Sandia National Laboratories To Hire 1,900 This Year, PNM Shareholders Reject Coal Ash Resolution

May 22, 2019

Official Says Sandia National Laboratories Sees Surge In HiringAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A top official with Sandia National Laboratories says the Albuquerque-based weapons research and development facility expects to hire 1,900 new employees this year.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Scott Aeilts told the Albuquerque Economic Forum on Wednesday that 1,100 of the hires will be for new positions and the rest will fill openings resulting from normal attrition.

Aeilts is associate labs director for mission services for Sandia, and he attributes the jobs surge partly due to efforts to modernize and extend the life of the country's nuclear weapons.

Sandia also plans to employ a record 500 student interns this summer, with 60 percent of those coming from New Mexico schools, and Aeilts says all of the hiring is a struggle because the economy is very competitive.

New Mexico Utility Asks Panel To Reopen Power Line CaseAssociated Press

New Mexico's largest utility has petitioned state regulators to reopen the case on who will pay for nearly half the cost of the $85 million transmission line to the Facebook data center.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico filed a motion Tuesday asking the Public Regulation Commission to allow it to submit new evidence.

The commission said in mid-April that ratepayers could not be charged for the project, ordering the utility to bill Facebook $39 million for the line.

The commission last week declined to reconsider that order, basing the decision on existing evidence that includes statements from a utility executive that the line would only serve Facebook.

The utility says new evidence shows the project would benefit all customers by improving its network.

Interior Boss Says No Monument Changes Planned, But Up To TrumpAssociated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says he has no plans for additional changes to national monuments as recommended by his predecessor, but says it's ultimately up to President Donald Trump.

Trump in 2017 shrank two sprawling Utah monuments at the recommendation of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The president has not acted on Zinke's proposal to shrink two monuments in Oregon and Nevada and change rules at six others.

During a Wednesday Senate Appropriations subcommittee meeting, New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall asked if there were plans to move forward on the other eight monuments.

Bernhardt replied: "I think the answer is no." He added he wouldn't take action without word from Trump.

Zinke left in January. The White House in March said further action on monuments remained under consideration.

Trump Signs Disaster Declaration For Navajo NationAssociated Press

President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation and directed that federal officials provide aid as reimbursement for expenses stemming from a major snowstorm and subsequent flooding in late February.

The White House announcement Wednesday said Trump on Tuesday ordered that federal aid be used to supplement tribal efforts in the affected areas.

Tribal officials said in a separate statement that tribal President Jonathan Nez signed an emergency declaration on Feb. 19 and that tribal officials asked Vice President Mike Pence and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in early March for assistance.

New Mexico Behavioral Health Program To Tackle Housing Needs Associated Press

Officials in New Mexico's most populous metro area are teaming up to provide housing and intensive services for certain people with behavioral health conditions.

The goal is to reach those who are homeless or in precarious housing situations and have a recent history of frequent visits to the emergency room or detox facilities or multiple bookings into the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Bernalillo County will contribute $1 million annually for services and $2 million one-time dollars for capital investments.

The city of Albuquerque's one-time funding contribution of $2 million will help cover construction costs.

The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority also is contributing to the project.

HopeWorks, formerly St. Martins, is the social service provider that will own and operate the facility. Officials say a groundbreaking is scheduled this fall.

Navajo Nation Official Acquitted In $6M Theft CaseGallup Independent, Associated Press

A Navajo Nation official has been found not guilty of theft in the transfer of $6 million of Ramah Navajo Chapter funds to investment firms.

The Gallup Independent reports a Navajo Nation judge acquitted Ramah Navajo Chapter President David Jose of all charges Monday.

Jose was accused of unlawfully transferring the funds to firms in Arizona and California in February 2017.

His attorney, David Jordan, argued that Jose was executing the chapter's wishes and three chapter meetings were held on the matter.

The attorney said Jose did not "wrongfully possess" the funds as if they were his own, so he could not be found guilty of theft.

Navajo Nation prosecutor Brandon Bitsui did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment Monday.

US Says Trump Coal Moves Hasten But Don't Increase Emissions - By Matthew Brown Associated Press

Federal officials say the Trump administration's decision to lift a moratorium on coal sales from public lands could hasten the release of more than 5 billion tons of greenhouse gasses.

But Bureau of Land Management officials said in a report released Wednesday that the emissions would occur regardless of the administration's decision. They also say the huge quantity of greenhouse gases involved represents a small percentage of the nation's total emissions.

The report comes after a court ruled last month that the administration failed to consider the environmental effects of its resumption in 2017 of coal sales. A moratorium had been imposed under President Barack Obama over worries about climate change.

Environmentalists who sued to reinstate the moratorium say it's absurd to argue federal coal sales have negligible effects on climate-changing emissions.

New Mexico Military Museum To Prep For New ExhibitsAssociated Press

The New Mexico Military Museum in Santa Fe has temporarily closed its indoor space to prepare for new exhibits commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and women serving in World War I.

The museum plans to re-open in July.

Until then, the outdoor World War I exhibit, the vehicle and equipment park and meditation gardens will remain open to the public.

Officials say the closure also will allow for renovations.

The New Mexico National Guard and the museum recently procured a traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. It will be part of the new exhibit along with hundreds of photos from veterans' private collections.

