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Sat: New FBI tactics implemented in targeting hate crimes in NM, New details in I-40 shooting, +more

Morgan Lee
Associated Press
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talks at the Randall Davey Audubon Center on the outskirts of Santa Fe, N.M

  FBI Using Navajo Language In Campaign Targeting Hate Crimes – Associated Press

The FBI has begun a campaign to use the Navajo language on social media to combat hate crimes.

The federal enforcement agency said Friday that it has an ad in the Navajo language on Facebook that encourages victims and witnesses to contact the FBI, which also has posted messages in the Navajo language against hate crime on Twitter.

"Our message is clear and simple: Hate has no place on the Navajo Nation or anywhere else," said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda of the Albuquerque FBI Division. "For those more comfortable communicating in Navajo, we hope this outreach encourages them to call us or go online if they are aware of a hate crime."

The FBI said it also has translated into Navajo numerous posters seeking information about unsolved homicides and missing person cases.

New Mexico Police: Gun Went Off As Couple Fought, Driving – Associated Press

Police say they have arrested a man believed to have shot a woman in the head while she was driving him down the highway near Grants, in western New Mexico.

The pair, believed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, started arguing Wednesday while driving down Interstate 40 in a Ford Mustang, New Mexico State Police said. 

The man, aged 23, pulled out a gun during the argument as he sat in the passenger seat, and the woman, 21, tried to grab it as she drove.

"During the struggle for the firearm, it went off and struck the female in the head," New Mexico State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco said in a statement Friday.

It's unclear if the man meant to shoot the woman or just threaten her.

After the gun went off, the man grabbed the steering wheel from the passenger seat and "brought the vehicle to a safe stop and drove the vehicle to the Cibola General Hospital in Grants, NM," Francisco said.

The woman was later flown to a larger hospital in Albuquerque and is in critical condition.

Police said the man was arrested Thursday and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

US Democratic Governors To Participate In U.N. Climate Talks – By Kathleen Ronayne, Associated Press

U.S. governors want a seat at the table as international leaders prepare to gather in Scotland at a critical moment for global efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions and slow the planet's temperature rise.

At least a half dozen state governors — all Democrats — plan to attend parts of the two-week United Nations' climate change conference in Glasgow, known as COP26. Though states aren't official parties to talks, governors hold significant sway over the United States' approach to tackling climate change by setting targets for reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to renewable energy. 

Take California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to halt the sale of new gas-powered cars in the state by 2035, a move aimed at accelerating the nation's transition to electric vehicles. Or Washington, where Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee backed legislation requiring the state's electricity be carbon-neutral by 2030. 

"Governors can do a lot," said Samantha Gross, director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institute. "When they're talking to people on the sidelines and sharing policies and ideas and helping to demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. as a whole, there's quite a bit that they can do."

Governors slated to attend are Inslee, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. All six governors are part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, an effort started by Inslee and former Govs. Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York in 2017 as the Trump administration backed away from U.S. climate goals. The alliance plans to announce "ambitious" new climate commitments in Scotland, though it hasn't shared specifics.

Newsom announced Friday he would participate virtually due to unspecified family obligations. California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will instead lead the state's delegation, which includes more than a dozen lawmakers and top administration officials.

"All eyes will be on Glasgow, with the world asking the question: 'What are we doing to do about (climate change)?'" Kounalakis said. "And California has answers."

Other states sending officials include Maryland and Massachusetts, which have Republican governors.

Few U.S. states are as influential as California, which is home to nearly 40 million people and would be the world's fifth-largest economy if it were its own nation. It's led the nation in vehicle emissions standards, was the first state to launch a carbon pollution credit program known as cap-and-trade and has set some of the nation's most ambitious goals on reducing emissions. 

It's the nation's seventh-largest oil producing state, though Newsom officials say the state has six times as many jobs in clean energy as it does in the oil industry. Newsom has made strides to lower demand and eventually end production, but some environmental groups say he's got to act significantly faster. 

Several other state leaders heading to Glasgow also come from places that rely on oil and gas production as a key piece of the economy. New Mexico's Lujan Grisham travels to the climate conference as she juggles competing pressures from environmental activists and the fossil fuel industry while running for reelection in 2022. 

New Mexico is one of the top oil states. Amid surging oil output, Lujan Grisham has pushed to rein in leaks and emissions of excess natural gas by the industry and signed legislation that mandates and incentivizes New Mexico's own transition to zero-emissions electricity by 2045.

"We — as a state, as a nation, as a planet — must go further by pursuing bold, equitable and just climate solutions. I am looking forward to this significant opportunity for collaboration and action at the global level," Lujan Grisham said in a recent statement.

In March, Lujan Grisham wrote President Joe Biden, asking to exempt New Mexico from an executive order halting gas and oil production on federal land. Oil field royalties, taxes and lease sales account for more than one-quarter of the state's general fund budget, underwriting spending on public schools, roads and public safety.

Edwards of Louisiana, a state that's suffered significant flooding and damage from hurricanes, plans to promote his state as a hub for clean energy projects. He's set a goal to cut the state's net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, though his administration is still putting together a strategy document for reaching that goal. 

"No state in our nation is more affected by climate change than Louisiana, but it's also true that no state is better positioned to be part of the solution to the problems facing our world," he said recently.

The governors will participate on panels through the U.S. Climate Alliance alongside members of the Biden administration. They'll also participate alongside 65 subnational governments in announcing "dozens" of new commitments on Nov. 7. The panel will also focus on politics that can "turbocharge greenhouse gas emissions reductions," according to an alliance press release.

