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TUES: Biden administration announces $366M for clean energy in tribal and rural areas, + More

FILE - A solar farm sits in Mona, Utah, Aug. 9, 2022. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, the Biden administration will announce 17 projects across the U.S. to expand renewable energy access in rural areas, particularly for Native American tribes. The projects, which will cost $366 million, are funded by a $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rick Bowmer
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey shows defense attorney Jason Bowles a picture of a firearmReed during Hannah Gutierrez-Reed trial at District Court, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Santa Fe, N.M. Gutierrez-Reed is charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the October 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of the Western “Rust”.

Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes and rural areas Sophie Austin, Associated Press/Report for America


The federal government will fund 17 projects across the U.S. to expand access to renewable energy on Native American reservations and in other rural areas, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

The $366 million plan will fund solar, battery storage and hydropower projects in sparsely populated regions where electricity can be costly and unreliable. The money comes from a $1 trillion infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the announcement "historic" at a clean energy tribal summit in Southern California that began Tuesday.

"This is the largest amount that the Department of Energy has awarded to tribes for energy projects," she said.

About a fifth of homes in the Navajo Nation — located in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah — do not have access to electricity, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates. Nearly a third of homes that have electricity on Native American reservations in the U.S. report monthly outages, according to the Biden administration.

The announcement comes as Native tribes in Nevada and Arizona fight to protect their lands and sacred sites amid the Biden administration's expansion of renewable energy. It also comes days after federal regulators granted Native American tribes more authority to block hydropower projects on their land.

The Biden administration will only secure funding for the 17 projects after negotiating with project applicants, federal officials said.

The projects span across 20 states and involve 30 tribes. They include $30 million to provide energy derived from plants to wildfire-prone communities in the Sierra Nevada in California and $32 million to build solar and hydropower to a Native American tribe in Washington state.

Another $27 million will go toward constructing a hydroelectric plant to serve a tribal village in Alaska, while $57 million will provide solar power and storage for health centers in rural parts of the Southeast, including in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.


Austin is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: @sophieadanna

Witness at trial recounts fatal shooting of cinematographer by Alec Baldwin - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Testimony at trial Monday turned emotional and argumentative as an eyewitness recounted the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a movie rehearsal and described gun misfires, crew members walking out and a "ludicrous" pace of work.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armorer for the upcoming Western movie "Rust," is fighting charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence at a trial that entered its third day of testimony Monday. A trial date was set for Baldwin in July on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorneys highlighted Gutierrez-Reed's unusual disadvantage and vulnerability at the time as a part-time, 24-year-old armorer without trade-union membership on a set where few dared confront Baldwin directly about concerns about safety and related budgeting.

Monday's testimony veered into the actor's handling of the revolver that killed Hutchins — including a video of Baldwin twice practicing a cross-draw maneuver for a camera on Oct. 21, 2021, shortly before the fatal shooting that day. Investigators found no video of the shooting.

The video of Baldwin was accompanied by searing testimony from Ross Addiego, a front-line "Rust" crew member who helped guide the film's camera. Addiego said that in the moments after a shot rang out on set, he made eye contact with a wounded Hutchins and tried to calm wounded director Joel Souza.

"The first person I made eye contact with was Halyna, who was clearly injured. In fact, she was starting to go flush and I think holding her right side," said Addiego, breaking into tears. "I think I yelled out, 'If you can't help, get ... out of here, and someone call 911.'"

Prosecutors guided Addiego through testimony in which he described his anger and frustration with safety procedures on set, including the sight of a storage cart for guns and ammunition that frequently appeared to be unattended and Gutierrez-Reed's work as an armorer in charge of loading guns with blank and dummy rounds. Investigators found six live rounds on the set of "Rust," including the one that killed Hutchins.

Addiego noted two gun misfires on set — confirmed as blank rounds without projectiles by workplace safety regulators — and just one safety meeting over the course about two work weeks, when daily meetings are the norm.

He said prior to the fatal shooting he lodged safety complaints with union representatives and the film's top safety official, assistant director David Halls, who pleaded no contest last year to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and may be called on to testify.

"At times we seemed to be working at ludicrous speeds," said Addiego, who also testified to the grand jury that indicted Baldwin in January. "We always seemed to be rushed and under the gun."

In a tense cross-examination, defense attorney Jason Bowles asked Addiego whether he was aware that Gutierrez-Reed had unsuccessfully requested more time for focus on her responsibilities as armorer instead of other prop duties, such as rolling cowboy cigarettes.

"Did you ever stand up to Mr. Baldwin and say, 'No, we're not going to move this fast?'" Bowles asked.

"That's not my job," Addiego said.

Bowles continued: "With everybody else, grown men, not standing up to Mr. Baldwin, wouldn't you find that difficult for her also?"

He noted that Addiego has sued Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions and questioned his motives in testifying.

"Are you hoping that you can come in and testify here today and something happens to Ms. Gutierrez-Reed and it will help your lawsuit?" Bowles asked.

