NM Officials Support Proposed Wind Farms, Mining To Resume At Nuke Waste Dump

Dec 11, 2017

New Mexico AG, Others Support Proposed Wind FarmsThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, consumer advocates and others have reached a settlement with Xcel Energy over the utility's plans to add more wind power for customers in New Mexico and parts of Texas.

The proposed agreement was filed Monday with New Mexico utility regulators for approval. The Public Utility Commission of Texas also would have to sign off.

The Sagamore Wind Project is planned for Roosevelt County. It would be the largest wind farm in New Mexico, providing more than 520 megawatts of power. The other — with a capacity of nearly 480 megawatts — would be located in Hale County, Texas.

The attorney general's office, the staff of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and others are seeking certain assurances that the wind farms would benefit customers.

Mining To Resume At Nuke Waste Dump For 1st Time Since LeakThe Associated Press

Officials at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository will be flipping the switch on an interim ventilation system this week, allowing mining to resume for the first time since a 2014 radiation release contaminated part of the facility.

Still, they caution it will be a few years before the flow of air is enough to meet the pace of operations before the leak.

Bruce Covert, president of the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, said testing was done and the U.S. Energy Department approved starting up the ventilation system.

He called it a big step for the facility, which disposes of waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

Officials are planning for a permanent system that's expected to cost a quarter-billion dollars and take until 2021 to complete.

Officer Raises Possibility Of Police Ramming MotorcyclesThe Associated Press

Motorcyclists who caused a disturbance on an Albuquerque roadway by doing stunts amid traffic prompted a Bernalillo County sheriff's lieutenant to broach the idea of ramming motorcycles with police vehicles in similar incidents in the future.

Officers circulated emails after the Oct. 7 incident in which deputies reported that motorcyclists surrounded them, blocked them in and made threatening gestures.

They say an officer who was concerned about a motorcycle hitting a police car had pointed a gun at the motorcyclist who got close to the cruiser on Tramway Boulevard.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Lt. AJ Rodriguez told a superior in an email that the deputies were in a borderline deadly-force situation and if similar incidents happen again he would approve hitting the bikes.

Human Remains Discovered In Undeveloped Area Of Las CrucesThe Associated Press

Police in Las Cruces are investigating the discovery of human remains in an undeveloped area of the city.

They say the remains were found by a hiker walking his dog about 10 a.m. Sunday.

The remains haven't been identified yet and will be sent to the New Mexico medical investigator's office for an autopsy.

Investigators have yet to determine the gender or approximate age of the individual.

Police say it's not immediately known if foul play is involved or how long the remains may have been in the undeveloped area west of the intersection of Rinconada and Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.

Investigators combed through the surrounding area throughout Sunday evening and returned to the area Monday morning to search for evidence relevant to the case.

Lawmakers Push For Licensing System For Dental TherapistsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A bipartisan group of New Mexico lawmakers is seeking to expand dental care in rural areas by creating a new system of licensed dental workers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the legislators are seeking to establish dental therapists — a mid-level professional between a dentist and a hygienist.

A proposal that would have established a licensing system for dental therapists failed to reach the Senate floor during the last legislative session. It would have allowed them to practice in the state.

Health Action New Mexico Director Barbara Webber says the dental therapists are comparable to physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Webber says the dental therapists would require an associate degree likely through a three-year community college program. The job could pay between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.

Gallup Case Suspected To Be First Exposure Death Of SeasonAssociated Press

The Gallup Independent reports that the death of a man whose body was found in a field is the northwestern New Mexico city's first suspected exposure death of the winter season.

Police identified the man found dead early Friday as 65-year-old Ambrose Lincoln of Window Rock, Arizona.

Police Lt. Rosanne Morrisette says there's no immediate suspicion of foul play and that the death may be weather related.

Temperatures in Gallup dipped to about 10 degrees Thursday night and early Friday morning.

Winter exposure deaths are common in Gallup, a city next to the Navajo Nation where alcohol is prohibited.

To help prevent exposure deaths, a detox center is contracted with McKinley County to shelter people during the winter months, no matter their alcohol content.

Lobbyist: Former Lawmaker Offered Vote In Exchange For SexAssociated Press

A female political lobbyist in New Mexico has accused a former state lawmaker of requesting sex in exchange for support of a bill during a legislative session in 2009.

Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid said Friday that she met with former Rep. Thomas Garcia in March 2009 to discuss proposed legislation and that he offered his support if she would have sex with him.

Contacted Friday, Garcia vigorously denied the allegation, saying he never made a proposition to exchange a vote for anything to anyone.

