Governor Signs Historic Clean Energy Bill, Tribes Push To Protect Sacred Site From Drilling

Mar 22, 2019

New Mexico Governor Signs Landmark Clean Energy BillAssociated Press

Making good on a campaign promise, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed landmark legislation that will mandate more solar panels and wind turbines as the state sets ambitious new renewable energy goals.

The Democratic governor, environmentalists and others gathered at the state capitol Friday for a signing ceremony.

The measure requires that investor-owned utilities generate at least 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That jumps to 80 percent by 2040.

A 100 percent carbon-free mandate would kick in five years later. Electric co-ops that provide power to more rural areas would have until 2050 to meet that goal.

Aside from the renewable energy quotas, funds will be established to help ease the economic pains of closing the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.

Navajo Nation Company Ends Bid To Buy Power Plant, Mine - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A Navajo Nation company has ended its bid to buy a coal-fired power plant on the reservation and the mine that feeds it.

The decision Friday means the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine will close this year, ending decades of operation in northeastern Arizona.

The bid by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company had been considered a long-shot since tribal leaders asked the company last year to consider the acquisition. Coal is falling out of favor across the country.

The company's negotiations with the power plant owners recently came to a halt over who ultimately would be responsible for cleanup.

Environmentalists have urged the Navajo Nation to ditch coal for renewable energy.

The power plant initially was built to move Colorado River water to Arizona's major metropolitan areas.

Coyote Carcasses Found As New Mexico Governor Weighs BanSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Some animal activists and state officials are pushing for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign a bill outlawing coyote-killing contests.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Los Lunas resident Elisabeth Dicharry was informed of discarded coyote carcasses by a friend who came across them on Wednesday.

Dicharry says duct tape tags dated Jan. 12 were found on some of the animals' snouts, indicating they might have been targeted in a coyote-killing contest.

Dicharry says she found a third pile of coyote remains Thursday in the same area of eastern Valencia County.

The discovery of the carcasses comes as Lujan Grisham contemplates whether to sign Senate Bill 76, a bipartisan measure that would prohibit coyote-killing contests on both public and private lands in New Mexico.

New Mexico Military Bases May Lose Projects To Border WallAssociated Press

The U.S. Department of Defense issued a list of military construction project funds that may be diverted, under President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration, for construction of a border wall.

The list, released Monday, includes $187.5 million in funds for projects at military installations in New Mexico at White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Kirtland Air Force Base and Cannon Air Force Base.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Deb Haaland, both New Mexico Democrats, condemned the possible diversion of funds.

The defense department says if its budget requests for the 2020 fiscal year are enacted on time, "no military construction project used to source (border barrier) projects would be delayed or cancelled."

The release also says that project funds appearing on the list would not necessarily be used for the wall.

Former High School Teacher Convicted Of Raping StudentAssociated Press

A former teacher at a northern New Mexico high school has been convicted of raping a student.

The 1st Judicial District Attorney's Office announced that jurors late Thursday convicted Miguel G. Garcia of two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact of a minor and five counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual penetration of a minor.

District Attorney Marco Serna says Garcia sexually assaulted the student between 2012 and 2013 when he taught at Mesa Vista High School in Ojo Caliente.

Garcia faces up to 13.5 years in prison on each count. A sentencing hearing was set for May 6.

Judge Hears Fight Over Trump Asylum PolicyAssociated Press

A U.S. judge says civil rights groups seeking to block the Trump administration's policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico had cleared basic requirements to bring their case.

But Judge Richard Seeborg appeared skeptical at a hearing on Friday of one of their key arguments in favor of an order stopping the policy while a lawsuit challenging it moves forward.

The lawsuit says the policy violates U.S. law by failing to adequately evaluate the dangers that migrants face in Mexico.

The administration says the policy is in response to a crisis at the southern border that has overwhelmed the ability of immigration officials to detain migrants.

Seeborg said the plaintiffs had authority to bring the case, and the court could hear it. But he questioned the argument that the policy violated a U.S. law that allows the return of immigrants to Mexico.

Elections Regulator Nixes Referendum On Gun Control Law - Associated Press

A Republican-led attempt to hold a statewide referendum by signature petition on a newly signed gun control law has been turned away by the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Thursday said the proposed petition did not satisfy legal requirements.

In a letter to Republican House minority leader James Townsend of Artesia, she says the new state law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales is a matter of public safety and cannot be overturned by referendum under state law.

The law to expand background checks against a federal database of prohibited buyers has generated a backlash from county sheriffs and others who say it will be difficult to enforce and do little to address gun violence.

