Interior Secretary Slams Green New Deal In NM, Court Battle Looms Over Land Leased To Epstein

Oct 8, 2019

Interior Secretary Lambasts Green New DealAssociated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is citing a moratorium on new oil permits in New Mexico near a national park held sacred by Native Americans as an example of balanced federal regulation, while warning against Green New Deal policies.

Bernhardt on Tuesday spoke at an annual conference of oil and natural gas industry leaders amid surging petroleum production in the Permian Basin that overlaps portions of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

The Colorado native touted progress in speeding up processing times for drilling permit applications by the Bureau of Land Management, as well as an ongoing one-year moratorium on new federal drilling leases within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Permits near Chaco in northeastern New Mexico have been deferred while regulators prepare a new management plan for the region's resources.

Bernhardt told local oil-industry leaders that Green New Deal policies threaten their livelihoods and economic progress.

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent To Retire – By Megan Kamerick

The superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools announced she will retire on June 30, 2020.

The APS Board of Education announced in a press release Tuesday that Raquel Reedy will retire at the end of her current contract. Reedy took over as superintendent in April 2016 after a seven-month interim appointment. She is only the second Hispanic woman to lead APS in its history, according to the release.

Reedy said she has been with APS for over 40 years and her timing will allow the district adequate time to find a replacement.

The APS Board said it will begin a search soon.

Execution Of Navajo Man Convicted In 2 Killings On HoldAssociated Press

A federal appeals court has stayed the execution of a Navajo man convicted of the murder of a 63-year-old fellow tribal member and her 9-year-old granddaughter.

Lezmond Mitchell is the only Native American on federal death row.

His execution was scheduled for Dec. 11. But the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals put it on hold in a split decision Friday.

Mitchell's attorneys had asked for the stay to investigate potential racial bias by the jury that heard his case. A hearing is scheduled Dec. 13 in Phoenix.

The Justice Department announced earlier this year that it would resume executing death row prisoners after almost two decades.

Mitchell was convicted in the 2001 killings of Alyce Slim and her granddaughter during a carjacking on the Navajo Nation.

GOP US House Hopeful In Key New Mexico Race Sees Money Surge - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A Republican candidate for a critical U.S. House race in New Mexico is reporting a fundraising surge just days into her candidacy.

Claire Chase is preparing to report Tuesday that her campaign raised $510,790 in 35 days. That amount is more than former state lawmaker and fellow GOP opponent Yvette Herrell raised during the entire 2018 Republican primary.

The fundraising jolt comes after Chase, an oil executive, announced in late August she would seek the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small for the state's southern congressional seat.

Torres Small defeated Herrell in 2018 by fewer than 3,000 votes to flip a traditionally Republican-leaning district that sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Records show Torres Small has raised more than $1 million since January.

Udall Says Dems Will Need To 'Blow It' To Lose New Mexico In '20 - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico says Democrats would have to "really blow it" to lose the nation's most Hispanic state to President Donald Trump in 2020.

Udall told The Associated Press last week Democrats still have a strong advantage over Republicans in New Mexico next year. But he says the GOP is expected to work hard to capture the state and Democrats should be ready for a fight.

Last month, Trump visited Rio Rancho and vowed to win the state in the presidential election. Republicans haven't won the southwestern state since 2004.

Udall says the Democratic nominee will need a robust ground game and get-out-the-vote operation in New Mexico to counter the Republicans' expected spending in the state.

New Mexico Governor Praises Oil Industry For OpportunitiesAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is highlighting the oil industry's role in underwriting public education and soliciting its help in developing new state regulations for methane emissions.

The first-year Democratic governor told an audience at the annual meeting of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association that her Cabinet secretaries for environmental and oilfield regulation are there to work for people in the energy sector.

Lujan Grisham outlined an all-of-the-above energy strategy and said her proposal for tuition-free public college is made possible by a booming oil sector.

New Mexico state government is increasingly reliant on surging income from the oil and natural gas sectors amid record-setting petroleum production in the Permian Basin that overlaps the southeast of the state and West Texas.

New Mexico Adds Plug-In Vehicles To Core Government Fleet - Associated Press

A major oil producing state is poised to add plug-in electric cars to its core fleet of government vehicles for the first time.

New Mexico's General Service Department announced Monday a price agreement with auto dealers as it prepares to spend at least $1 million on plug-in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by mid-2020.

The agency oversees a fleet of about 2,000 government vehicles for a long list of executive agencies.

