EPA Considers Paying Damages Over Mine Spill, NM Lawmakers Seek A Return Of The Death Penalty

Aug 4, 2017

EPA Considers Paying Damages Over Mine SpillThe Associated Press

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says he will consider paying for economic damages from a 2015 mine waste spill triggered by agency crews.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told The Denver Post on Friday that he's asked farmers, business owners and residents whose claims were previously rejected to submit them again.

His comments came as he joined Colorado's governor and congressional members on a tour of the mine on the eve of the disaster's second anniversary.

The spill sent 3 million gallons of tainted wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, causing an estimated $420 million in damage.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA said federal law prevented it from paying claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government.

GOP Lawmakers Eyes Return Of Narrow New Mexico Death PenaltyThe Associated Press

Recent child killings, attacks on officers and a rise in crime has some conservative New Mexico lawmakers calling for the state to reinstate the death penalty.

State Rep. Monica Youngblood said Friday she will once again push for a bill that would bring back capital punishment for fatal attacks on law enforcement and in the murder of children.

The Albuquerque Republican says the recent attack on correctional officers by two high-risk inmates and a jump in crime in Albuquerque show that criminals don't care.

But Democrats say the death penalty is not a deterrent and is being used as a wedge issue.

A similar measure failed this year.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez who supports bringing back the death penalty has not said if she will include it on the legislative agenda next session.

Pueblo Of Pojoaque Agree To Gambling Compact With New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Pueblo of Pojoaque leaders have agreed to sign a new gambling compact with New Mexico after years of fighting back against the state's attempts to increase its share of revenue from the tribe's casinos.

Pojoaque Pueblo will now pay the state a 10.75 percent share of its "net win." It was previously paying an 8 percent share.

The Santa Few New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/2vzSAMh ) the pueblo's old gambling compact expired in June 2015. The tribe has been locked into a disagreement with Gov. Susana Martinez's administration on new terms for its casinos north of Santa Fe ever since.

The fight landed in front of federal judges, but after an appeals court ruled against the tribe earlier this year, it was left with few options and decided to accept the terms.

Albuquerque Mayor Disputes 'Sanctuary' Label – The Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is disputing a claim by the U.S. Justice Department that New Mexico's largest city is a "sanctuary" for immigrants living in the country illegally.

The Republican mayor wrote to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Albuquerque has been trying to partner with federal immigration authorities, but ICE staffing levels fell in recent years.

The Department of Justice told Albuquerque and three other cities that they needed to comply with federal immigration enforcement requirements or risk federal law enforcement funding for a new program to fight increased crime.

Baltimore, Albuquerque, and Stockton and San Bernardino in California all expressed interest in the Justice Department's Public Safety Partnership, which enlists federal agents, analysts and technology to help communities find solutions to crime.

None of the four has declared itself a "sanctuary city," a mostly symbolic term that nevertheless is strongly associated with ordinances aimed at shielding illegal immigrants.

Regardless, "by taking simple, commonsense considerations into account, we are encouraging every jurisdiction in this country to cooperate with federal law enforcement," Sessions said in a statement that accompanied the letters. "That will ultimately make all of us safer — especially law enforcement on our streets."

The threat marks Sessions' latest effort to force local authorities to help federal agents detain and deport people living in the country illegally as part of a push to reduce crime he believes is linked to illegal immigration. The attorney general has repeatedly vowed to withhold federal money from cities that do not cooperate, similar to how previous administrations have held back highway funds during debates over the speed limit and drinking age.

But it was not immediately clear to some of the cities why they were targeted.

Mayor Berry says Albuquerque has been seeking to work with immigration authorities since he took office in 2009 and vehemently denied Albuquerque was a "sanctuary" city. Berry says if Sessions had an issue with Bernalillo County jails, he needed to take those concerns to the county.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, called the demands "a bullying tactic."

Day Care Workers Indicted In Toddlers' Hot-Car DeathThe Associated Press

A mother-daughter pair of Portales day care workers have been indicted on felony charges stemming from the death of a 1-year-old girl left in a hot car and the injury of another toddler.

Prosecutors say 62-year-old Mary Taylor and 31-year-old Sandi Taylor are charged with first- degree child abuse resulting in death and first-degree child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.

The Ninth Judicial District Attorney's Office says the children were left unattended July 25 in a vehicle for almost two hours outside a day care operated by the Taylors and that one girl remains hospitalized in critical condition.

