Public Employee Pension Plans Could Miss Target, Governor Opposes Proposed Nuclear Waste Facility

Jun 7, 2019

New Mexico Governor Says No To High-Level Nuclear Waste - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico's governor is voicing her opposition to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter Friday to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, saying the interim storage of high-level waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region's economy.

Her letter comes as federal regulators weigh whether to issue a 40-year license for the facility planned by Holtec International.

The project would allow for spent fuel rods to be transferred from sites around the nation to a temporary home near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Opponents have raised concerns about the project's legality, the safety of transporting high-level waste and the potential for contamination if something were to go wrong.

Companies In Sprint To Ship Goods From Mexico Before Tariffs - By Julie Watson and Cedar Attanasio Associated Press

Companies are rushing to ship as many goods as possible out of Mexico to get ahead of possible tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.

They are hurriedly sending cars, appliances and construction materials across the border to beat Monday's deadline.

Mexican-made tiles are piled up on the pavement next to a warehouse in New Mexico. A furniture factory and a jalapeno exporter are fretting about a huge financial hit next week.

Jerry Pacheco is president of the Border Industrial Association in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. He says supply chain managers are working as fast as they can.

Trump says he will impose 5% tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico unless the country does more to stop the flow of migrants into the U.S.

Mining Company Plans Drilling In Santa Fe National ForestAssociated Press

A mining company is looking to conduct exploratory drilling for minerals in New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest.

Comexico LLC has submitted a plan of operations to the forest and has applied for an exploratory permit with the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

The subsidiary of Australia-based New World Cobalt is planning to start drilling core samples in October.

The company says the drilling operations are expected to be on a little over 2 acres near Terrero.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires an environmental impact analysis before drilling can begin.

The Forest Service says it has given the company a list of measures to protect plants and wildlife.

The environmental group WildEarth Guardians says it will oppose the project.

Tribal Council Calls For Navajo To Fill Late Senator's SeatAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation Council is calling for New Mexico's governor to appoint a Navajo to fill the seat of state Sen. John Pinto, who died last month at the age of 94.

The Council said Friday it passed the legislation during a meeting in Window Rock, Arizona, in hopes of ensuring that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will select another Navajo Nation citizen to represent Pinto's district.

Pinto was a Democrat who represented a district near the Four Corners area since the 1970s.

A Navajo Code Talker in World War II, he was the longest-serving state senator in New Mexico history.

The governor, a Democrat, will name a senator from a list submitted by San Juan and McKinley county commissioners.

The person appointed to represent his district will have to run in the 2020 election.

EPA Will Drill Into Colorado Mine For Cleanup InvestigationAssociated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to drill a test well into an inactive mine tunnel in southwestern Colorado to get information for a Superfund cleanup.

The EPA said Friday it will drill into the American Tunnel next month to measure water levels and investigate how the passage is connected to other shafts.

The EPA is looking for ways to stop or treat contaminated water pouring into rivers from old mine sites in the Bonita Peak Superfund area.

The agency designated the Superfund site after it inadvertently triggered a spill at the Gold King Mine in August 2015. The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The EPA says it will follow strict safety guidelines when drilling the test well.

'Albuquerque Pride' Rainbow Crosswalk On Route 66 VandalizedAssociated Press

Police are investigating damage to a rainbow-colored crosswalk created in honor of Albuquerque Pride after several motorcyclists tried to deface it.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Albuquerque police have launched a probe after authorities received several videos of the attack on the crosswalk located along the historic Route 66.

One video posted online shows dozens of bikers riding along Route 66 before a couple of them take turns burning rubber over the crosswalk.

The crosswalk was just days old at the time of the episode.

A contractor installed the crosswalk last Friday in honor of Pride Week and the city's LGBT community. It cost the city about $30,000 — roughly three times the price of a traditional crosswalk paint job.

No arrests have been made.

Officials Clear Fireworks After Blast That Hurt FirefightersAssociated Press

Authorities are cleaning up the remaining fireworks at a New Mexico storage area where an explosion earlier this week critically injured two firefighters who were moving the material for an upcoming show.

The city of Roswell said Friday that the decommissioning process would result in loud noises and some aerial fireworks to be set off. Authorities say heat from Wednesday's blast potentially damaged the remaining fireworks.

The explosion injured a total of 12 firefighters working at the storage area. Most were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but Jeff Stroble and Robert "Hoby" Bonham are still hospitalized.

Stroble has been with the Roswell Fire Department for 17 years. Bonham has worked for the department for 18 years.

Investigators are still trying to find out what caused the explosion.

New Mexico Public Employee Pension Plans Could Miss Target -  Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's pension program for public employees is not expected to hit its investment target this year.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the executive director of the Public Employees Retirement Association told lawmakers Wednesday that missing the target could have a serious impact.

Wayne Propst says investment returns this year may come in at 3% to 5%, not the standard 7.25% target used by many plans in the nation.

