Lawsuit Claims Oil Boom Threatens Carlsbad Caverns, UNM Considering Iron Fence Around Main Campus

Jun 3, 2019

Lawsuit Claims Oil Boom Imperils National Park In New MexicoAssociated Press

Environmentalists say U.S. land managers violated environmental laws and their own regulations when issuing dozens of leases to drill in one of the nation's busiest oilfields.

WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court, claiming the oil boom in southeastern New Mexico is a threat to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the surrounding area's cave systems and desert slopes.

The group also is concerned about deteriorating air quality, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management failed to consider the cumulative effects of oil and gas development in the Permian Basin.

The agency is updating the area's development plan, but environmentalists contend more than 200 leases awarded in 2017 and 2018 compromise that effort.

The leases cover more than 106 square miles in New Mexico.

George R.R. Martin Joins Meow Wolf As 'Chief World Builder'Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

George R.R. Martin, author of the novels that fueled "Game of Thrones," is teaming up with Meow Wolf, a New Mexico-based art collective.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Martin's storytelling skills will be tapped to tie together the Meow Wolf multi-verse.

Inside the collective's permanent installation in Santa Fe, visitors explore a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amid surreal and mesmerizing art exhibits.

Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek tells the Albuquerque Journal that he always wanted to collaborate more with Martin.

New projects are planned in Las Vegas; Washington D.C.; Phoenix and Denver — each with a different, immersive storytelling experience.

With Meow Wolf building its universe rapidly, Kadlubek says there's more in store, including a TV

New Mexico Courts Push Online Tool For Resolving DebtAssociated Press

New Mexico's judicial system has begun rolling out an online tool aimed at making the process of settling credit card, medical or other debt more convenient.

The dispute resolution pilot was launched Monday in courts located across southern New Mexico — including in Silver City, Deming, Lordsburg, Baynard, Clovis and Portales.

It is being promoted by court officials as creating a process for people sued over unpaid debts to resolve their cases without having to go to court. Instead, the cases would be handled through a multi-step process online.

It will be available in Bernalillo County's district court next Monday and its Metropolitan Court the following week.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura says the online program is being funded with $450,000 allocated by the Legislature.

New Mexico Jazz Teacher Fired For Making Fake AwardsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico School for the Arts teacher has been fired for falsifying awards for a student.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the school confirmed Monday that jazz instructor Orlando Madrid was fired effective immediately.

School spokesman Sean Johnson said he could not speak further because it is a personnel matter.

The Albuquerque Journal reported last month that Madrid made up first-place certificates for a student who performed at the New York City Jazz Festival in April.

Despite the festival being non-competitive, Madrid told the newspaper he made the certificates based on judges' input. He though the awards would help with fundraising.

Johnson says Madrid taught jazz for the past year.

Madrid did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Officials Wants Key Southeastern New Mexico Airport ExpandedHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Officials for a southeastern airport in the heart of New Mexico's booming oil region want it expanded even more.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Assistant Lea County Manager Corey Needham wants county officials to double the passenger holding area at the Lea County Regional Airport. The $1.6 million project would come as the airport already is undergoing an expansion of its terminal.

But Needham says construction begun in January to expand the passenger holding area, but many more seats will be needed in the near future.

Without the expansion, Needham says the airport's future busy flight schedule could be hurt.

The Lea County Regional Airport is located in Hobbs — a key city in the booming Permian Basin.

UNM Considering Plan To Put An Iron Fence Around Main Campus - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

University of New Mexico officials reportedly are considering a plan to put a 10-foot-tall, wrought iron fence around the school's main campus for security purposes.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the proposal is contained in a 45-page "Main Campus Perimeter Security Access Study" commissioned by the university.

UNM officials aren't saying how seriously the proposal is being considered.

A spokesman for the university tells the Journal that the estimated cost of the project is about $1.6 million.

The study was done after the university issued a request for proposals for a security master plan that would detail current security threats, suggest possible solutions and estimate the cost for each proposal.

The proposed fence would cover 13,000 feet around the main campus with more than 25 entrance or exit points.

New Mexico Land Office Pursues New Survey Policy - Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

New Mexico Land Office officials acknowledge only a small percentage of the millions of acres of trust land managed by the agency has been surveyed for cultural resources.

The office is working on a policy to change that.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the new policy could require companies to do archaeological surveys before developing a lease.

State Land Office Archaeologist David Eck says lessees currently are required to review records to determine what's already known to exist in the areas the project will impact.

If the lessee — such as an oil or gas company —  damages a cultural resource, the lessee could be fined.

In the 20 years he's worked for the office, Eck says there have been fewer than 10 lessees fined for damages to cultural sites.

US, Local Agencies Investigating Church Fire In Farmington - Associated Press

Federal and local authorities are investigating a church fire in Farmington.

The Farmington Fire Department said in a statement that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church sustained substantial smoke and fire damage during the fire early Saturday morning but that nobody was injured.

The Fire Department said cause wasn't immediately determined.

It said a San Juan County task force's investigation includes the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because the fire involves a church.

Albuquerque, Company Settle Lawsuit Over Electric Buses  - Albuquerque Journal, KOB-TV, Associated Press

Albuquerque and a company that was to provide electric buses for a transit project have settled the city's lawsuit claiming that vehicles were faulty.

A May 24 notice in federal court said Albuquerque and a California unit of BYD, short for Build Your Dreams, "have settled all claims" and agreed to dismiss the lawsuit filed last December.

The company disputed Albuquerque's claims that buses delivered by BYD had brake failures and batteries that didn't work properly.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the settlement doesn't require BYD to pay the city and prevents BYD from countersuing. Jessie Damazyn, a spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller, told KOB-TV that the settlement allows both sides to move forward without any additional cost.

The City of Albuquerque has ordered low-emission diesel buses from a different company.

Video: Deputy Used Stun Gun On Student With Special Needs - Rio Grande Sun, Associated Press

Correction: This story corrects a previous version to say that it was the student who used the slur, not the deputy.

A northern New Mexico sheriff's deputy is facing criticism after a video showed him using a stun gun on a high school student with special needs.

The May 10 episode at Española Valley High School has attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and state Attorney General Hector Balderas.

According to a lapel video, Rio Arriba County sheriff's deputy Jeremy Barnes used a stun gun on a 15-year-old student after he refused to follow orders and called the deputy a homophobic slur. The story on the video was first reported by the Rio Grande Sun.

Officials say the student had been detained on suspicion of taking part in a drug deal.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Randy Sanches said the office has launched an internal investigation.