The Taylors remain jailed and haven't yet entered pleas. Defense attorney Tye Harmon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

EPA Chief Expected To Tour Mine Where Agency Triggered Spill – The Associated Press

Colorado officials expect the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to join them on a tour of an old gold mine where the EPA inadvertently triggered a spill of 3 million gallons of tainted wastewater.

The tour is Friday at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said state officials expect EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to be present. The EPA refused to say whether Pruitt would attend.

Pruitt was in the Denver area Thursday.

Hickenlooper, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennett and Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton are scheduled be at the mine.

The EPA designated the Gold King and 47 other sites in the area a Superfund district last year.

The August 2015 release at the Gold King tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers Announces Retirement – The Associated Press

New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers has announced he will retire next year.

Carruthers said Thursday he will step down from his position July 1, 2018, at the end of his contract period.

His announcement comes at the school has struggled with budget cuts and the elimination of jobs. In April, Carruthers said the university was considering merging colleges and cutting programs amid ongoing state budget cuts at the time.

The former New Mexico governor was named as NMSU's president and chancellor in 2013 after a period of unrest at the southern New Mexico school.

Carruthers says he is looking forward to seeing what the administration can accomplish in his last 11 months.

The university did not say when it would form a search committee to look for the next president.

School District Faces Criminal Investigation After Audit – The Associated Press, The Eastern New Mexico News

A criminal investigation into Dora Consolidated Schools is opening following the results of a June audit.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the audit identified more than $100,000 in potentially mismanaged funds throughout a three-year period. The audit was conducted by the Office of the State Auditor.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Criminal Investigator Dan Aguilar told citizens at a Tuesday community meeting that the office is determining whether it or the New Mexico Attorney General will lead the investigation.

Superintendent Steve Barron could not be reached for comment.

Dora resident Shauna Wade says a group of concerned citizens will attend the Aug. 14 Board of Education meeting to ask Barron and board members to resign.

Man Accused Of Deliberately Setting Fire At Rio Rancho Church – The Associated Press

Federal authorities say a man is accused of deliberately setting a fire at a church in Rio Rancho.

Prosecutors with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives filed a criminal complaint charging 23-year-old Gordon Schuler with using fire to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce.

Authorities say the July 31 fire caused extensive damage to the Peace Lutheran Church.

ATF special agents say a business near the church had surveillance cameras that allegedly showed Schuler wearing a backpack and carrying a hammer. They say those items were later found inside the church.

Schuler currently is in state custody and will be transferred into federal custody to face the charge in the criminal complaint. If convicted, prosecutors say Schuler faces a prison sentence of at least five years.

Corrections Officers Stabbed By Inmates At New Mexico Prison – The Associated Press

Two correctional officers were recovering Thursday after being stabbed by two inmates at a New Mexico prison, authorities said.

One officer was treated and released from a hospital while the other was undergoing treatment for non-life threatening injuries.

Both officers were assigned a unit of the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe that houses high-risk inmates, New Mexico Corrections Department officials said.

The inmates used homemade knives against the officers, whose names weren't immediately released.

Corrections officials said the two inmates involved have been moved to a separate unit and the facility was locked down. The inmates were not identified.

New Mexico State Police will conduct an investigation.

"We have zero tolerance for such behavior by our inmates and we will pursue appropriate administrative and criminal actions against these two inmates," said David Jablonski, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Gov. Susana Martinez said the state will pursue the harshest punishments possible.

Monica Youngblood, a Republican state lawmaker from Albuquerque, said Thursday's attack is why she has sponsored a bill is a narrow reinstatement of the death penalty, for those who murder children, police and correctional officers.

"This narrow reinstatement would serve as a deterrent especially in situations like this where high-risk inmates have nothing to lose," Youngblood said.

New Mexico Cow Shootings Sparks Serial Cattle Killer Fears – The Associated Press, The Carlsbad Current-Argus

The fatal shootings of several cows in southeastern New Mexico have sparked fears of a serial cattle killer running loose.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Eddy County Sheriff's Office announced this week that another six cattle on two separate properties were shot and killed. Detectives say a high-caliber rifle was used in the shooting from within a half-mile radius.

Deputies have ruled out an accidental shooting and don't believe the cows are being killed for meat since they were left in fields.

The case is being labeled as one of "extreme animal cruelty," which is a fourth-degree felony.

The shootings come after another cow shooting in June south of Carlsbad. Lt. Matt Hutchinson says Eddy County has seen an uptick in cattle shootings this year.