Lawmakers set aside an additional $1.5 million for car-charging infrastructure.

Electric vehicles can reduce climate pollution from transportation, especially as utilities seek cleaner ways to generate electricity.

Local governments can take advantage of state's price agreement. General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz described plug-in vehicles as an important tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Court Battle Looms Over Land Leased To Jeffrey Epstein - Associated Press

A court battle is brewing over public grazing leases that New Mexico officials believe were used to help shield a remote desert ranch owned by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of abusing young women there before he died behind bars.

State Land Office General Counsel Ari Biernoff said Monday that the state will defend in court its right to terminate two leases to a company previously controlled by Epstein.

Cypress Inc. attorneys say the company subleased the state parcels to a local ranching family for years and complied with lease terms.

Cypress is asking a state district court in Santa Fe to intervene and preserve the leases.

A portion of Epstein's Zorro Ranch in central New Mexico extends across state trust land, under the grazing contracts with Cypress.

US Official: Research Finds Uranium In Navajo Women, Babies - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

Officials say federal research shows that about a quarter of Navajo women who participated in a study of uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, the chief medical officer for Indian Health Service facilities that serve the Navajo Nation, cited the research at a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque.

The Monday hearing centered on the atomic age's legacy on Native American communities. Cleanup of abandoned uranium mines continues decades after they closed.

Christensen says the research also shows some babies born in recent years had high concentrations of uranium. She says research is ongoing.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, says Native Americans were disproportionately affected by uranium mining and nuclear testing for Cold War weaponry.

Hot Air Balloons Land Hard, Cause Injuries In New Mexico - Associated Press

A hot air balloon's gondola basket caught fire, utility equipment was damaged and several people needed medical treatment Monday after hard landings at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Two women — the pilot and a passenger — were each thrown from one balloon as it impacted, bounded along the ground and caught fire, on the outskirts of Rio Rancho northwest of Albuquerque, said Jimmy DeFillippo, deputy chief for Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue.

He said the pilot and passenger apparently only had minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.

The balloon in that incident also struck a power line during its descent, causing a limited electricity outage and some equipment damage, according to Public Service Co. of New Mexico spokeswoman Shannon Jackson.

Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity confirmed that the landing resulted in a fire and that a public investigation was under way.

At the balloon fiesta launch site in Albuquerque, a balloon passenger with a pre-existing medical condition received treatment after a hard landing on the field.

In Albuquerque's North Valley, another balloon landed with its fabric draped over a utility line without injuries or damage, Garrity said.

Renewable Energy Firm Doubles Down On Western Wind Projects - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A California-based renewable energy developer plans to increase by seven-fold its investments as it prepares to build more wind farms in New Mexico over the next several years.

An analysis commissioned by Pattern Development shows a $1.2 billion economic impact from its wind farms in eastern New Mexico and West Texas. Company officials say this is hundreds of millions of dollars more than what was initially projected in 2015.

Broadview Wind Energy consists of 141 turbines that span the New Mexico-Texas border. The facility has been producing electricity for customers of Southern California Edison since 2017.

The nearby Grady Wind project recently came online, and company officials say work to erect turbines capable of generating another 800 to 900 megawatts is scheduled to start in 2020.

Age, Health Spur New Mexico Lawmaker To Pass On Re-ElectionSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico Rep. Jim Trujillo will not be seeking re-election next year.

The Santa Fe Democrat told the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday that it's time for him to cede to a younger candidate.

Trujillo said he will be 81 years old by next year's primary election.

Health issues also contributed to his decision. He suffered a stroke in 2017.

Trujillo first became a lawmaker when he was appointed to the seat in 2003 after Rep. Patsy Trujillo, who is no relation, went to work for Gov. Bill Richardson.

He was elected to the position in 2004. Since then, Trujillo has easily won every election with no opposition.

El Paso Judge On Leave After DWI Arrest In Santa FeKRQE-TV, Associated Press

An El Paso judge has been arrested for driving while intoxicated in Santa Fe.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reported Sunday that El Paso Magistrate Judge Ray Gutierrez was detained last month at the Santa Fe Opera after his car hit another vehicle.

According to a criminal complaint, Gutierrez failed a sobriety test with Santa Fe County sheriff's deputies.

His blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.

Gutierrez admitted to deputies that he had had five wine samples at the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta.

Deputies also arrested him for carrying a gun inside a licensed liquor establishment.

He has since been released from the Santa Fe County Detention Center.

A spokesperson with the Council of Judges in El Paso says he is on leave pending an investigation.