89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FRI: Oil and gas companies must pay more to drill on federal lands under new rule, + More

The Bureau of Land Management's Carlsbad Field Office in New Mexico.
WildEarth Guardians via Flickr
The Bureau of Land Management's Carlsbad Field Office in New Mexico.

Oil and gas companies must pay more to drill on federal lands under new Biden administration rule - By Matthew Daly Associated Press

Oil and gas companies will have to pay more to drill on federal lands and satisfy stronger requirements to clean up old or abandoned wells under a final rule issued Friday by the Biden administration.

The Interior Department's rule raises royalty rates for oil drilling by more than one-third, to 16.67%, in accordance with the sweeping 2022 climate law approved by Congress. The previous rate of 12.5% paid by oil and gas companies for federal drilling rights had remained unchanged for a century. The federal rate was significantly lower than what many states and private landowners charge for drilling leases on state or private lands.

The new rule does not go so far as to prohibit new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, as many environmental groups have urged and President Joe Biden promised during the 2020 campaign. But officials said the proposal will lead to a more responsible leasing process that provides a better return to U.S. taxpayers and focuses oil and gas drilling in areas most likely to be developed, especially those with existing infrastructure and a high potential for oil and gas reserves.

The rule also will increase the minimum leasing bond paid by energy companies to $150,000, compared with the previous $10,000 established more than 60 years ago. The higher bonding requirement is intended to ensure that energy companies meet their obligations to clean up drilling sites after they are finished drilling or cap wells that are abandoned.

The plan codifies some provisions — including royalty hikes for competitive leases — that were already being enforced on an interim basis since the passage of the climate law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, in August 2022. The rule also incorporates provisions in the 2021 infrastructure law and recommendations from an Interior Department report on oil and gas leasing issued in 2021. That report recommended an overhaul of the oil and gas program to limit areas available for energy development and raise costs for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands and waters.

"These are the most significant reforms to the federal oil and gas leasing program in decades, and they will cut wasteful speculation, increase returns for the public and protect taxpayers from being saddled with the costs of environmental cleanups," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Friday.

Along with efforts to clean up so-called orphaned, or abandoned, wells, "these reforms will help safeguard the health of our public lands and nearby communities for generations to come," Haaland said. The rule also will ease pressure to develop areas that contain sensitive wildlife habitat, cultural resources or recreation sites, she said.

The new royalty rate codified by the climate law is expected to remain in place until August 2032, after which it can be increased. The higher rate would increase costs for oil and gas companies by an estimated $1.8 billion in that period, according to the Interior Department.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's top lobbying group, said it was reviewing the rule to ensure Biden's Democratic administration was encouraging "fair and consistent access to federal resources" used by oil and gas companies.

"As energy demand continues to grow, oil and natural gas development on federal lands will be foundational for maintaining energy security, powering our economy and supporting state and local conservation efforts," API vice president Holly Hopkins said in a statement. "Overly burdensome land management regulations will put this critical energy supply at risk."

Environmental groups hailed the rule change as a way to ensure accountability from energy companies that have long had cheap access to federal lands.

"For far too long, oil and gas companies have been profiting off of giveaways to drill on our public lands. This rule will finally curtail some of these wasteful handouts to the fossil fuel industry," said Josh Axelrod, senior policy advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Communities, conservationists and taxpayer advocates have been demanding many of these changes for decades, and it's great news that the Biden administration is acting on this today."

The Center for Biological Diversity, another environmental group, faulted the administration for failing to address the climate crisis directly by phasing out drilling on public lands.

"Updating oil and gas rules for federal lands without setting a timeline for phaseout (of drilling) is climate denial, pure and simple,'' said Gladys Delgadillo, a climate campaigner for the Arizona-based group. "Public lands should be places for people to enjoy nature and wildlife to roam free, not hotspots for toxic pollution."

The change in bonding rates is a key element of the new rule, officials said. The previous rate of $10,000, established in 1960, was far too low to force companies to clean up old drilling sites and did not cover potential costs to reclaim a well, officials said. As a result, taxpayers frequently end up covering cleanup costs for abandoned or depleted wells if an operator refuses to do so or declares bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells and abandoned coal and hardrock mines pose serious safety hazards, while causing ongoing environmental damage.

The Interior Department has made available more than $1 billion in the past two years from the infrastructure law to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells on public lands. The new rule aims to prevent that burden from falling on taxpayers in the future.

Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, whose agency issued the new rule, said it "will help protect critical wildlife habitat, cultural resources and recreational values'' while ensuring a fair return for taxpayers. The bureau manages more than 245 million acres of public lands, mainly in the West.

Lawmakers were divided by party.

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, called the rule an important step to rein in oil and gas companies.

"When Big Oil uses our public lands, it stands to reason they should be giving American taxpayers a fair return for the privilege," he said. "That's why Democrats worked so hard to pass reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act to return some balance to a leasing system that has favored polluters for far too long.''

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel, said the rule imposes unfair costs on energy companies that will result in less drilling, fewer jobs and more dependence on oil from the Middle East.

"As a candidate, Joe Biden recklessly threatened to end oil and natural gas production on federal lands," Barrasso said. "As president, he is doing all he can to make it economically impossible to produce energy on federal lands."

State grants nearly $6 million to projects set to ease transition from fossil fuels - Alice Fordham, KUNM News

Nearly $6 million have been granted to four projects that are meant to ease New Mexico's transition away from fossil fuels.

The grants come after years of pandemic-related delays in the distribution of funding under the 2019 Energy Transition Act, a law designed to help wean the state off oil and gas.

A number of state departments were responsible for implementing the Act. The Economic Development Department's role was to administer $5.9 million to project proposals, "unrelated to fossil fuel development or use".

A committee was established to consult with tribal and community entities on how to spend the money, but last July the Legislative Finance Committee noted that there was no plan published on how to spend the funds.

However, more than five years after the energy transition law was passed, the Economic Development Department announced Friday, April 12, that it is awarding money under the Act to four projects.

The largest grant, more than $3.5 million, goes to Northern New Mexico Indigenous Farmers to update a pumping station with the goal of irrigating 2,000 acres of farmland that have been sitting idle for years.

Two grants of around a million dollars each are going to the city of Farmington to support a solar generation and battery storage proposal, and to a concrete manufacturing company in Grants to help it move from working with fossil fuel plants into clean energy production.

And a smaller grant of just under $200,000 is going to the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiú, which plans to install three solar arrays.

Asylum seekers testify to inhumane conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility - By Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

As the expiration date nears on a local contract allowing the federal government to incarcerate asylum seekers in central New Mexico, the county commission in charge of that negotiation heard testimonies about abysmal conditions inside the facility and allegations of abuse by guards.

The five-year contract, set to expire May 14, between Torrance County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) governs operations at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia.

On Wednesday, community members, advocates, and families who make up the Dignity Not Detention New Mexico Coalition urged Torrance county commissioners to not renew the ICE contract at the facility.

To make the detained asylum seekers’ voices heard, they shared testimonies during public comment from 12 asylum seekers held inside the Torrance County Detention Facility, or who were previously held there.

The written statements from asylum seekers described unfair asylum proceedings, allegations of abuse by guards, unfair wages for labor done inside, bug-infested and rotting food, dirty drinking water, unkempt clothing, a lack of sunlight and fresh air, and inadequate medical care.

Afterwards, the group who spoke on the asylum seekers’ behalf held a loud car rally outside the Torrance County Detention Facility, in view of cell windows, and a “Freedom Picnic” with a drum circle, red and green chile burritos and speeches.

Reached for comment about the testimonies and contract on Thursday, a spokesperson for ICE said they would look into it but would not be able to respond by the end of the day. We will update this story with their response.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Torrance County Commission chair Ryan Schwebach said he is “pretty sure” the commission must hold a vote on the contract. He did not know when the vote would be held.

“We’re still in negotiations,” Schwebach said. “It’s not a done deal yet.”

The commissioners’ next regular meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 24. Schwebach has yet to release an agenda for that meeting.

A group of immigrants sued ICE in November 2023 saying the agency certified a sham inspection in 2022 that allowed the federal agency to evade federal law and keep holding immigrants at Torrance, despite known ongoing violations of detention standards. That case was still pending on Thursday, according to court records.

Ricardo Gonzales, a Venezuelan asylum seeker who was held at Torrance for 68 days until he was released March 8, said the prison is “a place devoid of humanity and respect for human rights.”

“I found myself in an environment that contradicted the very essence of asylum and protection,” Gonzales wrote in a statement read to the county commission by Andres Esquivel, campaigns manager for The New Mexico Dream Team. “The facility, rather than offering refuge, subjected me and others to inhumane and deplorable conditions that I feel compelled to expose.”

Bella Bjornstad, a law student at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, read a statement from two asylum seekers who have been held at Torrance since March 20. Immigration authorities told them their human rights would be respected. “The reality is anything but that,” they said.