"Governors and mayors around the world do not believe we should rely just on our federal governments," Inslee, of Washington, said during a Thursday news conference.

It's critical for U.S. and world leaders to move from planning to implementation of aggressive climate strategies, said Katelyn Sutter, senior manager for U.S. climate at the Environmental Defense Fund. 

"We need policy to back up pledges to reduce emissions," she said. "That's where a state like California, and now Washington and others that have momentum moving forward, can really be impactful."

As for California, Newsom administration officials said they hope to demonstrate that tackling the climate crisis can be good for the economy and that pollution targets should be made with historically underserved communities in mind. The administration recently proposed banning new oil wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of homes, schools and hospitals, and Newsom has directed the state's air regulator to develop a plan to end oil production by 2045. 

"We can help push national governments to increase their ambition," said Lauren Sanchez, Newsom's senior adviser for climate.

New Mexico's Citizen Redistricting Maps Sent To Legislature – By Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press/Report For America

The committee responsible for proposing new political boundaries in New Mexico has sent a final report to state legislators, recommending maps to be used in redistricting.

In the report made public Friday, the Citizen Redistricting Committee recommended three maps for redistricting congressional boundaries and additional maps for state offices.

Political boundaries are redrawn every ten years to reflect population counts by the census, most recently in 2020. For the first time, New Mexico is using a citizen advisory board to temper partisan inclinations toward entrenching political power through redistricting.

"It's about the public selecting their legislators, not the legislators selecting them," Citizen Redistricting Committee Chair Edward Chávez said.

The committee reviewed 80 maps proposed by members of the public and collected thousands of comments in writing, in-person and over Zoom, including those from supporters of political advocacy groups.

Federal standards also require that the maps preserve voting power among minority groups.

New Mexico's Democratic-led Legislature is expected to pick one of the maps in a special legislative session in December. But it could also forge a new map and ignore the commission.

"We'll see what happens. They'll either adopt one of the maps we're proposing, or they'll go on their own," said Chávez, a retired judge.

US To Gauge Climate Damage From Federal Oil And Gas Sales – By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

U.S. government regulators for the first time will analyze greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas drilling on federal lands on a national scale, as the Biden administration steps up efforts to address climate change, the Interior Department said Friday.

The announcement comes as officials are set to hold lease sales in numerous Western states next year amid a fierce debate over federal fossil fuel reserves.

Interior's Bureau of Land Management released a report saying oil, gas and coal extraction from federal lands produced more than 1 billion tons (918 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases last year. That's about one-fifth of all U.S. energy-related emissions.

President Joe Biden campaigned on promises to end new drilling on public lands to help combat climate change. But his attempt to suspend new leases —  while oil and gas sales underwent a sweeping review — was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana.

Including greenhouse gas emissions in lease reviews lets the administration highlight what scientists say are the increasing "social costs" of climate change — from rising sea levels and wildfires to public health problems. 

Democrats and many environmentalists want to factor those costs upfront into lease sales. They argue that failing to do so amounts to an industry subsidy.

But the change comes as rising energy prices expose the administration to sharp attacks from Republicans. 

Emissions have been declining in the U.S. as power plants switch from burning coal to natural gas. Placing more obstacles to development will hurt both the petroleum industry and U.S. economy, Republicans say.

Environmental assessments that include a greenhouse gas analysis will be released in coming days for lease sales planned early next year in Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and other states, administration officials said.

New land bureau director Tracy Stone-Manning, who underwent a bitter confirmation fight, said the agency wants to develop public lands responsibly and make sure climate impacts are considered.

"We will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under law to conduct leasing in a manner that fulfills the Interior Department's legal responsibilities," Stone-Manning said in a statement.

The ranking GOP member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyoming's John Barrasso, said in response to Stone-Manning's announcement that the added scrutiny of leases would "hamstring American energy." 

"Tracy Stone-Manning and the Bureau of Land Management want to build new regulatory road blocks for oil and gas leasing on America's federal lands," Barrasso said. "This draft plan will result in less American energy production, fewer jobs for energy workers, and more frivolous lawsuits from environmental activists."

Some parcels that had been nominated by companies for sale were deferred and won't be offered, officials said, citing concerns including potential impacts to struggling populations of a bird, the greater sage grouse. They did not immediately respond to requests for specifics on the size and location of those parcels.

Federal agencies have previously conducted reviews of potential greenhouse gas impacts from individual lease sales across the U.S. West following court orders. Officials in many cases concluded the emissions were miniscule on a global scale.

But environmentalists have long maintained those reviews were too narrow and ignored the cumulative impact of huge tracts of public lands in multiple states and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico being leased for oil, gas and coal extraction.

The Interior Department in August determined it was not going to do further climate impact studies on a Gulf of Mexico sale that is scheduled next month, covering roughly 136,000 square miles (352,000 square kilometers) offshore.

Andrew Black with the National Wildlife Federation said including the full costs of energy development was crucial to understanding its impacts.

"You're looking at this not just as an environmental issue, but what the climate effects are on communities that are encountering devastating droughts, fires, flooding," said Black, who worked for Stone-Manning at the federation before she joined the administration.

The oil and gas industry will keep pushing for lease sales to be held this year, said Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, an industry group. A second lawsuit against the Biden administration is pending before a federal judge in Wyoming,

"It will be litigated how they use the social cost of carbon," Sgamma said. "That's going to affect regulation all throughout the government, not just in this case."