Officials Delay Oil And Gas Lease Sale Near Chaco, Insurance Companies Resist Medicaid Bill

Feb 8, 2019

US Delays Oil-And-Gas Lease Sale Near Sacred Tribal LandAssociated Press

U.S. land managers no longer plan to move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. They say they need to gather more information before they put the parcels up for bidding.

The decision Friday by the federal Bureau of Land Management comes after tribal leaders and others criticized the agency for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases near the site.

Numerous tribes in the region say the now-remote park recognized as a United Nations world heritage site had been a ceremonial and economic hub for their ancestors.

They expressed concern about federal officials' plans to push forward with a lease sale despite the recent government shutdown.

New Mexico Catholic Ex-Priest Arrested For Child RapeAssociated Press

A former Catholic priest on the Santa Fe Archdiocese's list of clergy members credibly accused of sexually abusing children has been arrested.

Marvin Archuleta was arrested Friday in Albuquerque after the New Mexico Attorney General's Office filed a criminal complaint accusing the 80-year-old of child rape and kidnapping.

According to court documents, Archuleta raped a 6-year-old boy attending the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, during the mid-1980s. Documents say Archuleta raped the boy while wrapping a belt around the child's chest.

The charges follow the state attorney general's office serving a pair of search warrants on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in October. The office sought documents related to two former New Mexico priests accused of sexually abusing children.

No attorney was listed for Archuleta.

3D Video Recreating Scene Leads To Murder ConvictionKRQE-TV, Associated Press

For the first time in New Mexico, a jury convicted a man of killing a woman after viewing 3D video showing how the murder took place.

KRQE-TV reports a jury on Thursday convicted Angel Celis on all charges, including first-degree murder, in the death of Abril Lozano.

Celis fatally shot Lozano in January 2016 at an Albuquerque motel.

The evidence against Celis included cellphone video of him with the gun used to kill Lozano and remnants of a bloody fight in the motel room after Lozano's boyfriend tried to stop Celis.

Prosecutor Brian Mannal built the case against Celis. Mannal re-created the crime based on physical evidence and witness testimony by building a 3D video.

Celis faces life plus 31 years for killing Lozano. He is scheduled to go on trial for the murder of another woman in May.

Legislature Begins Vetting Medicaid Buy-In BillAssociated Press

Medical insurance companies are pushing back against a bill that would open up New Mexico's Medicaid program to paying customers.

America's Health Insurance Plans lobbyist Brent Moore told a legislative panel Friday that medical insurance companies are concerned that a Medicaid buy-in system could erode the market for individual health insurance for those without access to subsidies or an employer-sponsored plan. He also said private insurance providers worry that low Medicaid reimbursement rates could drive away medical providers.

Democratic Representative and bill sponsor Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque says the initial goal is to help uninsured patients. She acknowledged the potential for a Medicaid buy-in plan to shift costs onto the individual market as it expands.

A committee vote on the bill was delayed until Monday because of minor amendments.

US-Mexico Border Arrests Fall In January, 2nd Straight Drop - Associated Press

The number of people arrested or stopped for immigration violations at the U.S. border with Mexico eased in January. It's a relatively small decline in line with seasonal trends.

Customs and Border Protection says it made 58,207 arrests or denials of entry. That's a 4 percent drop from December but a 62 percent increase from January 2018. It's the second straight month-to-month decline.

Families and children traveling alone accounted for about 6 of every 10 stopped, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. That's a dramatic change from several years ago when most people who crossed illegally into the U.S. were single Mexican adults.

Officials say there have been 60 groups of larger than 100 people crossing illegally since Oct. 1. Many are in the desolate New Mexico Bootheel and Arizona deserts

Vetting Begins For Recreational Marijuana BillAssociated Press

Initiatives to increase state educational spending, authorize recreational marijuana sales and ban animal traps on public land are being vetted by the New Mexico Legislature over the weekend.

The Saturday committee hearings are designed to accommodate intense public interest in the proposals. It's the first public hearing on a bill to regulate and tax recreational cannabis.

The arrival of a Democratic governor and expanded Democratic majority in the Legislature this year has rekindled efforts to allow recreational marijuana use and increase spending on education from the state's $17 billion educational trust fund through a constitutional amendment.

The proposed $170 million annual increase in withdrawals from the Land Grant Permanent Fund has yet to reach a floor vote. Approval by the Legislature would send the measure to a statewide vote.

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek Compromise On Coal, Clean Power - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Democratic lawmakers sought to speed up the transition to cleaner sources of electricity across New Mexico and phase out a major coal-fired power plant under legislation introduced Thursday.

The initiative, backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a coalition of environmental organizations, would help ensure the retirement of the San Juan Generating Station in northwest New Mexico by allowing owners such as Public Service Co. to recover some investments.

Utility customers would see a new "energy transition" charge on future electricity bills. The measure sets out a 2030 deadline for utilities and cooperatives to generate 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources.

Other provisions aim to offset the impact of the plant closure — and the likely shuttering of a companion coal mine — on the surrounding community and economy by providing subsidies for job training programs in San Juan County.

The legislation seeks to find new renewable energy projects near the San Juan plant and existing transmission infrastructure.

Facebook Marks Opening Of Sprawling New Mexico Data Center - Associated Press

Facebook has marked the opening of its New Mexico data center, a sprawling complex where the social media giant says servers have begun storing some of the millions of videos and other media its users post daily.

