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AG Says NM Cannot Legally Stop Nuclear Waste Facility, Sevilleta Gets Grant For Climate Research

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Wikimedia
Ladrone Peak on Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge

Lack Of New Mexico Say In Nuclear Waste Project Draws Ire- Hobbs-Sun News, Associated Press

The chair of a New Mexico legislative committee that monitors radioactive and hazardous materials in the state says he finds it troubling that Attorney General Hector Balderas has concluded the state cannot legally stop a New Jersey-based company from building a nuclear waste storage facility.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Sen. Jeff Steinborn, a Democrat of Las Cruces, said Wednesday the state should have a say about the proposal and that he was disappointed in the attorney general's opinion.

Balderas said in a letter last month the state cannot legally stop Holtec International from temporarily storing up to 100,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico.

Balderas cited the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and two court cases clearly establishing two principles.

The facility is intended to be a temporary storage site, storing nuclear waste only until a permanent storage facility can be built. But opponents fear that it could become permanent because plans for a long-term repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, have stalled because of opposition.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue 71-Year-Old Hiker- Associated Press

U.S. Border Patrol agents say they have rescued a 71-year-old man who was lost and dehydrated on a hike east of Alamogordo.

Agents from the Alamogordo Station say the man had been hiking in the Indian Wells Canyon on Monday.

After a 90-minute search, an agent found the missing man under a bush and say he was dehydrated and unable to walk.

The man was given provided water and the agent stayed with him until additional help arrived from the Otero County Sheriff's Office.

The man then was taken by helicopter to a facility in Las Cruces for treatment.

His name hasn't been released.

Teacher Evaluations Roil Gubernatorial Race- Associated Press

Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce has said that New Mexico's future teacher evaluation system could end up looking similar to the current one if he is elected.

On Thursday New Mexico's Democratic Party released a video of comments by Pearce to a conference of educators in which the GOP candidate describes his proposal to suspend and replace the teacher evaluation system with input from stakeholders.

Pearce says some teachers see positive aspects in the current evaluations and that "we may use almost exactly the same evaluation system."

Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston accuses Pearce of supporting failed policies of outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Both Pearce and Democratic rival Michelle Lujan Grisham have promised to overhaul teacher evaluations that they regard as ineffective if elected governor.

Auto Group Accused Of Deceptive Practices To Sell To Navajos- Associated Press

The Federal Trade Commission is accusing an auto group in the Southwest of using deceptive and unlawful practices to sell vehicles to Navajos.

The complaint against Tate's Auto Group was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

It alleges the company has falsified consumers' monthly income and down payments on financing applications and contracts without them knowing. The complaint also alleges deceptive advertising.

The FTC is asking for relief that includes restitution and refunds to customers.

The auto group denies the allegations. Owner Richard Berry says the company is honest with customers and is confident it will be vindicated in court.

The complaint is part of a push by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to protect Navajo consumers.

Rains Leave River Covered In Ash, Wildfire Debris- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Recent rains have sent ashes and debris to a northeastern New Mexico river that supplies water to about 1,000 people, making it impossible for residents to draw water from it.

Monsoon rains swept up remnants from the burn scar left by a spring wildfire at Ute Park and sent it into the Cimarron River's currents.

The Cimarron River provides water for much of Colfax County including the Village of Cimarron, Springer and Raton, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday.

The Ute Park Fire, which burned about 58 square miles, strained the communities' water systems.

Crews are working to clean up muck in the river's reservoir, which is currently low after a dry winter.

With the river blackened, the reservoir is all the community has.

Tough water restrictions are being enforced. Residents are prohibited from washing their cars or watering their lawns.

Donors have helped buy bottled water for the community.

New Mexico Research Site Gets US Grant For Climate ResearchAssociated Press

A federal grant for a New Mexico research project will provide $6.4 million for work looking at how climate change affects arid land ecosystems.

The five-year National Science Foundation grant to the Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research site located in central New Mexico was announced Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.

The research will examine ecological consequences of rising temperatures and increasingly variable rainfall on drylands and be led by University of New Mexico scientists collaborating with ecologists from Northern Arizona University and Rice University in Houston.

The research will be conducted in and near the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge located north of Socorro.

The refuge is 55 miles south of Albuquerque.

State Standardizes Policy On Advanced Placement ExamsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

State officials plan to standardize credits for first-year college students who pass high school Advanced Placement exams.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the New Mexico Higher Education Department announced the new policy Monday.

Under the new guidelines, high school students who earn passing grades in the courses and pass their course exam when the school year ends will get college credit when they enroll at a public college or university in the state.

In the past, colleges and universities had varying standards for the scores students had to earn in order to be granted college credit.

Officials say the new policy is intended to speed student's push toward finishing degrees and assisting with their transition to college.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson Tours Tribal Pueblo In New MexicoAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A tribal leader in New Mexico says U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's visit to his community offered a chance to show the Trump administration official the need for funding and services.

Carson toured a low-income housing development at San Felipe Pueblo, north of Albuquerque on Tuesday with tribal leaders. The Albuquerque Journal reports the tour was closed to the press.

San Felipe Pueblo Gov. Anthony Ortiz says the area that the group toured doesn't have the capacity to serve the level of need for housing within his community.

A spokesman for Carson says the visit marked his second to a tribal community since he became HUD secretary in 2017.

HUD administers a federal block grant program established to provide housing assistance to Native Americans.

State Police Say Man Fatally Shot By Officer Tried To Grab GunAssociated Press

The New Mexico State Police says a wanted man fatally shot by an officer July 15 during a traffic stop in Albuquerque tried to grab the officer's gun and after saying he wouldn't go back to prison.

The State Police says Officer Kevin Smith fatally shot 23-year-old Jonathan Molina of Albuquerque after Molina resisted being handcuffed and tried to grab Smith's gun.

According to the State Police, Molina was wanted on multiple outstanding warrants from the New Mexico Corrections Department for parole violation for charges of distribution of a controlled substance, escape from custody, and aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer and from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office for probation violation for charges of obstructing police.

A multi-agency task force is investigating the shooting.

Los Alamos County Offers To Swap Land With Santa Fe CountySanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe County officials are undecided on a land swap offer from Los Alamos County, which is looking to enable development on a vacant mesa-top property along the border shared by the two counties.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Los Alamos County has offered to give Santa Fe County about 2 square miles of Santa Fe National Forest land in exchange for the mesa land and a tract that contains a Los Alamos County well field.

With the forest land, Santa Fe County could collect about $2,800 per year in federal compensation for nontaxable forest land.

Some Santa Fe County commissioners expressed doubts about the trade on Tuesday.

Most commissioners asked for more information before they make a decision.

Gubernatorial Candidates Diverge On State PensionsAlbuquerque Journal

The two candidates for governor  have very different approaches to addressing the fiscal health of the state’s retirement system.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham opposes any cuts to benefits, including the adjustments retirees get each year to keep pace with inflation.

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says he would not cut benefits for those nearing retirement, but younger workers could pay more into retirement accounts. He also supports making the pension system more like private retirement plans, and wants elected officials to withdraw from the retirement system.

The Educational Retirement Board and the Public Employees Retirement Association together cover about 110,000 active employees and nearly 90,000 retirees. Together they have unfunded liabilities of $12.5 billion. That’s the gap between the assets the funds have and what they owe in future retirement benefits.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the state’s bond rating in June based on concerns about the economy and pension liabilities.