“No one should be locked up here at Torrance, we are treated so poorly,” they said. “We are treated like we’re not humans and punished for being migrants. We hope that the politicians hear us and listen to our experience.”

Jackie Neel, a member of Volunteers for Immigrants in Detention (VIDA) Albuquerque, read a statement from a Guatemalan asylum seeker named Kelvin held at Torrance who said the prison is dangerous and he doesn’t think immigrants should be held there.

“The guards ignore us; the ones who speak Spanish pretend they don’t,” Kelvin said. “There are no rights here.”

Kelly McCloskey-Romero, volunteer coordinator at VIDA, said her group has met hundreds of people at Torrance every month since October 2022.

On every visit, McCloskey-Romero said, without fail, men share tragic stories about desperate reasons they sought asylum and their hopes for the future.

“They have a universal human right to seek asylum,” McCloskey-Romero said.

The men held at Torrance “are living under abysmal conditions, day, after day, after day,” McCloskey-Romero said.

“It’s not just a matter of one or two people that are having bad experiences,” McCloskey-Romero said. “These conditions are inhumane and unjust, and you can do something about them.”

At least four people have died at Torrance since the prison was established, according to media reports and wrongful death lawsuits.


Commissioner Samuel Schropp responded to the public comments by downplaying the problems at the prison and defending federal authorities and CoreCivic, the private company operating it.

He said he has access to the prison and does “random walkthrough inspections.” but clarified in an interview he does conduct unannounced inspections through an agreement with the prison’s warden, a CoreCivic employee.

“The physical conditions in the facility meet the standards set out by DHS and ICE,” Schropp said. “The facility is clean, orderly, and reasonably safe.”

Schwebach said he agreed with Schropp’s assessment of the prison’s conditions, based on his own unannounced visits to the prison and conversations with the guards, doctors and custodians who work there.

“What I’ve seen first hand, multiple times, is similar to what Commissioner Schropp is seeing,” Schwebach said. “It’s a clean facility. It has good food. It is above and beyond as far as detention facilities go.”

Schwebach said he does not believe the asylum seekers’ written statements are entirely true.

“I’m confident that there is not as many abuses as what was presented, and the abuses that were presented are over-exaggerated,” Schwebach said. “The amount of people that spoke at our commission meeting yesterday does not represent what’s really happening there.”

Schwebach acknowledged there are “incidents” at the prison, but said those he knows about and has asked about have “been dealt with in a professional manner.”

On Schropp’s last visit there, he said he spoke with asylum seekers who were malnourished and exhausted from the journey to the United States, frustrated and confused by being held rather than released, and who had no reasonable expectation of how their asylum claims will be heard.

“This is the inhumanity of the process — not the physical conditions in the prison,” Schropp said. “DHS, ICE and CoreCivic are following the law and the policies mandated by Congress.”

Schropp said the inhumanity of asylum seekers being held against their will, without charge or conviction, “is a problem of federal policy, not problems with CoreCivic or its staff at the Torrance County Detention Facility.”

“I add my voice to yours in protest — not against CoreCivic or the physical conditions at the facility, but rather where the blame for the faults and inequities belong: the Congress of the United States,” Schropp said.

He told the people who made public comment on Wednesday to urge Congress to pass H.R.815. Human rights groups have said the immigration and asylum provisions in the bill would endanger asylum seekers’ lives, trample on international refugee law, inflict disorder, and lead to human rights abuses.

“Detaining some asylum seekers for further vetting is — in my opinion, based on my firsthand knowledge — necessary to national security,” Schropp said. “Fully funding and staffing the immigration system is the humane course of action, so that asylum seekers can have a speedy and fair hearing of their claims and will know where their future lies.”

Jovanny Sebastián Hernandez, southern New Mexico manager for The New Mexico Dream Team, said what Schropp is proposing is to keep funding what he views as a racist agency.

“He’s speaking from a position of great privilege in his county, and what CoreCivic will show him during his inspections,” Sebastián Hernandez said. “All of the things he’s saying are inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst.”

Taking the blame away from CoreCivic and its guards is a tired excuse conservatives and liberal Democrats alike try to use to distract from the material conditions of immigration detention, Sebastian Hernandez said.

Sophia Genovese, managing attorney at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, said men held at Torrance at different times repeatedly report the same conditions.

“We’re no longer at a point where we can reasonably disagree about what’s happening at Torrance,” Genovese said.

