TA Propane Tank

One of two massive propane tanks sit behind Escalante High School in Tierra Amarilla. The Chama Valley School District has a huge expense in propane that would drop drastically if a natural gas line were to be extended to the campus. 

Rio Arriba County officials said they will sign a sole source contract to New Mexico Gas Company Inc. for the installation of 29,600 feet of natural gas mainline in Tierra Amarilla. 

Just more than five and half miles will provide gas to Rio Arriba County’s Tierra Amarilla facilities as well as providing access for local businesses and residents. 

County attorney Adan Trujillo said the contract wasn’t finalized yet.

“We still have a few things to work out,” Trujillo said. “We have a basic agreement in principle, just need to finalize the details.”

Trujillo said it will be done 30 days after the posting of the notice to finalize the records. 

County Manager Lucia Sanchez said that New Mexico Gas Company will provide an “advantage program” for residents. 

“The homeowner would have to pay for the pressure line testing and any changes to appliances,” Sanchez said. “Homeowners would repay this over time as the fees associated with the extension from the line to the home would be paid back to NM Gas Co. across their monthly bills over a period of time.”

There is a cap of $5,000 per home, Sanchez said.

“Right now, the NM Gas Company is working to get the line to the Chama Schools. Once that is complete, the work to connect the line to the County will begin,” Sanchez said. 

Valerie Espinoza, who used to be on the Public Regulations Commission, said the genesis of the mainline project started during her term on the Commission.

“It was many years ago when I first took office. It had to be seven, eight years ago, the New Mexico Gas Company was very receptive to extend those gas lines out there,” Espinoza said. “Given the fact that propane costs were very high, and rural New Mexico was lacking in those needed services.”

Espinoza said that propane price fluctuates wildly and residents in rural areas would often find out that propane companies were unable to deliver in the winter.

“I’m just glad to see the rural resident get what they need, and that was the best part of my job,” Espinoza said. “The horror stories just kept growing in regards to the propane companies not delivering, people finding out when they’re down to 3 percent. It’s not Albuquerque out in Chama. It can be quite catastrophic.” 

New Mexico Gas Company Communications Director Tim Korte said designs on the project, that will run to the County facilities and the community at large, would not be drawn until the connection to the schools was completed. The school project was experiencing some delays because it requires  crossing a wetlands area.

Korte said there was an infrastructure development fund provided by Emera, the gas company’s parent company, for projects like this, and that the fund was providing $551,000 for the project. The County will have to provide matching funds.

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