growth projections for Sterling Vikrell bath and shower products.”
The announcement comes after extensive talks between Arizona and Kohler officials. Sandra Watson, chief executive officer of the Arizona Commerce Authority, characterized the company as a “global leader in design, innovation, and manufacturing,” adding that its presence in Casa Grande will create hundreds of local jobs.
As planned, the facility will also include warehouse and office space on a site allowing for future expansion.
By Garry Boulard
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forecast to have a negative impact on oil prices and the already-challenged global supply chain, while also sparking both higher inflation and sluggish growth.
So say experts looking at the military action, which began on February 23.
The JP Morgan company is reporting that if, as a result of the conflict, Russian oil exports are reduced, it would cause a dramatic spike in oil. In a report, the company estimates that the price of oil per barrel may reach $150 a barrel—the highest level in more than a decade.
The JP Morgan report additionally notes that “with a 12% market share, Russia is also one of the largest global oil producers.”
The war’s impact on the global supply chain may prove to be equally problematic, notes the website Axios, pointing out that Russia is the “world’s biggest supplier of palladium used in catalytic converters that scrub auto emission.”
Other trade may also be impacted by the military action, remarks the New York Times, observing that Russia is the largest wheat exporter in the world. Together, Russia and Ukraine comprise some 30% of global wheat exports, with Ukraine also exporting corn, barley, and vegetable oil.
How the conflict plays out on Wall Street, the paper added, is already being felt: “Whether you call it a correction or a panic attack, a stock market that was already becoming shaky has been roiled by Russia’s hostilities toward Ukraine.”
Adding another view on the crisis, U.S. News & World Report has published an interview with Robert Habeck, German vice chancellor, who predicts that the “complete West will turn away from Russia” because of the invasion.
“We will diversify our energy system, we will not buy Russian coal and gas in such an amount in the future,” Habeck added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has charged that Ukraine has increasingly fallen under the control of what he called “extremists” threatening his country’s security. He has additionally described his country’s attack on Ukraine as a “special military operation” and not an invasion.
President Biden, in announcing sanctions against Russia, charged that Putin “wants to, in fact, re-establish the former Soviet Union. His ambitions are completely contrary to the place where the rest of the world has arrived.”
By Garry Boulard
The City of Albuquerque has now officially joined the very future-oriented New Mexico Space Valley Coalition, a group that includes Central New Mexico Community College and the Spaceport Authority, among others, and is dedicated to the idea of turning the state into a thriving regional hub for the nation’s space industry.
That coalition recently scored a significant victory in securing $500,000 in federal Economic Development Administration funds in the first round of what is a national competition.
If the plans become reality, New Mexico could ultimately be on the receiving end of up to $100 million in funding designed to build, among other things, a multi-use Space Valley Center in downtown Albuquerque.
As proposed, that facility would house a 750-person conference space, labs and offices, all designed to focus on the growing and potentially limitless industry of space innovation and technology.
“This is a proposal to center that next step forward in our downtown core and forge even stronger links to the state’s broader space ecosystem,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller remarked in a statement upon the announcement that the City has now become a part of the Space Valley Coalition.
The coalition additionally includes the New Mexico Trade Alliance and the Albuquerque-based group New Space New Mexico.
The Economic Development Administration funding is coming through a program called the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. That program, in turn, is a part of the American Rescue Plan, which was passed in early 2021 as a means to counteract the Covid 19 economic fallout.
Besides the downtown multi-use center, the Space Valley Coalition has also proposed the building of a rocket assembly building, which would go up on the Spaceport America campus; and the expansion of the non-profit Q Station, an aerospace technology collaborative space that was opened in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill last spring.
Plans currently call for the Space Valley Coalition to submit its Phase 2 proposal to the Economic Development Administration by no later than March 15.
In announcing the first round of finalists for the Build Back Better Challenge late last year, Gina Raimondo, the Secretary of Commerce, remarked that the program’s aim is to “supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe.”
By Garry Boulard
Plans have now been finalized for the construction of 54 two-story townhomes that will go up on the south side of Fort Collins on a 5-acre site.
That site, at 3620 Kechter Road, has been owned by the City of Fort Collins, with city officials hoping it could be developed for new affordable housing in a city where the median price of a home now stands at around $484,000.
The project is being made possible largely due to the creation in Fort Collins of a land bank program seeing the city purchasing property here and there for possible affordable housing construction.
Six years ago, the city bought a site on Horsetooth Road for similar purposes, eventually selling it to a group called the Housing Catalyst, which is based in Fort Collins, for the construction of just under 100 affordable rental units.
