State Regulators OK Wind Farms, Agencies Launch Effort To Curb ABQ Car Theft

Mar 21, 2018

New Mexico Regulators OK Massive Wind Farms Near TexasThe Associated Press

New Mexico regulators have approved a plan to build two massive wind farms along the Texas-New Mexico border.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a $1.6 billion project that Xcel Energy says will add 1,230 megawatts of wind energy to the regional generating mix.

The utility is still awaiting approval from Texas regulators.

Xcel officials say the proposed wind farms would take advantage of what has become the least expensive generating resource in the region to reduce fuel costs and ultimately save customers money.

Xcel anticipates average monthly fuel savings to be about $2 for a typical residential customer beginning in 2021 once the wind farms are operational.

Wind turbines already dot the plains from central New Mexico to the Texas Panhandle.

Police Agencies Launch Effort To Curb Albuquerque Car TheftThe Associated Press

State and local law enforcement agencies are launching a collaborative effort aimed at curbing car theft in the Albuquerque area.

The leaders of New Mexico State Police, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and the Albuquerque Police Department announced on Tuesday the Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort, an initiative that aims to combine police resources to catch more suspects and recover more stolen vehicles.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales says the agencies have collaborated for emergency situations, but they do not typically work together on smaller criminal cases.

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas says the departments will better share information, so police resources can be focused. He says he has appointed a lieutenant, a sergeant and four detectives to work in the car theft unit with the city and county officers.

University Of New Mexico Group Recommends Raising TuitionThe Associated Press

University of New Mexico's budget proposal recommends raising tuition next year to cover costs for campus safety measures and employee raises.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that the budget proposal includes a 2.5 percent tuition increase and a 2.39 percent increase in student fees.

Officials say it would give many employees their first raise in four years.

Under the proposal, students could pay between $88 and $214 more each semester depending on which classes they take.

The proposal was developed by the university's budget leadership team which is made up representatives from the student body, faculty, staff and administration.

University administrators will present the plan to the Board of Regents on Thursday.

Regent President Rob Doughty said last month that he is against a tuition increase.

New Mexico Congresswoman Gets Restraining Order Against Ex-Intern – Associated Press

A New Mexico congresswoman who's running for governor has obtained a restraining order against a former Capitol Hill intern who protested her recent speech at the Democratic pre-primary convention in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Second Judicial District Court in Bernalillo County has granted Michelle Lujan Grisham's restraining order request against Riley Del Rey.

Lujan Grisham claimed in court documents that she believed Del Rey intended to cause her serious harm.

The newspaper says Del Rey has denied any intent to physically harm the congresswoman.

Del Rey loudly interrupted Lujan Grisham's speech at the March 10 convention and was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

Del Rey contends she was discriminated against and fired from her internship in Lujan Grisham's office in 2015 for being transgender.

Santa Fe Task Force Plans To Not Recommend City Public BankThe Associated Press

A draft report indicates that Santa Fe's public bank task force will not recommend for the city to move forward with the establishment of a bank.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the task force, which met Tuesday to edit its final report, is planning to recommend for the city council to work with New Mexico officials to explore the possibility of a state public bank.

The report says a city bank would likely be swamped with legal and regulatory hurdles. It says possible benefits would likely be "marginal and at worst would carry risk of non-viability because of the relatively small scale of the city's financial means."

The report notes a public bank would ensure the local investment of public dollars, ultimately aiding community projects and small businesses.

Youth Soccer League Probing Slurs, Choking Of Girl By Adult - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A New Mexico youth soccer league is investigating reported racial slurs and an assault on a girl by an adult during a game.

The Duke City League said Tuesday it's looking into allegations that a white man choked and groped a 14-year-old Hispanic female player following a match Saturday in Bernalillo, New Mexico.

Ana Garcia, coach of Alameda, a largely Latina under 19 team, says a parent from the opposing team Rio Galaxy ran onto the field, grabbed an Alameda player and choked her after a players' brawl broke out. She says throughout the match Rio Galaxy supporters shouted anti-Mexican epithets.

But Rio Galaxy coach Steve Kokulis says his players also reported hearing anti-white slurs. Kokulis says he did not see any parent physically attacking a player.

The league suspended both teams for a game.

Los Alamos Lab Finishes Treating Drums Of Nitrate Salt WasteAssociated Press

Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have finished treating more than two dozen drums of waste that contained nitrate salts similar to one that caused a 2014 radiation release at the federal government's underground repository.

The U.S. Energy Department on Tuesday announced the treatment of the 27 drums.

The containers of nitrate salt waste had not previously been treated so over the last three months crews mixed the waste with water and an inert material to neutralize the combustible characteristic of the salts.

In the case of the one container that ruptured in 2014, that waste had been mistakenly mixed with organic cat litter, resulting in a chemical reaction and the radiation release that forced southern New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to close for nearly three years.

