The Yonder Report

Vulnerable rural Americans need an electrical grid upgrade to cope with climate change, West Virginians worry Mountain Valley Pipeline construction is damaging their landscape and 75 years after “Roswell,” New Mexico is still a destination for space geeks.

Our country’s electrical grid needs an upgrade to cope with climate change, especially in underserved rural communities. South Dakota State is one of four universities using grant money from the National Science Foundation to study who needs the most help. Tim Hansen is an engineering professor there.

We’re specifically going and targeting people that historically don’t get the types of resources that like in New York City or something would get.

Hanson says some folks are more vulnerable to extreme weather than others. And for many, a resilient grid is a life-or-death issue.

People have like a dialysis machine or good medicine on their fridge even just a very small disruption in power can be life threatening.

The mountain valley pipeline as landowners in southwest Virginia and West Virginia to sign over easements so the company could build a natural gas project but reporter Hanna Wilson Black found many worry construction is damaging the landscape.

Fuel companies have bought mineral rights from poor Appalachian since the 1800s, often underpaying landowners who lacked money or legal expertise. While some blacks as residents worry history might repeat itself.

Many of the people I spoke to are alleging that their first offers that they were given by Mountain Valley severely undervalued the actual impacts to the land.

Environmental regulators have fined the company millions for erosion water pollution. The project’s only about half done but already way over budget. Critics claim the company badly misjudged how hard and damaging will be to run the huge line through the rugged and landslide-prone mountains. And Wilson Black says it hasn’t helped ease local fears.

It seems to me that industry representatives and government agencies don’t fully understand the level of mistrust that already exists.

Business is skyrocketing in a poor rural patch of New Mexico thanks to commercial space travel. Virgin Galactic’s second flight from Sierra County Spaceport America launched three private passenger is 55 miles above the Earth and the company’s planning regular monthly flights. Bruce Swingle is a former county manager who says that’s fulfilling a decade’s old mission.

Major things are happening in the community. They’re staying in our hotels, they’re visiting our stores or restaurants, buying gas you know, etc., the full gamut.

Hundreds of construction and tourism jobs mean this spaceport generated more than $60 million in Sierra County and nearly as much in neighboring Dona Ana last year. Plus, Kim Skinner, Mayor Pro Tem of Elephant Butte, says people find the launchers exhilarating.

You can see and everybody goes outside and stands there. You can actually see the mothership flying over.