The new project on Kechter Road represents the latest collaboration between the Housing Catalyst and the city. The development partnership additionally includes the Denver-based Elevation Community Land Trust.
The Kechter Road site is in an upscale residential section of Fort Collins with several neighborhood amenities. In a statement, Sue Beck-Ferkiss, manager of the city’s Land Bank Program, remarked: “The location of this property between two schools and two parks makes it ideal for this townhome community.”
Added Beck-Ferkiss: “Generations of families will benefit from the housing being built there.”
By Garry Boulard
One month after the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration withdrew its workplace vaccine and mask mandate, plans are underway for a new approach targeting only healthcare workers.
In a release sent out by the Department of Labor it is noted that the nation’s healthcare workers have not only experienced a significant increase in injuries and illnesses since the Covid-19 onset, but that “healthcare and social assistance workers combined for more injuries and illnesses than any other industry in the nation.”
Last month, OSHA rescinded an earlier announced mandate requiring vaccines against the coronavirus or workplace testing for businesses with 100 or more employees.
That action took place in response to a Supreme Court ruling saying that OSHA had gone beyond its recognized authority in implementing the vaccine and testing policy, noting: “Although Covid-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.”
Now OSHA has announced that it is in the process of putting together a “final standard to protect healthcare workers from Covid 19.”
At the same time, the agency says that employers must “continue to comply with their obligations under the General Duty Clause, the Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection Standards, as well as other applicable OSHA standards to protect their employees against the hazard of Covid 19 in the workplace.”
The initial OSHA vaccine mandate was challenged by many industry groups, including the Associated General Contractors of America and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, who asserted, among other things, that the OSHA action would precipitate a massive exit of construction workers opposed to a mandate.
Although employers largely celebrated the Supreme Court ruling, they are still “not out of OSHA’s regulatory reach when it comes to taking steps to protect employees from Covid 19,” says Bloomberg Law.
The publication notes that OSHA has thus far “issued over $4 million in penalties for Covid 19 safety violations, based on the general duty clause and respiratory protection, record keeping, and other OSHA standards.”
Industry speculation is now centering on the possibility that OSHA may issue a new and more targeted covid “emergency temporary standard” in the months to come.
Meanwhile, adds Bloomberg Law, “Given the agency’s strong views about Covid 19, there should be no doubt that the agency will continue issuing citations for Covid 19 related safety matters.”
In response to federal, state, and local vaccine mandates, as well as those imposed by private employers, there have been more than 450 legal challenges filed in various courts across the country. Of that number, notes the National Law Review, “about 60 of those complaints have been brought as putative class actions.”
By Garry Boulard
A retail property that was built during World War II and has served generations of businesses is being listed for sale in Las Cruces for $650,000.
The two-story Mesilla Pointe Plaza is located at 207 Avenida De Mesilla, just to the south of downtown Las Cruces, and measures around 5,400 square feet. Renovated in 2015, the structure is eye-catching due to the variety of colors decorating its exterior.
The plaza, comprising three buildings with seven suites on a 1-acre site, has housed any number of commercial operations through the years, including the Hispanic cultural center called Claudia’s Spanish Academy, and the former Community Art Center.
Listed with the Seattle-based Marcus & Millichap, the Mesilla Pointe Plaza has an adobe-style design and features several colorful murals. The second-floor exterior of the structure advertises the name of the plaza in modernistic lettering.
By Garry Boulard
An initiative will soon be underway in New Mexico focusing on the cleaning up of abandoned uranium mines across the state.
In the closing hours of the New Mexico State Legislature’s winter session, lawmakers gave their approval to a bill already passed in the House directing the state Environmental Department to coordinate a mitigation effort.
The Uranium Mine Cleanup & Reclamation Act, as sponsored by State Senator Jeff Steinborn, will focus on sites located on federal, local, and tribal lands, as well as lands owned by private parties.
According to statistics compiled by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, there are currently some 1,100 uranium mine and drilling sites in the state. Those sites have been found to contribute to groundwater contamination, very often on or close to tribal lands.
A separate UNM report in 2017 indicated that more than 600,000 Native Americans lived within 6 miles of a given abandoned mine.
In presenting his legislation earlier this month, Steinborn noted that “communities have had to live alongside these contaminated lands for generations. This bill will help to finally start to resolve this sad, long-standing environmental legacy in our state.”
With the second largest uranium ore reserves in the country, besides Wyoming, New Mexico saw a boom in uranium mining that lasted for roughly 30 years, from the early 1950s to the early 1980s.
By Garry Boulard
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