This article was updated on April 12 to clarify the responsibilities of the parties that run the Torrance County Detention Facility.

Former corrections officer shot himself outside MDC on Tuesday -  By Elise Kaplan, City Desk ABQ

The man who shot himself outside of the Metropolitan Detention Center on Tuesday was a former corrections officer, according to a county spokesperson.

He was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he later died.

Candace Hopkins, a spokesperson for the county jail, said the man worked for MDC “for several different stints between 2012 and 2020.” She did not identify him.

He separated from the county in September 2020, Hopkins said.

No one else was injured in the shooting. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

No other information was immediately available.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Commissioners accused of violating the Open Meetings Act - Carolyn Carlson, City Desk ABQ 

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

Did Bernalillo County Commissioners violate state law?

The Foundation for Open Government (FOG) — an advocate for transparency in government — has asked the New Mexico Department of Justice to investigate whether the Bernalillo County Commission violated the Open Meetings Act by engaging in a rolling quorum before it met this week.

A rolling quorum can include when “three members of a five-member board discuss public business in a series of telephone or email conversations, the discussion is a meeting of the quorum.” A rolling quorum to discuss public business or take action violates the state Open Meetings Act because it means a public body is meeting outside of a properly noticed, public meeting.

The complaint was filed after FOG received several calls about the possible violation on its public hotline. The citizen complaints were about a commission resolution to create a search committee to decide how to fill the position of county manager. Current Manager Julie Morgas Baca will retire in June.

The callers stated that three members of the commission – Chairman Barbara Baca, Commissioners Adriann Barboa and Eric Olivas – came to the meeting with a plan already outlined. The plan was disclosed in a news release issued by Chairman Baca on April 4, 2024, where the members of the search committee were listed – before the resolution was even considered in the public meeting.

Chairman Baca’s selection process for a new county manager was approved on a 3 to 1 margin at the April 9th meeting. Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada angrily left the meeting during a debate over this issue.

Comments from commissioners were not received by press time.

Arizona's abortion ban is likely to cause a scramble for services in states where it's still legal - By Laura Ungar And Devi Shastri Associated Press

Adrienne Mansanares expects a flurry of calls from patients in Arizona starting this week.

She's the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which has clinics that provide abortions in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Mansanares said the clinics should be able to accommodate people who are seeking the procedure in the wake of an Arizona Supreme Court decision.

"That is still a very long way for patients to go for health care," she added, noting that the clinics already have seen nearly 700 patients from Arizona since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022.

Doctors and clinic leaders said there'll be a scramble across the Southwest and West for abortion care due to Tuesday's decision, which said officials may enforce an 1864 law criminalizing all abortions except when a woman's life is at stake.

"People are going to have to start looking out of state," said Dr. Maria Phillis, an Ohio OB-GYN who also has a law degree. "This is now another place where they can't go safety to access care."

On top of potentially long distances to states like New Mexico, California and Colorado, patients who used to go to Arizona from other states for abortion care will have to go elsewhere, Phillis said.

Plus, Arizona is home to more than 20 federally recognized tribes, and barriers are expected to be higher for Native Americans because of existing hurdles, such as a decades-old ban on most abortions at clinics and hospitals run by the federal Indian Health Service and fewer nearby health centers offering abortions.

Interstate travel for abortions nearly doubled between 2020 and 2023, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Out-of-state patients accounted for 16% of abortions obtained nationally, compared to 9% in 2020, the group said.

Guttmacher data scientist Isaac Maddow-Zimet said that when bans go into effect, more people travel to less restrictive or non-restrictive states, but "not everybody is able to" travel.

Traveling could mean pushing abortions later into pregnancy as people try to get appointments and potentially face mandatory waiting periods. According to results of a periodic survey spearheaded by Middlebury College economics professor Caitlin Myers, waits in several states stretched for two or three weeks at various points since federal abortion protections were overturned; some clinics had no available appointments.

The Brigid Alliance works nationally to help people who need abortions receive financial and logistical support like airfare, child care, lodging and other associated costs. Last year, it helped 26 people travel out of Arizona to get abortions.

Interim executive director Serra Sippel expects the number of calls from Arizona residents to grow.

People that the alliance has helped go out of state — mostly from Georgia, Texas and Florida — have seen backlogs stretching to four to five weeks because of higher demand, Sippel said. Some get bounced between clinics because their pregnancy has passed the point that they can get care there.

"With a pregnancy, every moment counts," said Sippel, who added that delays can have serious repercussions. Phillis noted procedures done later in a pregnancy could take longer and be slightly more complicated.