The data center in Los Lunas, a village south of Albuquerque, includes six buildings for data storage. Each are roughly the size of four football fields with "data halls" storing rows of towering servers.

Facebook on Thursday marked the opening of two of those halls in one of the data center's buildings.

Construction that began more than two years ago at the site remains underway.

New Mexico officials in 2016 touted the data center as a much-needed boon for the area after Facebook announced it had selected Los Lunas.


Feds Say 10 People Face Charges In New Mexico Drug Probe - Associated Press

Federal authorities say 10 people face charges in a multi-agency drug investigation that lasted nearly a year in eastern New Mexico.

In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office said the men and women who range in age from 22 to 59 face charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs. They are from New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas, and all but two have been arrested. The arrests occurred over a span of three days that ended Thursday.

More than a dozen federal and local law enforcement agencies assisted in the 11-month investigation spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Lea County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities say 53 kilograms of methamphetamine, 354 grams of heroin, and 20 firearms were seized in the probe.


New Mexico Officials: Holloman Air Force Water Contaminated - Associated Press

New Mexico environmental officials say Holloman Air Force Base has violated its state permit after toxic chemicals were found in groundwater.

The New Mexico Environment Department said Wednesday it issued a "notice of violation" to Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico, following the contamination discovery.

New Mexico officials say pollutants were found in groundwater at levels nearly twice the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water health advisory.

A site inspection report in November said groundwater below Holloman tested positive for unsafe pollutants.

Environment Department Secretary-designate Jim Kenney says state officials are "dismayed" by the U.S. Air Force's lack of prompt response to the contamination found.

In a statement, Holloman Air Force confirmed that chemicals came from foam that was used for firefighting, which they stopped using back 20-16. The base said Air Force officials received the letter Thursday from the New Mexico Environment Department and Air Force-level subject matter experts are reviewing it.

4 Las Cruces Police Officers Cleared In Man's Fatal Shooting - Associated Press

Authorities say four Las Cruces police officers have been cleared in a fatal shooting five months ago.

The Third Judicial District Attorney's Office reviewed evidence from the Sept. 27 shooting near a Las Cruces high school and concluded the use of force was justified.

They say lapel camera video from the incident shows 32-year-old Juan Angel Pinedo failed to obey at least 11 commands and lunged toward a handgun before being shot by police.

Pinedo died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Authorities say Pinedo had an active felony warrant for his arrest from a shooting that occurred six days earlier.

The shooting was investigated by an incident task force that included investigators from New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces police, Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office and New Mexico State University Police.

Arkansas Guard Troops Moving From New Mexico To Texas - Associated Press

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has ordered Arkansas National Guard troops deployed along the Mexican border in New Mexico to relocate to Texas to help with border security there.

Up to eight Arkansas troops and two helicopters have been deployed in New Mexico since May 2018 to help secure the nation's southwestern border. Hutchinson says he has directed Adjutant General Mark Berry to shift those troops to Texas, where the security needs are greater.

Earlier this week, New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham ordered the New Mexico National Guard withdrawn from border deployment and directed troops from other states to return home.

Last week, Arkansas troops and one of the state's LUH-72 Lakota helicopters helped federal officials seize 136 pounds of marijuana and arrest four men along the New Mexico border.

New Mexico Bill To Ban Wildlife Traps Ignites Emotions - Associated Press

A state bill that would outlaw most wildlife traps and snares on public land in New Mexico ignited three hours of emotional testimony at its first legislative hearing.

Rural and suburban attitudes toward wildlife and protecting household pets collided Thursday at a hearing on the bill before a House committee on natural resources.

The proposal from Democrats including Rep. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo would outlaw the use of traps, snares and poison with the intent capture or kill animals such as coyotes, foxes and feral hogs on state or federal land. It allows for misdemeanor fines of up to $2,000.

Proponents of the bill described the indiscriminate cruelty of traps, while opponents said a ban would infringe on a longstanding tradition and endanger livestock. Panel deliberations and voting were postponed.

Police Are Investigating After 11-Year-Old Kills Herself - Associated Press

Authorities are investigating after an 11-year-old girl killed herself after allegedly being bullied.

Delia Watson's family and friends, who gathered Wednesday night for a vigil, say they believe the suicide was preventable.

Watson died on Friday.

Watson's friend, Malaya Martinez, says Watson reported the bullying to officials at Mount Taylor Elementary School in Grants.

Grants-Cibola County Schools released a statement Tuesday addressing the "unexpected death" of Watson.

The statement says community health representatives and school counselors are available to anyone "who wishes to talk about the student's death."

A spokesman for the Grants Police Department confirmed the agency is investigating the death, but could not elaborate on details citing an ongoing investigation.

Site Of Alleged 1947 UFO Crash Under New Management - Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

The site of an alleged 1947 UFO crash site near Roswell is under new management.

The Roswell Daily Record reports Bogle Ltd. Co. of Dexter has sold the Lincoln County ranching property about 75 miles northwest of Roswell to Dinwiddie Cattle Co. LLC.

A deed filed with the Lincoln County clerk's office shows that the crash-site property was transferred to the Dinwiddie Cattle Co. on Nov. 26.

Something crashed at what was then the J.B. Foster ranch in 1947, with the U.S. Army announcing it had recovered a "flying disc" but later saying the debris was merely the remnants of a high-altitude weather balloon.

Speculation about extraterrestrials and government cover-ups has existed ever since, inspiring books, movies and TV shows.