PNM Lays Out Plan For Closing Coal-Fired Plant, UNM Saying Goodbye To 4 Sports Programs

Jul 1, 2019

New Mexico Utility Charts Closure For Coal-Fired Power PlantAssociated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility is submitting to regulators its plan for shutting down the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, how it intends to replace the lost power and what it's going to cost customers.

The filing with the Public Regulation Commission comes as a new state law dictates more aggressive renewable energy requirements while allowing Public Service Co. of New Mexico to recoup from customers some of the costs.

The application for abandonment of the plant and the building of replacement power includes the utility's preferred option, which it describes as the most cost-effective plan, as well as three alternatives.

The preferred option would save customers about $7 a month in the first year. Utility executives couldn't say what the savings, if any, would be beyond that.

The preferred option includes a mix of natural gas-fired power plants, solar and wind farms and new battery storage facilities.

They say the goal is to be emissions-free by 2040.

Fire Restrictions Start In Central New Mexico Mountains Associated Press

The first fire restrictions of the year on national forest land in New Mexico now are in effect.

They started Monday on the Gallinas Mountains southeast of Albuquerque near Corona. That's in the Cibola National Forest's Mountainair Ranger District.

Forest officials say the abundant grass that grew as a result of a fairly wet winter has dried out and now is a wildfire risk.

Visitors won't be allowed to build campfires except within designated areas. Smoking also is prohibited except in vehicles, enclosed buildings or developed recreation sites.

Anyone found guilty of violating fire restrictions can be fined up to $5,000 and spend up to six months in jail.

State Election Chiefs Share Concerns After Mueller ReportAssociated Press

State election regulators from across the United States are sharing expertise and concerns about voting security in preparation for 2020 elections at a convention.

Dozens of state election chiefs came together Monday for the first time since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report documented a sweeping effort by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 election.

Elections security officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were scheduled to brief secretaries of state in private on tactics for countering foreign influence on elections.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver planned to lead a discussion on state efforts to obtain an accurate census count.

Private vendors of election equipment and services also were in attendance. Anxiety about election security extends to voting equipment in many states.

Creditors Group Seeks Info On Church Foundation's AssetsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

It will be up to a U.S. bankruptcy judge whether to order the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to produce records related to $48 million in assets.

A creditors committee of clergy sex abuse survivors filed a motion last week in the ongoing bankruptcy case involving the archdiocese. The Albuquerque Journal reports the panel wants to determine whether the foundation's assets are property of the archdiocese's estate.

The archdiocese filed for reorganization last December, citing the financial strain of the abuse scandal.

In its bankruptcy petition, the archdiocese claimed nearly $50 million in assets. The filing also said more than $57 million in property was being held in trust for numerous parishes and property transfers worth an additional $34 million were done over the past couple years.

New Laws Taking Effect July 1 Reflect Progressive Shift - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The effects of a progressive shift in New Mexico politics are being felt as new laws take effect that restrict gun access, raise taxes, decriminalize low-level drug possession and provide a major boost in spending on everything from teacher salaries to road construction.

Starting Monday, taxes on vehicle sales rise by 33%. Background checks will be required for nearly all firearms purchases, and smaller public bathrooms will become gender-neutral.

The state also is raising its salaries and channeling more money toward public education initiatives to help at-risk students in response to a court order mandating greater school resources.

A windfall from the oil sector will help with increased government spending as the industry is expected to provide the state with a $1 billion surplus for a second consecutive year.

'Are You Serious?' Police Describe Senator's DWI Arrest – Associated Press

Police say a New Mexico state senator expressed surprise when he was told he was being arrested on a drunken driving charge, saying to officers, "Are you serious? Jesus Christ."

A court official says Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola, has five days to appear in court on charges of aggravated DWI and reckless driving.

The former Rio Arriba County magistrate judge is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He was arrested Friday night after a collision at an intersection in Espanola, and booked into jail before being released the following day.

No one answered The Associated Press' calls at a number listed for Martinez.

Senate Democrats said in a statement that Martinez, 66, is "a valued member of our caucus" entitled to due process.


New Mexico State Senator Arrested On Suspicion Of DWI - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Police say New Mexico state Sen. Richard Martinez has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and is facing charges following a car crash.

Española police say the 66-year-old was arrested Friday night after a collision at an intersection on the city's north side.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Martinez was alone in his SUV at the time of the crash and that he refused a Breathalyzer test. 

He was taken to a hospital for an evaluation before officers booked him into jail.

It was unclear Sunday if Martinez has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

Martinez is a former Rio Arriba County magistrate who has held the Democratic Senate District 5 seat for nearly two decades representing parts of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties.

University Of New Mexico Saying Goodbye To 4 Sports Programs - Associated Press

An era is ending at the University of New Mexico as it officially stops four sports programs, including men's soccer.

Head soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein says unsuccessful efforts over the past year to save the program have left those associated with it physically and mentally exhausted.

Men's soccer has been one of UNM's most successful teams, winning its share of conference titles and making regular appearances in the national collegiate tournament.

All four programs are set to end Monday after the UNM Board of Regents voted last year to cut soccer along with beach volleyball and the men's and women's ski teams to shore up a budget deficit within the athletic department.

Officials also said they needed to address compliance issues with federal mandates regarding equal opportunity for female athletes.

Prosecutor's Appeal Delays Trial Against Ex-Tax Secretary - Associated Press

New Mexico's attorney general is appealing the dismissal of several criminal charges against ex-taxation secretary Demesia Padilla.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that Attorney General Hector Balderas has asked a district court to reinstate five criminal charges that were dismissed.

The maneuver pushes back the start of a trail that had been scheduled for jury selection in July, on accusations that Padilla engaged in an official act for personal financial gain.

Padilla maintains her innocence on all charges. The case stems from accusations by the attorney general that Padilla embezzled money from a former private client of her accounting business and also used her position for favorable tax treatment.

She oversaw the state's Taxation and Revenue Department starting in 2011 for nearly six years under former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Search For Missing Navajo Woman Nears One-Month Mark - Associated Press

A missing Navajo woman's relatives are nearing the one-month mark in their search for the grandmother and military veteran who police say was last seen at her home in New Mexico.

Police say 59-year-old Cecelia Finona disappeared from her home in Farmington after the evening of May 30. Her daughter said Friday the family has logged searches in Farmington and the nearby Navajo Nation.

Finona's boyfriend, Jerry Jay, has been accused of using her ATM card in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada after her disappearance. He is being held in Nevada on a count of unlawful withdrawal from a financial institution.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe says he believes Jay could provide crucial information for officers.

A defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment.