NM Regulators To Reconsider Utility Rates, AG Finds No Violations In State Fetal Tissue Case

Jan 4, 2018

New Mexico Regulators To Reconsider Utility RatesThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

State regulators have rescinded a decision that allowed New Mexico's largest electric utility to increase rates for customers but limited the amount of money the utility could recoup on upgrades at a coal-fired power plant.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the state Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday backed away from the decision made last month and granted the Public Service Co. of New Mexico a new hearing on rate proposals set for next week.

The commission had voted to allow the utility to raise rates by about 9 percent over the next two years, but it rejected the utility's request to recoup about $150 million from improvements at the Four Corners Power Plant.

The utility filed a request last week, asking the commission to reconsider its previous decision.

New Mexico AG Finds No Violations In Fetal Tissue Case – The Associated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutors say no state laws were broken by the transfer of fetal tissue between an Albuquerque abortion clinic and researchers at the University of New Mexico.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office outlined it findings Thursday in a letter to members of a special U.S. congressional committee created to investigate Planned Parenthood and the world of fetal tissue research.

The committee forwarded allegations to Attorney General Hector Balderas' office in 2016. The committee accused tissue procurement firms and research entities like the university of possibly violating federal and state laws.

Balderas' office conducted civil and criminal reviews but found no evidence to indicate any state violations.

U.S. Justice Department officials in December confirmed the FBI was considering criminal inquiries related to the long-running controversy surrounding the use of fetus tissue in medical research.

Cibola County May Be Bankrupt By End Of FebruaryThe Associated Press & The Gallup Independent

Officials say a New Mexico county is in deep financial trouble and may be bankrupt in 60 days.

The Gallup Independent reports Interim Cibola County Manager Valerie Taylor says the county is in "crisis mode" and if it doesn't "make significant changes," it is "going to be insolvent by the end of February."

Taylor says she contacted New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration Local Government Division Special Director Michael Steininger to straighten out the county's finances.

The county overspent by $9.5 million from 2013 to 2016, and wrote s $7 million check to CoreCivic in November that bounced. The county has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to serve as a pass-through for CoreCivic, which houses detainees of the federal agency at its prison in Milan.

Immersion Art Startup Meow Wolf Picks Denver To Expand - The Associated Press

Creators of a popular immersive art entertainment project in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are expanding to a major metropolitan market.

Startup arts company Meow Wolf on Thursday announced plans for a new interactive art exhibition and music venue in an industrial neighborhood of downtown Denver.

The venture presents a major financial and creative test for Meow Wolf and its growing staff of about 200 artists, technicians and project developers.

Company CEO Vince Kadlubek describes them as the "corporate version of an art collective."

Meow Wolf has created a new brand of family entertainment that combines eye-popping psychedelic design work with narrative storytelling.

The Denver exhibit will be three times the size of its Santa Fe counterpart. What it will look like inside remains largely a mystery.

Carlsbad Caverns Sees First Entry Fee Hike Since 2012The Associated Press & The Carlsbad Current-Argus

The entrance fee at a popular New Mexico attraction was raised for the first time since 2012.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the fee at Carlsbad Caverns National Park was upped Tuesday from $10 to $12.

Park officials say the fees are a "critical" source of funding for the park, with 80 percent of the generated revenue staying at the park to pay for visitor services and projects, while the other 20 percent is used to support other national parks that do not charge entrance fees.

Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce CEO Robert Defer says he believes tourism numbers will remain strong despite the higher cost of visiting Carlsbad's most well-known attraction.

The park is in the midst of upgrading its main elevator system, which is expected to be operational by May.

Group Concerned About Abortion Consent FormsThe Associated Press

An anti-abortion group is taking issue with findings from the New Mexico Attorney General's Office that state laws were not violated by the transfer of aborted fetal tissue from an Albuquerque women's clinic to researchers at the University of New Mexico.

The New Mexico Alliance for Life on Thursday said there are contradictions between the findings and a pending case in state district court that centers on whether women had enough information to consent to an abortion and the donation of tissue.

Albuquerque attorney Michael Seibel is representing women who are suing Southwestern Women's Options, an Albuquerque abortion clinic that in the past provided the UNM Health Sciences Center with fetal tissue for medical research.

Seibel accused the attorney general's office of protecting political special interests by deciding there was insufficient evidence to launch either a civil or criminal case.

Sen. Ted Cruz Endorses Former Hobbs Mayor For CongressAssociated Press

A New Mexico GOP congressional candidate has landed an endorsement from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman announced the conservative senator from Texas is supporting his bid for New Mexico's southern congressional seat.

Cruz says Newman has worked "tirelessly to promote principles that reflect the values of the people of his district."

Newman is seeking the Republican nomination for the state's second district currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for New Mexico governor.

Newman is facing at least three other candidates in the GOP primary.

The former mayor says he would fight for "conservative values" as a congressman representing the state's U.S.-Mexico border region.

New Mexico Moves Up In Oil And Gas Rankings - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Thanks to more barrels of oil being pumped monthly from the Permian Basin, New Mexico is among the nation's top producing states.

Industry officials in New Mexico are celebrating the latest figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, saying billions of dollars of investment by energy companies in the state is paying off as production is reaching record highs.

The figures show monthly production hitting more than 16.3 million barrels of oil in New Mexico in late 2017, and experts say the state is on pace to set an annual record for the year.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association director Ryan Flynn said the production boom will provide more revenue for the state, easing pressure on lawmakers as they set spending priorities for education and other government programs during the upcoming legislative session.

Suspect Captured, Missing Girls Found Safe After Amber AlertKOB-TV

Two girls who were the subject of an Amber Alert in New Mexico and Colorado were located Wednesday after their mother was found dead Dec. 31 in Round Rock, Texas.

KOB-TV reports suspect Terry Miles, 44, was taken into custody after he was captured on surveillance video at a business near Trinidad. He’s considered a person of interest in the death of 44-year-old Tonya Bates in Round Rock.

Authorities said her two daughters, ages 7 and 14, were found safe after authorities in Las Animas County performed a high-risk stop of Miles in his car. Child protective services in Colorado and Texas are working to return them to family members.

Land Office Targets Dumping Sites In Southern New MexicoAssociated Press

About 170 tons of trash and tires have been cleaned up from two sites in southeastern New Mexico as the State Land Office continues efforts to mitigate trespassing and illegal dumping concerns on trust lands.

The Land Office said people had been dumping trash at two pits in Lea County where caliche was mined for use in road construction and for oil drilling well pads.

The pits became home to discarded appliances, rotting upholstery, animal carcasses and other hazardous materials. After the trash was removed, the sites were graded and seeded with native grasses and flowering plants.

The cleanup work totaled more than $88,000.

In the 2017 fiscal year, crews removed more than 550 tons of waste from 11 caliche pits on state trust lands in Eddy and Lea counties.

Official Unsatisfied With Committee's Take On College BoardsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A state higher education official is disappointed to hear that a committee did not recommend changes to the state's governance of its large array of colleges and universities.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron will continue to push for additional research into possible consolidation among New Mexico's two-year institution.

Currently, there are 21 governing boards that manage the state's 31 public institutions.

After researching higher education systems in other states and considering various scenarios, the committee decided that centralizing the state's system would not save New Mexico more money and could possibly lead to complications.

It also dismissed the idea of a two-board model where one would be responsible for all four-year institutions while the other would handle only two-year institutions.

Divided Democrats Face Liberal Backlash On Immigration - By Steve Peoples And Matthew Daly, Associated Press

With a new deadline fast approaching, Democrats in Congress are struggling to adopt a unified strategy to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

Their inaction has enraged liberal activists, who have shifted their anger in recent days from Republicans who control Congress to Democrats seeking to balance their commitment to a progressive priority with their desire to avoid a politically explosive government shutdown.

Liberal groups with millions of members, like MoveOn, are threatening primary election challenges later this year against Democrats who don't fight hard enough for so-called "Dreamers." Others are vowing to block campaign cash from uncooperative Democrats, while preparing a wave of camera-friendly protests.

At issue is the fate of about 800,000 young immigrants, many brought to the country illegally as children.

New Mexico Ski Resort Plans Forest Restoration WorkAssociated Press

Federal forest officials are considering a proposal by a ski resort in southern New Mexico to remove trees killed by a 2012 wildfire to reduce fuels in the area and mitigate possible risks to visitors and staff.

The Smokey Bear Ranger District is seeking public comments on the proposal for restoration work at Ski Apache.

The focus is on a parcel near Alto that includes steep slopes. Officials say the equipment and technology needed to work on such challenging terrain is now available.

As part of the proposal, dead timber would be removed, piled and burned. Portions of green forest in the project area would be treated by removing dead trees and thinned lightly to remove some small-diameter trees.

Seeding and replanting would be done on a few dozen acres.

2 Deputies Resign After Altercation Involving GirlfriendKRQE-TV, Associated Press

The town marshal in the west-central New Mexico town of Magdalena is without his two deputies following their arrests and resignations in a domestic disturbance involving the girlfriend of one of the men.

KRQE-TV reports that 24-year-old Anthony Brookins and 29-year-old Marocco Apachito resigned last weekend after being arrested for using two sets of handcuffs to hogtie Apachito's girlfriend after she locked her herself in a bathroom and then allegedly kicked and scratched him when he forced his way in.

Marshal Larry Cearley says both deputies "went to jail" after New Mexico State Police responded to the altercation Friday

Online court records don't list attorneys who could comment on behalf of the former deputies.

Cearly says he's disappointed that the now-former deputies made a mistake "that cost them their careers."

Albuquerque Named Best Place To Live By Sunset MagazineAlbuquerque Journal

Sunset Magazine has given Albuquerque the top spot on its list of best places to live for its February issue on 20 “Game-Changers That Are Redefining the West.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports the magazine cites the city’s arts scene and many public art pieces, its film and TV industry, nature trails and abundant sunshine as key elements in the ranking.

Albuquerque beat out Taos, Flagstaff and Tempe, Ariz., for the top spot. Sunset’s list also factored in cities that are “thinking smart about their futures” with small business incubators and technology.

It noted renovations to Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza, investment in public transit and the reinvigoration of Central Avenue along with the city’s history and Hispanic culture.

Sunset officials told the Journal they also looked at industries, census data, housing prices and jobs to calculate value and livability.