5 Compound Suspects Plead Not Guilty To Terror Charges - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

Five people arrested at a ramshackle New Mexico compound where one of the suspect's sons was found dead pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal terrorism-related charges and other counts that their attorneys say the group would not be facing if they weren't Muslims.

The two men and three women have been charged with conspiring to support planned attacks on U.S. law enforcement officers, military members and government employees while living on the outskirts of Amalia, just south of the Colorado border.

They have been in federal custody since last August on firearms charges that accuse them of conspiring to provide weapons and ammunition to Jany Leveille, one of the five and a leader of the group who is from Haiti and had been living in the country illegally.

The group had travelled in late 2017 from Georgia to New Mexico, where they built their compound in an area dotted with some of the region's signature "earthship" self-built homes.

"This case is about freedom of religion, freedom of association and the right to bear arms," said Billy Blackburn, an attorney for Subhanah Wahhaj. He and other defense attorneys said their clients are innocent of the charges. 

New Mexico Raises Concerns Over Proposed Federal Water Rule - Associated Press

The New Mexico Environment Department wants to withdraw from a federal lawsuit challenging Obama-era protections for waterways and wetlands across the country.

The department filed a motion Thursday, saying the positions taken in the lawsuit are inconsistent with its stance on proposed revisions to the water rules that were issued last month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The department says the proposed definition for waterways that would be protected under the rule would exclude most of New Mexico's waters.

Environment Secretary James Kenney says all water in New Mexico — from the Rio Grande to groundwater and seasonal streams — must be afforded legal protections.

Combined with the effects of climate change, the state argues that New Mexico's waters may become more intermittent and therefore even less protected under the proposed rule.

Tribes Push To Protect Sacred New Mexico Site From Drilling - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Native American leaders are banding together to pressure U.S. officials to ban oil and gas exploration around a sacred tribal site that features massive stone structures and other remnants of an ancient civilization.

Creating a formal buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park has been a long-running issue.

But tribes face the Trump administration's pro-drilling stance as they push for further protections surrounding the world heritage site.

Tribes met Thursday at Acoma Pueblo, a Native American community in New Mexico.

Federal officials are revamping the management plan for the area around Chaco. They repeatedly have denied drilling leases within 10 miles of the park.

Tribes, environmentalists and archaeologists have raised concerns about the potential effects on culturally significant sites like ceremonial structures called kivas outside the park's boundaries.

Last Grants Coming For Endangered Route 66 Program - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

The final grant season for an endangered federal program that's helped preserve the historic Route 66 Highway for two decades is ending next month.

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is accepting grant applications until April 12 and it's not clear if Congress will continue the project.

At risk are millions of dollars in grants aimed at reviving old tourist spots in struggling towns.

The program has helped finance projects like the El Vado Motel neon sign restoration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Station restoration in Kansas. It's administered by the National Park Service.

Decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985, Route 66 went through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners and motor lodges in small towns.

Ex-police Chief Turns Over Audio File In Whistleblower Case - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A former Gallup police chief has turned over secretly recorded audio files in connection with his complaint against the western New Mexico city.

The Gallup Independent reports Phillip Hart gave a state court his cell phone with 43 audio files containing secretly recorded conversations he had with the city manager.

Hart was fired in August as he and the city of Gallup were embroiled in year-long legal disputes.

Hart disputed the city's policy of allowing community service aides to pick up and commit intoxicated residents to the detoxification center.

He also said that the city violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by placing him on administrative leave and prohibiting him from fulfilling his duties after he sought clarification on the city's detox policy.

Missed FTs, Late Pass Cost NMex St In 78-77 Loss To Auburn - By Eddie Pells AP National Writer

After a teammate passed up an open layup that could have tied the game, New Mexico State's Terrell Brown was fouled behind the arc and missed two of three free throws as the Aggies dropped a 78-77 heartbreaker Thursday to fifth-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies were trailing 78-76 in the opening round of the Midwest Region when guard A.J. Harris had his defender beat and looked to be headed to the glass for the tying bucket. He instead lobbed out to Brown, who was spotted up at the elbow for a possible game-winner.

Brown missed but was fouled with 1.1 seconds left.

With Auburn's J'von McCormick grabbing his throat as Harris toed the line, Brown missed the first, made the second, then watched the third one rim out.

Auburn (27-9) knocked the ball out of bounds on the rebound and New Mexico State had one more good look, but Trevelin Queen's 3 at the buzzer was an air ball.