John Fleck has an excellent account of the Gas Company's response to the crisis Upfront in the Albuquerque Journal. The company official presented the timeline to the HENRC committee yesterday and described the chilling choice to shut off the gas value valve at Otowi, Bernalillo and Placitas in an effort to keep the entire system from crashing.
It was clear from the presentation that the company's decision to close the value to the coldest communities in New Mexico was not made lightly. But it had to be made very fast.
One interesting factoid presented was not questioned. The decision to shut the Otowi value valve was made before the company contacted PNM to request that the Cobisa power plant, south of Rio Bravo, be switched to oil. They needed to get blocks of 10,000 decatherms shut off quickly. The gas company official said the Otowi value supplies 20,000 decatherms and services the northern communities of Espanola, Taos, Questa, Angel Fire and Red River. He said the Cobisa demand is 17-20,000 decatherms. The Cobisa plant produces electricity exported to California.
It was also noted at HENRC that a lot of gas was still flowing out of the San Juan Basin westward while northern New Mexicans shivered. Contracted consumers out of state come first legal-wise.
Otowi holds a special little place in history. It is the site of the official gaging station for water on the upper Rio Grande and was once the location of a railroad stop and early post office on the "Chili line." There is an important pueblo ruin nearby. Several well-known books have been written about the place and a woman named Edith Warner who served scientists dinner and tea there. Peggy Pond Church's book begins:
This is the story of a house, a house that stood for many years beside a bridge between two worlds. It stood, too, in the shadow of Los Alamos, the mushrooming shadow of violent change.
More than the story of a house, it is the story of a woman who made an oasis of serenity and beauty in a world that seemed to grow more threatening.