"I'm hoping for justice, sir," Addiego responded. "Two people where injured on a film set. That has affected not only me, that has affected the film industry."

Also on Monday, prosecutors called on a series of FBI forensic experts in firearms, fingerprinting, gunpowder and DNA-evidence tracing to testify about their examination of a revolver and ammunition seized from the "Rust" set and an ammunition supplier to the film based in Albuquerque.

Prosecutors argue that Gutierrez-Reed is to blame for bringing live ammunition on set. They say six live rounds found on the "Rust" set bear identical characteristics — and don't match live rounds seized from the movie's supplier in Albuquerque.

Defense attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed have pointed out shortcomings in the collection of evidence from the set, and say that ammunition supplier Seth Kenney wasn't properly investigated, and never submitted fingerprints.

FBI firearms expert Bryce Ziegler testified about his analysis of a gun held by Baldwin in the shooting. He said the revolver and its safety features were fully functional when it arrived at an FBI laboratory for testing.

"When I received the firearm and I did an initial function examination, it did not appear that any of the safeties were malfunctioning or anything like that," Ziegler said.

But Ziegler described additional "accidental discharge testing" on the gun in response to Baldwin's assertions that the gun went off when he did not press the trigger. Ziegler said the only way he could get the gun to fire without pulling the trigger was by striking the gun with a mallet, knowing that it could break under the procedure and receiving permission to proceed.

"The function of that test is to see if I can get this firearm to fire without actually pulling the trigger," Ziegler said.

"As I tested in my laboratory, it would not fire without pulling the trigger in the full-cocked setting, without being broken," he said.

Alec Baldwin to stand trial this summer on a charge stemming from deadly 'Rust' movie set shooting - Associated Press

A New Mexico judge has set a trial date for Alec Baldwin on an involuntary manslaughter charge stemming from the 2021 deadly shooting on the set of the Western movie "Rust."

The scheduling order entered Monday calls for jury selection to begin July 9, with the trial starting the following day with opening statements by special prosecutors and Baldwin's defense attorneys. The proceedings are expected to last eight days.

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on the film, pleaded not guilty in January, the day before he was scheduled to be arraigned. A grand jury had indicted him after prosecutors received a new analysis of the revolver he was using during filming, renewing a charge that prosecutors originally filed and then dismissed in April 2023.

Baldwin was pointing the gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal on the set outside of Santa Fe when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has said he pulled back the hammer — but not the trigger — and the gun fired. The subsequent analysis concluded that "the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver."

The revolver also is the subject of testimony in the case of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the weapons supervisor who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter and a charge of tampering with evidence. Her trial resumed Monday in Santa Fe with testimony from an FBI firearms expert.

The proceedings against the armorer hold implications for Baldwin, who faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

Baldwin remains free pending trial under conditions that include not possessing firearms, consuming alcohol or leaving the country. Baldwin can have limited contact with witnesses when it comes to promoting "Rust," which has not been released for public viewing. Baldwin is prohibited from asking members of the "Rust" cast or crew to participate in a related documentary film.

Protesters picket Santa Fe Starbucks for company’s dispute with union over Gaza post - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

A group of 10 demonstrators picketed a Starbucks in New Mexico’s capital city Monday to protest the coffee chain’s dispute with its workers over their public support for Palestinians.

During morning rush hour traffic near U.S. Route 285 in Santa Fe, the group formed a picket line to block motorists from entering the store’s parking lot and drive-thru. They had marched through the drive-thru before getting shooed away by a manager.

Wearing keffiyehs, they carried signs that read, “Stand with the union workers; they stood up for Palestine,” and, “A better world is possible; Boycott, Divest, Sanctions.”

“Support local coffee shops, boycott for Palestine,” they chanted as four vehicles lined up to reach the store.

Monday’s protest was part of a yearslong nonviolent struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and self-determination which formally began on July 9, 2005 when the majority of Palestinian civil society groups issued the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.


The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, ruled on Jan. 26 South Africa has made a “plausible” case that at least some of Israel’s actions in Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023 constitute genocide.

The court ordered Israel to stop killing Palestinians, stop causing them serious bodily or mental harm, stop deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction, and stop imposing measures intended to prevent Palestinian births.

Monday was the deadline for Israel to submit a report to the court on what it has done to comply with the order. Human Rights Watch says Israel is not complying with at least one part of it.

Starbucks is not listed among the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s boycott targets. However, there has been a grassroots organic boycott campaign in and outside the U.S. after the company sued its workers in a federal court over an Oct. 9, 2023 social media post expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

Some motorists responded to Monday’s protest by carefully driving around the picket line, or parking nearby and walking to the store. Others revved their engines, or rolled down their windows to scream at the protesters.

One motorist yelled at the protesters from his truck while waiting for the traffic signal to change across the highway, and made a profane hand gesture. The group responded by blowing him kisses, telling him they love him, and wishing him a great day. Others honked in support as they drove by, their fists raised.

At one point, an older white man who was not affiliated with Starbucks approached the group and tried to physically push the protesters to allow the motorists through. He soon gave up, backed away and watched.

