Haaland Joins Opposition Against Nuclear Storage Plan, State Scales Back Call Center Incentives

Jun 21, 2019

Political Opposition Grows To Nuclear Waste Storage PlanAssociated Press

Another member of New Mexico's congressional delegation is weighing in on plans to build a multimillion-dollar facility in the state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland on Friday joined the growing list of politicians in opposition, sending a letter to the U.S. Energy Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that detailed her concerns.

New Jersey-based Holtec International is seeking a 40-year license from federal regulators to build the complex near Carlsbad.

Holtec says the project is needed since the federal government has yet to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of high-level waste building up at nuclear power plants.

The topic will be up for discussion when the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meets next week.

US Lawmakers Challenge Rollback Of Obama-Era Methane RuleDurango Herald, Associated Press

More than 50 U.S. lawmakers are supporting a legal challenge against the Trump administration's effort to roll back a rule that forced oil and gas companies to capture methane.

The Durango Herald reported Thursday that lawmakers signed on to an amicus brief that claims the U.S. Interior Department violated federal law by lifting the Obama-era waste prevention rule.

Attorneys general for California and New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit last year looking to reinstate the 2016 rule.

The Bureau of Land Management said in a statement the rule was revised to cut back the regulatory burden.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, who was among the four Colorado Democrats to sign on to the brief, says the release of methane is one of the leading contributors to global warming.

Thick Smoke Blankets West, Central New MexicoAssociated Press

Air quality has deteriorated as smoke from a wildfire east of Phoenix drifts across eastern Arizona and the state of New Mexico.

The National Weather Service office in Albuquerque said to expect widespread reductions in visibility across large portions of western and central New Mexico.

Satellite-style maps of the plume show thick smoke wafting across communities including Gallup, Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

About 250 homes have been evacuated as crews battled a human-triggered fire in the Tonto National Forest near Roosevelt Lake.

Thief Steals Crown Of Ms. Wheelchair New MexicoAssociated Press

A crown belonging to Ms. Wheelchair New Mexico was stolen just days before a national competition.

KOB-TV reports that Irene Delgado says someone broke into her car in Santa Fe and took the crown.

Delgado is set to compete in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the week of July 1.

The contest seeks to educate and advocate for people with disabilities.

Delgado says she left the crown in her car overnight because she needed to wear it at an out-of-town event the next day.

No arrests have been made.

M&J Bridal Boutique in Santa Fe announced it was donating a new crown for Delgado.

Legal Settlements By State To Be Published Regularly Online - Associated Press

A New Mexico agency plans to begin regularly publishing legal and financial settlements of claims against the state for civil rights violations, medical malpractice, whistleblower retaliation and more.

General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz said Thursday that he expects to start posting settlement information online in August. The move aims to reduce state spending and improve access to public records.

The handling of financial settlements by the state's Risk Management Division has come under scrutiny amid accusations that cases were quickly settled to avoid release of personal information about former Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez has denied involvement.

Under state law, terms of settlements by Risk Management cannot be made public for 180 days after settlement agreements are finalized.

New Mexico Scales Back Incentives To Call Centers - Associated Press

New Mexico is scaling back economic development incentives for call centers.

Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes on Thursday told a panel of lawmakers that jobs at call centers don't generate high enough wages in general to warrant major grants under the state's Local Economic Development Act.

At most the state will offer $1,000 per new job to offset infrastructure investments at urban offices that handle telephone calls for business customers. Recent state grants in urban areas provide about $6,000 per job created.

Keyes said that the state intends to focus business incentives instead on sectors such as aerospace, film, cybersecurity, biosciences and clean energy that offer jobs requiring greater skill and higher pay.

New Mexico Regulators Punt On Gila River Plan - Associated Press

New Mexico's senior U.S. senator says plans for diverting water from the Gila River are fatally flawed and residents are rightly concerned about the cost of the proposed project.

Democrat Tom Udall made his comments Thursday after a panel of state regulators delayed action on a work plan that details environmental reviews, legal services and other activities needed as part of the project.

It could be September before the Interstate Stream Commission considers the plan again. Commissioners indicated they want to review a draft environmental impact statement prepared for the project.

Officials are facing a deadline this year to have the reviews completed.

It would then be up to the U.S. Interior Department to grant approval.

Environmentalists have been fighting the proposal for years, suggesting that millions of dollars would be spent for little return.

New Mexico Issues Tax Rebates To Film Industry - Associated Press

New Mexico is paying out nearly $100 million in tax rebates to producers of film and television shows that were shot in the state in recent years.

The Taxation and Revenue Department announced Thursday that payments of $98.5 million to 98 shows this week.

Legislation signed this year by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham removes a $50 million annual cap on film production tax credit payments and provides money to clear a backlog of applications.

She campaigned for office last year on promises to raise the cap in an effort to attract more film business and jobs to the state.

The tax department says individual rebate payments this week range from $1,300 to $15 million. The agency declined to name productions that are receiving payment.

City To Install Software To Boost Transparency - Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque is planning to install new software to streamline the process of posting meeting agendas and minutes for the city's many boards and commissions to increase public accessibility.

The city made the announcement Thursday after some open government advocates raised transparency concerns.

City spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn says Mayor Tim Keller has appointed more than 200 board and commission members since taking office.

She says the city also revamped staffing and implemented trainings on the Open Meetings Act, public record statutes and ethics requirements.

While some boards and commissions have advisory roles and don't technically fall under the Open Meetings Act, she says the mayor's office wants to ensure they're meeting high standards of public transparency.

The new software is expected to be ready within the next month.

Pro-Los Alamos Group Loses Federal Grant Amid Spending Probe - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

An agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory has lost $100,000 in federal funds amid a federal investigation into its spending.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has seen half of its budget evaporate as the U.S. Department of Energy continues to investigate the handling of a five-year grant to the beleaguered organization.

The coalition became embroiled in controversy last year amid revelations of improper travel reimbursements, including for expensive alcohol and Major League Baseball tickets. It also was the subject of a stinging state audit.

Eric Vasquez, the coalition's executive director, says the group has adopted control measures the state auditor recommended and is now ready to resume working with the Department of Energy.