The Abortion Fund of Arizona, which helps people travel for abortions both in and out of state, said out-of-state clinics have required patients to stay to take the second pill used in medication abortions because of concerns about liability. That means multi-day trips, said Eloisa Lopez, executive director of Pro-Choice Arizona and the abortion fund.

"We're looking at anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per person for travel expenses, with their abortion procedure expense," Lopez said.

Lopez also said she has spoken with the governor's office about state funding for abortion-related travel expenses.

Meanwhile, in Tucson, a CEO of a pregnancy center that opposes abortion said things are likely to stay the same under the new law. Hands of Hope Tucson has been around for 43 years, is about 200 steps from a Planned Parenthood clinic and is pretty busy, CEO Joanie Hammond said.

"We're just coming alongside women and men who are facing an unexpected pregnancy … We've always been about the women and about the babies," she told the AP. "At the pregnancy center, I see the women and I see what happens to them after they go through that abortion experience. We just want to be there to help them in the next step for healing and whatever they need."

For Arizona residents who are closer to California, which expanded its abortion protections after Roe v. Wade was overturned, officials are pointing people toward the Abortion Safe Haven Project. Created by the state and Los Angeles County, the project has guidance and resources for out-of-state patients.

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest put out a statement this week from president and CEO Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, saying it supports out-of-state patients with navigation services to help them tackle logistical barriers to care.


This story was first published on April 10, 2024. It was updated on April 12, 2024, to correct to whom Pro-Choice Arizona spoke about funding. The organization talked to the governor's office, not municipalities, about state funding for abortion-related travel expenses.

NM Speaker touts state’s early childhood programs before congressional committee - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico

The speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives told a joint congressional committee Wednesday that the state’s strategy for early childhood education and services leads the nation and should be replicated.

State Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) spoke before the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Other expert witnesses included national child and education advocates across the political spectrum, including from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute.

Martinez described a “robust” array of services for very young children and their parents as essential investments for the state’s future success.

In 2022, the state tapped its Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide about $127 million annually for early childhood education after voters passed a measure approving the transfer The state in 2020 also created an Early Childhood Trust Fund, which Martinez said is projected to grow to nearly$445 million by mid-2027.

All those investments, Martinez told the committee, will help tackle the enormous challenges facing New Mexico children: 80% of births in the state are to parents on Medicaid, and more than half of children are born into a single parent household.

“When we talk about it taking a village to raise a child in New Mexico, we are having to rebuild that village,” Martinez said. “And that is the work that we’ve undertaken over the last few years.”

Heinrich, in his opening remarks, said the recent actions in New Mexico have increased childcare provider pay and allowed some parents to return to careers they’d put on hold to raise their children.

But the notion of universal pre-Kindergarten and childcare drew criticism from congressional Republicans and the experts they invited, who said the evidence that such programs were effective was out-dated and said they are designed to push more parents into the workforce even if they’d prefer to stay home raising their kids.

“I’m sure a lot of single moms – and a lot of dads, too – would like to spend more time at home with their children during those formative years,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) said. “And our answer to them is you’ve got to go to the workforce because that’s what’s going to raise GDP.”

One exchange in the 90-minute hearing focused on whether Congress, instead of making childcare and pre-K universal, should expand the use of tax-exempt savings accounts to help parents pay for education expenses while one parent cares for the child at home.

So-called 529 savings accounts were expanded viaTrump-era tax reforms to allow parents to use them to pay for K-12 education, not just college. Lindsay Burke, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, called on Congress to go a step further: Allowing parents to also use the accounts for childcare and pre-Kindergarten.

“You tell everybody in your family, ‘Contribute to my 529,’” she said. “You’re then able to build a pretty decent nest egg, by the time you are eligible for preschool, to actually pay for that out of pocket.”

But Heinrich, who said he is generally supportive of those tax-free education savings accounts, said that wouldn’t be enough to allow people in New Mexico, in particular, to afford paying for preschool or college.

“The reality of most New Mexicans, most of my constituents, when their freshmen, college age, children start university, they don’t have a 529 of any substantial means,” he said.

Martinez agreed, citing the low federal minimum wage, saying that families simply can’t afford to stay home with their kids.

“How can you afford to stay at home with your newborn?” he said. “This is not about forcing people into the workforce for the purposes of increasing GDP. This is about families and being able to raise and nurture our children.”

The full hearing is here.