Federal officials say the latest treatment effort marks another milestone for Los Alamos.

Utility Investigates Coal Silo Failure At New Mexico PlantAssociated Press

One of the units at a coal-fired power plant that serves customers in the southwestern United States has been taken offline as officials investigate a structural failure in one of its coal silos.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico confirmed Tuesday that the failure over the weekend at the San Juan Generating Station resulted in a fire and some damage that was limited to an area around the silo.

There were no injuries and utility officials say customers aren't being affected.

The utility has plans to close the San Juan plant within the next few years as it works to eliminate coal resources from its portfolio.

Two other units at the decades-old San Juan plant were closed recently as part of an agreement to curb haze-causing pollution in the region.

Santa Fe Natural Tobacco To Close Hometown OfficeSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. is closing its office in the New Mexico city where it was founded.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the business had maintained an office in the city despite being acquired years ago by North Carolina-based tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc.

This summer, the fewer than 20 people who work in Santa Fe must either move to North Carolina or leave the company. The bulk of Santa Fe Natural Tobacco's manufacturing and distribution has been centered in North Carolina since 1996.

The move will close a chapter on one of the more successful startups to take root in Santa Fe. The company built Natural American Spirit cigarettes into a bestselling premium brand.

The company was founded in a shed at the Santa Fe Railyard in 1982 by a group of investors.

Another Bus Added For Tour Of World's First Atomic TestAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Another bus has been added for a special tour of the spot of the world's first atomic test during a special one-day open house.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that the New Mexico Museum of Space History has secured a third bus for a special tour of the Trinity Site after soaring ticket sales.

The Museum of Space History hosts a motorcoach tour to the site each April and October as part of a fundraiser for its Foundation.

Last July marked the 72nd year anniversary of the test at the Trinity Site. It was part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret World War II nuclear development program out of the then-secret city of Los Alamos.

The bomb was tested in the desert nearby towns with Hispanic and Native American populations.

Albuquerque Zoo Goes Green With Reusable BagsAssociated Press

The largest zoo in New Mexico is going green by ditching plastic bags and offering more eco-friendly food serving and storage options for visitors.

The group that manages catering at the Albuquerque BioPark along with the cafes at the zoo and aquarium is implementing a number of green initiatives to limit the use of plastics.

That includes replacing straws with a compostable and recyclable version. All the cups, lids and disposable ware are also compostable.

The company that manages the gift shops no longer uses plastic bags.

The BioPark also has a recycling program for plastic bottles and small plastic waste, aluminum cans, cardboard and paper in conjunction with city's solid waste department.

Erratic Chicano Writer Who Vanished Focus Of New Documentary - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Oscar Zeta Acosta, a volatile Mexican-American writer who was the inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson's Dr. Gonzo in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is the focus of a new VOCES/PBS documentary.

"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" traces the life of the preacher-turned-lawyer-turned-writer who became a central figure in the Chicano Movement before disappearing without a trace in Mexico in 1974.

The PBS documentary uses actors to dramatize Acosta's own words and the testimonial interviews of friends. As a lawyer in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Acosta defended radical Mexican-American activists.

He later traveled with Thompson on a drug-fueled Las Vegas trip where he was portrayed as a 300-pound Samoan lawyer in Thompson's novel. Afterward, Acosta wrote two memoirs that become Chicano literature classics.

The documentary airs on most PBS stations on March 23.

New Motors Installed In Carlsbad Caverns' Main ElevatorsAssociated Press

Officials at Carlsbad Caverns National Park say the park's primary elevators now have new motors.

The primary elevator system was installed in 1955 and went out of service in November 2015 when a 6-inch motor shaft sheared off. Work to repair and modernize the system began last December.

Officials on Tuesday called the installation of the new motors a milestone. The work involved using a large crane to remove the old motors. Each motor weighs 7,300 pounds with a lift capacity of 4,000 pounds.

The next step will be to install new guide rails in the hoist way.

There are two separate elevator systems in two separate elevator shafts at the park. The secondary elevators have been providing all park elevator service while the primary elevators are being rebuilt.

Jury Seated For Trial Of Border Patrol AgentAssociated Press

A 16-member jury has been selected in Tucson, Arizona for the second-degree murder trial of a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of shooting across the international border into Mexico and killing a teenager in 2012.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins told the 11-woman, five-man panel late Tuesday afternoon that opening statements are set for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Lonnie Swartz is accused of killing 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. The teen was on the street in Nogales, in Mexico's Sonora state, just across the border from Nogales, Arizona.

An autopsy showed the unarmed youth was hit 10 times, mostly from behind.

Swartz's lawyers have said Elena Rodriguez threw rocks just before he was shot in an attempt to create a distraction for drug smugglers and that the officer was justified in using lethal force.