The association handles a $15 billion pension fund.

Propst says that if the state program achieves a 5% return this year, the plan's projected ratio in 2043 would drop from 74% to 69%.

Officials at the state's Educational Retirement Board say it is too early to predict whether their pension fund will reach the 7.25% target this year.

New Mexico Expands Medical Marijuana Program - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico is expanding its medical cannabis program to include people living with adverse effects of opioid use.

Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel on Thursday added opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for patients who can participate in the program.

She also approved the addition of Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorder and three degenerative neurological disorders.

New Mexico joins at least eight states — from Maine to California — that already recognize opioid dependency as a qualifying condition, either explicitly or within the bounds of significant medical conditions.

Opening up New Mexico's program to people who use and are addicted to opioids was among the campaign pledges of first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

There are now more than 73,000 patients enrolled in New Mexico's program, most for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Officials Look To Fill New Mexico Sen. John Pinto's Seat - Farmington  Daily Times, Associated Press

Officials are requesting letters of interest and resumes from those looking to fill the seat previously held by state Sen. John Pinto.

The Farmington Daily Times reports San Juan County commissioners want the applications by June 14 so they can recommend a name to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor will name the replacement for the northwestern New Mexico district.

Pinto served in the state Senate for more than four decades, making him the state's longest-serving senator.

The 94-year-old Democrat and Navajo Code Talker died last month.

Pinto's term was set to expire next year. The person appointed to the role will have to run in the 2020 election.

DA Studying Institute Of American Indian Arts Assault Claims - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Prosecutors say they are reviewing allegations of sexual assault made by a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the District Attorney's Office in Santa Fe said this week it will look into allegations made by an unnamed student at the Santa Fe school.

Last month, a detailed, explicit description of the alleged April 9 sexual assault by a male staffer appeared in flyers posted on campus and on social media. The allegations prompted outrage from students, the school's alumni council and a Pueblo women's activist group.

The flyers also alleged a pattern of harassment and inappropriate messages from another male employee.

School spokesman Eric Davis declined to comment, saying the school was waiting for law enforcement reports.

No arrests have been made.

Authorities ID 2 Hospitalized After Fireworks Explosion - Associated Press

Authorities have identified two firefighters critically injured in a fireworks explosion in New Mexico that remains under investigation.

The explosion Wednesday in Roswell injured a dozen firefighters at a fireworks storage area. A city spokesman says 46-year-old Jeff Stroble and 36-year-old Robert "Hoby" Bonham were hospitalized, while others were treated at the scene.

Authorities do not know what prompted the fireworks to explode as firefighters were moving them for an upcoming Fourth of July show.

Spokesman Todd Wildermuth said in a statement that Stroble has been with the Roswell Fire Department for 17 years. Bonham has worked for the department for 18 years.

They are being treated at a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, about 173 miles east of Roswell.

New Mexico State Police are investigating the explosion.

Navajo Nation reviews spending after proposing $167M budget - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials are looking for cost-cutting measures after proposing a budget that is $5 million short of the current one.

The Gallup Independent reported this week that the tribe expects to have $167 million in revenue for the 2020 fiscal year that begins in October.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer said in a joint statement that their administration is reviewing department operations to look for "duplicate services, stagnant federal dollars, excessive spending, and other cost-saving measures."

They said they also are looking for ways to reduce personnel expenses, and they have instructed division directors to limit travel to conferences, summits and meetings.

They said the revenue decline is projected from the closures of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine.

New Mexico State Earns Spot At College Rodeo Finals - Associated Press

The men's and women's rodeo teams from New Mexico State University are headed to Wyoming for the College National Finals Rodeo.

The university announced Thursday that both teams finished second in the Grand Canyon region this season, qualifying them for the finals.

Head coach Logan Corbett doesn't want to make any predictions. He says anything is possible during finals since the best student athletes from across the country will be participating.

The men's team has six riders who will compete for points. The women's team has six but only four compete for points.

New Mexico State University has made several appearances at the finals in recent years but has not had a national champion since 2008.

This will be Corbett's fourth time taking a team to the finals.

Independent Feature 'Silk Road' To Film In New Mexico - Associated Press

The independent feature "Silk Road" will be filming in New Mexico this summer.

The state film office says the work will happen in Santa Fe and Albuquerque through mid-July.

The film will be directed by Tiller Russell, who recently moved to New Mexico. Russell says he's thrilled to have the opportunity to shoot a film in his new home state with a talented cast and crew.

Stars include Jason Clarke, Nick Robinson, Alexandra Shipp and Cole Sprouse.

A true crime epic, the movie centers on Ross Ulbricht, who created the underground drug-selling website Silk Road.

Ulbricht's 2013 arrest shut down what prosecutors described as an unprecedented one-stop online shopping mall where the supply of drugs was virtually limitless, enabling drug dealers to expand their markets from the sidewalk to cyberspace.