Another man in a large white truck later hit a protester with his vehicle, went through the store’s drive-thru, stopped, got out of his truck, got back in, and said he had “reported” the protesters as he drove off.

The victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were walking the picket line when the driver saw them, chose to drive forward regardless, hit them and deliberately pushed them several steps back, not allowing them to effectively step out of the way. They said they were not injured but shaken.

Natasha Durel is an activist with Palestinian roots. She said she came to the protest to disrupt business as usual, stand with the BDS movement, and support Starbucks workers who have spoken out in support of Palestinians.

She said the company’s lawsuit shows it’s not willing to allow their workers to speak freely but is willing to intimidate them for their expression.

“Their silence is violence at this point,” Durel said.

Destiny Ray, an activist with the climate nonprofit Earth Care, also attended the protest and said motorists’ reactions were abrasive and “dramatic for an $8 cup of coffee that really isn’t supporting our local businesses or their local economy.”

“It’s not that deep, coffee is not that big of a deal,” Ray said. “There’s like eight coffee shops within three blocks from here.”

Durel said some of the public’s reaction to the demonstration amounted to tantrums over being inconvenienced and having to face their own lack of awareness around the issue.

“I think that reflects on a bigger problem we have as a society: when people are confronted with these things, they tend to look the other way, do what they know, and become angry — not at the things creating violence, but at the people trying to stop it,” she said.

Durel said she thinks capitalism encourages people to be self-interested and self-motivated.

“That inconvenience, that disruption in what they know is a deeper truth, what they know deep down is wrong, that creates the anger, because at the end of the day, it’s not us they’re angry at, it’s themselves,” Durel said.

Other members of the public stopped to talk with the protesters to ask them why they were picketing. Ray said some left saying they respect the picket.

Whether people ended up getting their coffee or not, Durel said, “they’re stirring, they’re angry, they’re thinking, and that’s what we want ultimately, is to make people think and challenge the status quo.”

“Even just creating a small shift in how you show up, it adds up,” she said. “It allows then, from one change you make, to change your entire lifestyle, which at this point is the least we can do: give up the comforts when we learn how deeply our pockets and our money are creating absolute destruction and chaos for families.”

“I don’t want that done with my dollars, I’m not sure why anyone would,” Durel said.

Bernalillo County Manager resigns - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

Bernalillo County announced Monday that after nearly a decade managing the local government, Julie Morgas Baca has submitted her resignation to commissioners.

The county manager will be staying on until the end of June. Commission Chair Barbara Baca said in a statement that marks the end of the fiscal year, so should help contribute to a “smooth transition.”

Commissioner Walt Benson praised Morgas Baca for her leadership during the pandemic, a cyberattack and the transition of the county jail’s healthcare provider. He wrote in a statement that he was “sad to see her leave” before the end of her contract.

Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada is calling on his colleagues to create a public hiring process for Morgas Baca’s replacement. He pointed to Albuquerque Public Schools’ “rigorous” recent national search for its next superintendent as a good example.

Quezada says the process should include forums for public input, like town halls and information sessions. He says Bernalillo County residents should have a chance to set the qualifications for the position.

He urges members of the public to get involved once a hiring process begins.

4th street may be going on a ‘road’ diet - By Mia Casas, KUNM News

Bernalillo County is hosting a public meeting Tuesday to present a proposal narrowing a stretch of 4th street in Albuquerque’s North Valley. This is known as a “road diet”, which aims to increase pedestrian safety.

The county announced in a press release that it proposes taking the 4 lane stretch from Ortega to Alameda and making it 2, with a center turning lane.

Bike lanes and sidewalks would also be added to each side of the roadway.

In addition, a storm drain is proposed from Paseo to St. Francis as part of this project.

The public meeting will take place at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center on 4th street, beginning at 5:30 with a presentation of the proposal, and time for a Q&A at 6.

Those who can’t attend will be able to email comments and questions to the project’s associate engineer, Gary Moreno-Ulibarri until March 12th.

ABQ’s street lights are not purple on purpose - Elizabeth McCall, City Desk ABQ 

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

Residents of Albuquerque have noticed certain street lights appear purple when the sun goes down. While this has raised concerns, the city says they are being replaced.

“It is a manufacturer defect in the lights and the manufacturer is aware of the issue,” said Dan Mayfield, a spokesperson for Albuquerque’s Municipal Development Department.

More than 20,000 of the city’s street lights were converted to LED lights in 2017 to improve energy efficiency and public safety. Mayfield said the fluorescent phosphor coating on the lights — which makes them white — has disappeared, causing them to appear purple.

“The natural color of LED is that purple and there is a yellow coating on the inside of the light to make it turn white,” he said. “There is no way to tell when the coating is going to go bad or not. The lights are the same brightness and still put out the same amount of lumens, they are just a different color.”

According to Mayfield, since the lights have a 10-year warranty there is no additional cost for the replacement of the lights. The manufacturer, Dalkia Energy Solutions, will be in charge of locating which lights have disintegrated coatings and replacing them.