The materials for the exhibit honoring women who served during World War I were recently procured from the American Medical Women's Association.

DA Wants Changes To New Mexico's Pretrial Detention System - Associated Press

The top prosecutor in New Mexico's busiest court district is calling for another constitutional amendment that would further change how judges decide who remains jailed before trial.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said Tuesday that the current system under a 2016 voter-approved amendment has been successful in ensuring fewer petty and low-level criminals are not jailed. But it needs fixing to better safeguard against violent defendants being released from jail before trial.

The current system requires prosecutors to present evidence showing defendants are a danger in order for them to remain held.

Torrez says he would like to see a system in which judges presume defendants charged with a limited range of crimes should remain jailed — unless defendants make a successful case for their release.

Legislators approve constitutional amendments before they go before voters.

Governor Seeks Federal Reimbursement For Services To MigrantsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is traveling to Washington, D.C., to press for more federal resources to cope with an influx of asylum seekers at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the governor was departing Tuesday for a scheduled face-to-face meeting this week with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

Stelnicki said the governor will advocate for federal reimbursements to local communities as they provide humanitarian relief to migrant families.

Lujan Grisham also wants to discuss the U.S. Border Patrol's withdrawal from interior checkpoints in southern New Mexico that has riled local residents.

The first-year Democratic governor also is seeking an introductory meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding his oversight of nuclear waste storage facilities and federal weapons laboratories in New Mexico.

The governor's trip includes partisan fundraising activities.

PNM Shareholders Reject Coal Ash Resolution - Associated Press

A resolution that would have required New Mexico's largest electric utility to prepare a report on how it plans to deal with coal ash waste from the San Juan Generating Station has failed.

The group PNM Shareholders for a Responsible Future worked to get the measure on the agenda for Tuesday's shareholders meeting. The group said it received enough support to allow the measure to be refiled next year.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico has argued that a separate report is unnecessary since it addresses coal ash in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

While the utility contends it's not responsible for the waste once it's transported from the San Juan plant, some shareholders and environmentalists have concerns about future liabilities since decommissioning costs will be passed on to customers after the plant closes in 2022.

New Mexico Offers Grants For Immigrant Aid - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the state is creating a grant program to reimburse local government agencies that provide humanitarian aid to migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.

The first-year Democratic governor announced the grant application process in a letter to Republican lawmakers who have criticized her response to an influx of migrants.

Lujan Grisham says it's her role to arrange support for aid groups while she seeks assistance from the federal government.

Municipalities including Las Cruces and Deming say they are struggling to keep up with the needs of immigrants seeking temporary shelter and necessities. The U.S. Border Patrol is dropping off hundreds of asylum seekers daily in southern New Mexico.

More New Mexico Cities Join Lawsuit Against Tax Agency -  Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

More than a dozen New Mexico cities and counties have joined a lawsuit claiming the state tax agency has failed to accurately collect and distribute tax revenue.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the lawsuit initially filed by four cities in late 2018 requests for a judge to order the state Taxation and Revenue Department to compensate cities and counties for improper reductions to their revenue.

The suit claims the state automatically granted refunds to businesses that claim they overpaid and gave little explanation to the cities and counties that rely on that revenue.

Department spokesman Charlie Moore says the agency can't comment on pending litigation.

He says the agency has created a liaison position to work with cities and counties and to answer questions about distributions.

New Mexico County Says No To Migrant Relocation - Associated Press

A New Mexico county has approved a resolution opposing the relocation of migrants within its boundaries as federal authorities grapple with the influx of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Sierra County Commission approved the resolution during a meeting Tuesday, saying there's a crisis in southern New Mexico and that the thousands of migrants already released in Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg have strained local resources in those areas.

The resolution asks President Donald Trump to close the U.S.-Mexico border to immigration.

County officials say their position shouldn't be viewed as political or racist. They described their community as impoverished with virtually no resources and said the resolution is about good governance.

They warned that if federal authorities release migrants in Sierra County, there are no buses, rail stops or commercial flights to transport them to sponsors elsewhere.

States Sue Over Rule Allowing Clinicians To Refuse Abortions - Associated Press

Nearly two dozen states and municipalities are suing the federal government to stop a new rule letting health care clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court asks a judge to block a rule by the Department of Health and Human Services that is scheduled to take effect in July.

The department has said the rule requires hospitals, universities, clinics and other entities that receive federal funding to certify compliance with some 25 federal laws protecting conscience and religious rights.

Most laws pertain to medical procedures such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.

The suit is being brought by New Mexico; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New York City and state; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia; and Wisconsin.

Tom Hanks Meets With Governor Who Boosted Film Incentives - Associated Press

Actor Tom Hanks met with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as the state seeks out more business from the film industry.

A newly published copy of the governor's weekly schedule on Tuesday showed a "meet and greet" May 9 with the star of "Forrest Gump," ''Apollo 13" and other blockbusters. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett says the Democratic governor and former congresswoman "just met and kind of chatted about New Mexico" during the encounter in Albuquerque.

Hanks has popped up in Albuquerque during the filming of the science fiction survivor tale "BIOS" and posted twitter photos of lost gloves in the dessert.

Lujan Grisham signed legislation this year that more than doubles annual tax-credit payouts to in-state film productions to $110 million.