Wednesday News Roundup: Another Radiation Release At WIPP

Mar 19, 2014

Another Radiation Release At New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump - The Associated Press 

New air sampling data from southeastern New Mexico's troubled nuclear waste dump indicates there has been another small radiation release.

Department of Energy officials say a monitoring station picked up elevated radiation readings around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad on March 11. That's nearly a month after a Valentine's Day leak contaminated 17 workers and shut the only repository for toxic waste from the nation's nuclear bomb-building program.

Engineers say they believe the contamination is from previous deposits on the inner surface of exhaust ductwork.

Officials say occasional low-level releases are anticipated, but they should be well within safe limits.

The plant has been shuttered since early February. Shipments were halted after a truck hauling salt through the repository's tunnels caught fire. Nine days later, the plant's alarms were triggered by the radiation release.

Officers In Albuquerque Police Shooting Identified The Albuquerque Journal

The officers in a fatal Albuquerque police shooting of a man in the city's foothill have been identified.

Albuquerque police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez says officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez are linked to the fatal shooting Sunday.

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden told reporters the man was shot Sunday night and was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital. The man, who has not been identified, later died.

According to Eden, officers arrived at the foothills after receiving a suspicious person call. He says when officers arrived, the man threatened the officers' lives.

Eden says "less-than-lethal force" was used to calm the man but an officer eventually fired one shot.

Officials did not say which officer fired.

Governor Wants State To Stop Collecting Union Dues - The Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says contract talks with state employee unions are at an impasse because she wants the state to stop collecting union dues through withdrawals from employees' paychecks.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Republican governor raised the issue while criticizing teachers unions for opposing her administration's policy initiatives. She spoke Monday to a real estate luncheon in Albuquerque.

Teachers' union dues are withdrawn under contract provisions negotiated at the local level, but Martinez is pressing for an end to dues withdrawals for state employee unions.

According to Martinez, the unions use the dues money to attack her administration.

Spokesman Miles Conway of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees calls Martinez's desire to end dues withdrawals a "declaration of war."

Report: 6 Hate Groups Operating In New Mexico - The Las Cruces Sun-News

A nation group that monitors hate groups says New Mexico has six such active organizations operating in the state.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center has identified two Ku Klux Klan cells, two anti-Muslim groups, a skinhead group and an anti-Semitic group in New Mexico.

The center named the groups in the agency's 2013 report released this spring.

SPLC lead fellow Mark Potok says one of the groups is a racist skinhead organization in northwest New Mexico.

The report also says there are two active Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan groups in New Mexico, including one in Silver City.

The center defines an organization as a hate group if it has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people."

Fire Burns Thousands Of Acres In New Mexico - The Associated Press

A wildfire that burned thousands of acres of prairie in eastern New Mexico was caused by a blown tire.

State Forestry Division spokesman Dan Ware said Tuesday that evidence at the scene points to sparks from an exposed wheel rim or steel belts on the blown tire threw sparks onto nearby grass.

The fire was estimated at up to 10,000 acres by the time it was contained. No structures were threatened.

The Highway 508 fire started Monday night in Lea County before moving into Roosevelt County.

Ware says officials are planning to fly over the burn scar Wednesday to get the burned acreage total.

More Bats Found In Cave At El Malpais National Monument - The Gallup Independent

Researchers report finding twice as many bats hibernating in a cave at a national monument in in northwestern New Mexico and they say that may be the result of fewer human visitors.

The Gallup Independent reports that researchers found 180 bats hibernating in Junction Cave at El Malpais National Monument near Grants during a winter count.

That's up from between 80 and 90 in the past.

Monument natural resources branch chief David Hays calls the increase a welcome surprise and he says it looks like closing the cave to the public during winter was a good decision because it meant less disturbance for the bats.

Gov. Highlights Tax Help For New Mexicans - The Associated Press

Low income residents and senior citizens in New Mexico can get their taxes prepared for free.

Gov. Susana Martinez was in Albuquerque Tuesday to highlight Tax Help New Mexico, which offers free tax preparation for anyone over 65 and New Mexicans with an annual income of less than $52,000.

Last season, Tax Help New Mexico prepared 31,478 returns that resulted in $19 million in refunds and saved New Mexicans more than $4 million in tax preparation fees.

Tax Help New Mexico is provided through a partnership with the United Way of Central New Mexico and the Central New Mexico Community College. There are more than 25 sites around the state, staffed by volunteers who have passed an IRS certification exam.