KUNM

Headlines: Report Calls For Curbing Medicaid Costs, PRC Gives PNM More Time On Power Plant

Jun 25, 2015

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Report: New Mexico Needs To Curb Medicaid CostsAssociated Press

Legislative analysts are warning that the price tag for providing health care to low-income New Mexicans will top more than $1 billion in state general funds by 2020 and steps need to be taken to curb costs.

Analysts with the Legislative Finance Committee released their findings Wednesday during a meeting in Albuquerque.

After a lengthy review of costs related to the state's Centennial Care Medicaid program, it's unclear whether participants are receiving more or less care.

More than 216,000 people have been added to the Medicaid rolls in recent years, bringing the total to nearly 800,000. That's more than double the number a decade ago.

Costs also have doubled, and the report says they're expected to grow by another $273 million in general funds in less than five years.

New Mexico Regulators Give Utility More Time To Ink DealsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is giving the state's largest electric utility more time to finalize agreements related to the future of the San Juan Generating Station.

As part of an agreement with the state and federal government, Public Service Co. of New Mexico plans to shut down part of the coal-fired power plant to curb haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region.

The plan also calls for PNM to install pollution controls on the remaining two units and to fill the resulting void with a combination of coal, nuclear, natural gas and solar power.

The commission on Wednesday gave PNM until Aug. 1 to file agreements that the panel will consider before making a final decision.

The agreements relate to the plant's ownership and its coal supply.

New Mexico Coal Plant Owners Settle Clean Air Act ViolationsAssociated Press

The owners of a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation have reached a settlement over complaints that they flouted rules for permits and didn't have the best pollution controls.

The settlement filed Wednesday in federal court includes no admission of guilt. The operator of the Four Corners Power Plant, Arizona Public Service Co., says the upgrades were part of routine maintenance and didn't require permits.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disagreed.

The settlement includes $6.7 million that will benefit Navajos living near the northwestern New Mexico power plant and a $1.5 million civil penalty.

Federal officials estimate it will cost the plant's owners $160 million for pollution controls beyond what the EPA already mandated in a regional haze rule.

A judge still must sign off on the settlement after a public comment period.

New Mexico AG Calls For Overhaul Of State's Energy System Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says the state's current electricity system is dysfunctional.

He took aim at utilities during a news conference Wednesday in Albuquerque, suggesting that the system is focused on representing the interests of wealthy corporations and special interests.

He says many families can't afford to pay their bills and the system needs to be revamped to include affordable clean energy.

Balderas called on the state Public Regulation Commission to investigate the value of solar and wind generation. He also directed his own office to lead in the creation of a statewide strategic energy security plan.

The attorney general also criticized a proposal for dealing with the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. He wants the parties to return to the table.

Independent Monitor Begins Albuquerque Police Reform Forums Associated Press

A court-appointed independent monitor overseeing Albuquerque police reforms is beginning to have community meetings around the city.

James Ginger met with Latino activists on Wednesday and is scheduled to address a community forum in Albuquerque on Thursday.

Ginger says he plans to meet with community members to inform them how his team will operate and to hear from all parties who have a stake in Albuquerque police reforms.

In January, federal officials and the city selected Ginger to lead a team to monitor a settlement agreement to overhaul the Albuquerque Police Department.

Ginger and his team will be responsible for independently assessing progress on the agreement and will report on changes to a federal judge.

The police department, serving a city of 560,000 people, has faced scrutiny for more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

Spaceport America Celebrates Opening Of Visitor Center Associated Press

Spaceport America's visitor center in Truth or Consequences is now open.

The executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and local officials gathered Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. An open house is planned for Thursday.

The center is located in the city's historic district, about 35 miles from the spaceport.

The center includes interactive exhibits, and there's a spot where visitors can reserve or purchase tickets for spaceport tours.

As a gateway to the spaceport, Truth or Consequences Mayor Sandra Whitehead said the visitor center is expected to be an economic boon for the community.

While it's unclear when anchor tenant Virgin Galactic will begin commercial space flights from Spaceport America, officials have said test flights of the company's rocket ship are expected to resume later this year.

New Mexico Balloon Fiesta Gets Boost From CanonAssociated Press

Camera maker Canon will be sponsoring the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Canon will be backing the annual event that draws tens of thousands of spectators.

Fiesta organizers made the announcement at a news conference.

Canon USA executive Doris Higginbotham says she was won over after attending her first fiesta last year.

The company has signed a three-year sponsorship agreement.

Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity says the nine-day fiesta hasn't had a huge sponsor since 2001, when Kodak withdrew.

Canon was the main sponsor from 1980 through 1994.

Canon's involvement will include new events such as a photo contest and interactive displays on how to use their products.

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