City hunts for Westside shelter operator - By Damon Scott,City Desk ABQ

The city is searching for someone to take on a complex assignment: staff and operate the Westside Emergency Housing Center (WEHC) for hundreds of people experiencing homelessness.

The facility is located about 20 miles west of Downtown near the Double Eagle II Airport. Its remote location is typically accessed through shuttle services departing from pickup points near Downtown and the International District.

The taxpayer-funded WEHC is critical to addressing the needs of hundreds of men, women and couples over age 18 that it serves. While clients arrive in differing stages of distress, all need a safe place to sleep. Officials say the majority of those who stay would otherwise be on the street. WEHC’s population includes older adults, the medically vulnerable, people living with mental illness or substance use disorders, and those who are chronically homeless or newly homeless. There is no limit to how long people can stay.

However imperfect WEHC’s location or appearance may be, the need for it has increased over time. WEHC was originally intended to be a temporary, emergency shelter and operated as such. Today it is a year round, 24/7 operation.


Homelessness services provider Albuquerque Heading Home has operated WEHC since 2021. Its current $4.1 million contract expires June 30. According to its contract, about $3.1 million is designated to pay the wages of administrators, program directors, facility managers, dorm monitors, case managers, shuttle drivers, custodians and security guards. The remaining amount of about $1 million funds a variety of operation costs.

The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) in March for an agency to take over operations when Heading Home’s contract expires June 30.

The RFP — which once again offers up to $4.1 million in funding — expires April 12 at 6 p.m. It’s not clear whether Heading Home, which maintains other homeless services contracts with the city, will resubmit a bid. Calls to executives were not immediately returned this week.

To submit a proposal visit the city’s procurement portal here.

Meanwhile, the city’s Health, Housing & Homelessness (HHH) department, which oversees the contract, said Wednesday that it has been in touch with “multiple agencies” and looks forward to reviewing the submissions.

It will be a short turnaround time for the debut of a new operator; one tasked with providing for an estimated 2,200 unique clients a year — an average of 400 people per night.

The shelter is able to sleep roughly 640 people in all. The WEHC operator must coordinate medical and supportive services, meals, laundry services, security, sanitation and cleaning and the “orderly use” of common areas. The operator is also charged with providing bus monitors on arriving and departing transport vehicles.


Both the city and Heading Home describe WEHC on their respective websites as a place that offers “a safe and welcoming environment,” although the characterization is arguable. Although the facility has seen a share of recent city-funded improvements (upgrades to dorms, bathrooms, floors and lighting) its history as a former Bernalillo County jail can still be felt. WEHC’s high perimeter fences once featured coils of razor wire and some still have barbed wire, even though no one is forced to stay. The interior has also been described as having the look of a detention center.

“The real question about the WEHC is simply stated: If you don’t have it, where are the hundreds of people using it to go?” Daymon Ely, an adviser to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on homelessness, told City Desk ABQ.

Ely said there needs to be short and long term solutions in place for WEHC, a cornerstone of a policy proposal he recently submitted to the city.

“In the short term, improve the WEHC so that it is not just habitable, but a place that will attract the homeless to stay,” he said. “And as we move forward, have real alternatives and housing to eliminate or minimize the need for [it].”

Ely added that his preference would be that a government entity — like the city or Bernalillo County — consider operating the facility.

“With a shelter, a private provider adds a layer of expense that does not make sense,” he said. “No one should be operating a shelter with a view towards being in the ‘black’ [whether a for-profit or nonprofit entity].”

Ely said if WEHC were city or county-run, it would provide more “immediate transparency and accountability.”

“These shelters are difficult to run and maintain. Having direct public oversight is one way of keeping pressure on the facility manager,” he said. “And there is a very limited pool of people both willing and capable to run a shelter the size of WEHC. With less competition, the risk is greater that the private operator will not work out.”

Nonprofit plans up to 30 homes on donated land in Santa FeSanta Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity announced this week it plans to build 25 to 30 affordable homes west of Downtown.

The Santa Fe New Mexicanreports Habitat has struggled to find building sites in the city. A couple donated the six-acre parcel in late 2022, but its hilly terrain mean development costs will be higher.

The project got a boost through a $1 million earmark from U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in the federal transportation and spending bill, signed in March.

Habitat serves people who live or work in Santa Fe and earn below 80% of the area median income. That’s $47,800 for one person in the capital city and $54,600 for two people.

The nonprofit has begun making development plans, but is at least a year out from starting construction. Executive Director Kurt Krahn says it will also need more funding.

The project will preserve access to the Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park.