Garcia is a Democrat and former public school superintendent who left the Legislature in 2012. He has been exploring a new run for the state House of Representatives.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said he believes Alarid's account and that Garcia should not run for office.

Oil And Gas Lease Sale Nets $30M For New MexicoAssociated Press

The Bureau of Land Management's latest quarterly oil and gas lease sale has netted more than $30 million in competitive bids for parcels in southeastern New Mexico.

The federal agency says the parcels up for bid covered more than 2,100 acres in Eddy and Lea counties, which include portions of the Permian Basin.

The highest bid per acre was made by Federal Abstract Co. of Santa Fe at $40,001.00. This set an agency record for the highest bid per acre.

Leases are awarded for a term of 10 years and as long thereafter as there is production of oil and gas in paying quantities.

Officials say each state government receives a 25 percent minimum share of the bonus bid and the royalty revenue from each lease issued in that state.

Western New Mexico Athletics Director To ResignAssociated Press

Western New Mexico University's athletics director is stepping down.

Mark Coleman made his announcement late Friday, saying his last day at the helm of Mustang athletics will be Dec. 31.

He said his resignation comes with mixed emotions, as he has enjoyed his time at the university. He said it's time to move on to a new challenge that will benefit his family in the long run.

Coleman spent the past several years as director, with his first two years being split as head coach of the men's basketball team. In his 10 years as coach, he had over 100 wins.

As director, he helped oversee the transition from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to the Lone Star Conference, several facilities upgrades and the raising of the department's overall GPA.

Sheriff Says Heroes Saved Lives In School ShootingAssociated Press

Authorities say heroes helped save lives during a deadly shooting at a New Mexico high school.

San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen told reporters Friday that a substitute teacher heard the gunshots Thursday morning at Aztec High School but didn't have a key to lock the door to the computer lab.

So she took students into an office or storage area and barricaded the door with a couch.

He says 21-year-old William Atchison came to the room and yelled that he knew they were in there and then fired multiple shots into the room.

Christesen says a custodian also heard the gunshots and yelled for classrooms to lock their doors.

New Mexico School Closed Indefinitely After Deadly Shooting – Associated Press

A northwestern New Mexico high school where a deadly shooting occurred will remain closed until further notice.

Authorities say 21-year-old William Atchison, a former student at Aztec High School, shot and killed two students at random Thursday before killing himself.

School district Superintendent Kirk Carpenter says counseling services will be available Monday as Aztec High School staff members meet at another school for a "family gathering" and debriefing.

The Daily Times in Farmington reports that Carpenter declined to comment on damage done to the building but that he said it could be a while before students and staff can return to their classrooms.

Other district schools will remain closed Monday but resume classes Tuesday.

Authorities say Atchison, who disguised himself as a student, had carefully planned the attack.

Delegation Asks That Helicopters Go To National Guard UnitAssociated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation is urging the Air Force to transfer some older combat search-and-rescue helicopters to the state National Guard when new models enter service with an active-duty unit at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan advocate shifting the HH-60G helicopters to the 150th Special Operations Wing, a Kirtland-based Guard unit that currently doesn't have its own aircraft to operate.

The lawmakers also say the acquisition of new HH-60W helicopters by the active-duty 58th Special Operations Wing also operating other aircraft would pose challenges of having enough flight instructors hangar and classroom space.

The delegation made their pitch in a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico congresswoman.

New Mexico Elementary Teacher Accused Of VoyeurismAssociated Press

Authorities say a teacher from southwestern New Mexico is facing a felony charge of voyeurism over allegations he used his cellphone to take inappropriate photos of students.

New Mexico State Police say 38-year-old Frank Ramos Arias of Bayard was arrested Friday and booked into the Grant County jail.

Arias, who teaches at Stout Elementary School in Silver City, denied the allegations in an interview with police. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Police were first notified about the allegations in October. They followed up by conducting interviews with students, and an examination of Arias' phone revealed videos that corroborated victims' statements.

School District Superintendent Audie Brown said the teacher has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Brown also said it's a priority to provide a safe learning environment for students.

Removal Process Of Feral Hogs Continues Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

U.S. Department of Agriculture is nearing the end of an eradication program targeting feral hogs that have been rooting up New Mexico and other parts of the country.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports officials say the program is set to end in September 2018 and more funding will be needed to continue fighting the pests.

Officials say about 1,620 invasive feral hogs were removed from New Mexico in the five years since eradication began.

USDA records show the pigs dig up $1.5 billion in damage each year across the country

Not native to New Mexico, the hogs are believed to have been first brought over from Europe in the 1500s when explorers were setting up future food sources in what was a desolate, untamed wilderness.