Tiny Bug Posing Threat To Major NM Cash Crop, Veto Dispute Heads To NM Supreme Court

Nov 6, 2017

Tiny Bug Posing Threat To New Mexico's $180M Pecan IndustryThe Associated Press

A tiny bug is posing a threat to one of New Mexico's biggest cash crops.

An investigation by the Carlsbad Current-Argus and Roswell Daily Record found an invasive bug known as the pecan weevil could derail New Mexico's $180 million pecan industry.

In late 2016, and January 2017, the weevil was found in pecan orchards in multiple counties in southeast New Mexico. It was confirmed in Eddy, Lea, Chaves and Curry counties.

Quarantines were enacted to prevent its spread in the following months, and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture is looking to make them permanent.

New Mexico pecan producers worry the quarantine — which restricts pecan shipments to areas without an infestation — could prevent them from trading to the west where the industry is most lucrative.

Veto Dispute Heads To New Mexico Supreme CourtThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether 10 bills vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez deserved to be invalidated because the governor allegedly failed to explain her decisions.

Supreme Court justices on Monday unanimously agreed to wade into the dispute between the governor's office and lawmakers who say Martinez never offered a reason for her vetoes and missed veto deadlines.

Top-ranking Democrats in the state Senate and House of Representatives say that timely veto explanations are crucial to the legislative process so that concerns and objections may be addressed.

A state district court allowed the 10 disputed bills became law in September. The governor says the legislature is overstepping its authority in challenging the vetoes.

The laws aim to expand high-speed internet access, allow hemp research and more.

New Mexico Counties Losing Out On Oil And Gas TaxesThe Associated Press

An appraisal expert says local governments in New Mexico's oil and gas country are losing out on millions of dollars in revenue because drilling rigs and other equipment are missing from the tax rolls.

Jerry Wisdom owns Total Assessment Solutions Corp., which has done work valuing energy company assets in Rio Arriba, Eddy and Lea counties. He testified recently before state lawmakers, saying equipment that should be taxed is not on the rolls.

State Sen. John Arthur Smith is a Deming Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and described it as a huge problem.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the state relies on a self-reporting for oil and gas industry machinery.

Wisdom says that honor system isn't working amid record New Mexico crude oil production.

State Police Investigating Fatal Police Shooting In RuidosoThe Associated Press

New Mexico State Police are investigating a fatal police shooting in the popular tourist village of Ruidoso.

Ruidoso police say at least one officer opened fire after a vehicle rammed into a patrol car.

Officers were investigating a call about a burglary in progress around 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

One of the responding officers was outside his police vehicle when he was struck by both suspects who were driving separate vehicles and attempting to flee the scene.

Police say one of the vehicles was driven by 28-year-old Johnathon Brownell and was shot by an officer.

The second vehicle was driven by 31-year-old Marlysa Sanchez, who was shot and pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say Brownell was arrested and is in stable condition at a hospital, as is the injured officer.

Man Implicated In Texas Shooting Served At Holloman AFBAssociated Press

The man suspected of killing 26 people at a Texas church Sunday was serving at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo when he received a bad-conduct discharge in 2014.

Devin P. Kelley received the discharge for assaulting his spouse and child, and was sentenced to 12 months' confinement after a 2012 court-martial. Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman from 2010 until his  discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Authorities didn't identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night. But two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.

Albuquerque Police Chief Plans To Retire At End Of NovemberKOB-TV, Associated Press

Albuquerque police chief Gorden Eden has announced he plans to retire at the end of this month.

KOB-TV reports that the announcement was made by a letter from Eden to police department employees Saturday morning.

Eden states in the letter that he made the decision in March.

The chief's retirement was expected as a new administration will be in place after this month's mayoral election.

However, the change in police leadership will come at one of the worst periods for crime in years for New Mexico's largest city.

Albuquerque's police department has been undergoing an overhaul since the U.S. Justice Department in 2014 found a pattern of excessive force.

Eden was hired as police chief in February 2014.

New Mexico School District Eyes Four-Day WeeksKRQE-TV, Associated Press

A central New Mexico school district is considering moving to a four-day week schedule.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports Socorro Consolidated Schools officials are examining if such a change would attract qualified teachers.

School board member J.C. Trujillo says the five-member board wants the hard facts on a shorter week and more opinions. The district recently posted a survey on its website asking whether community members agreed or disagreed with a four-day week.

Trujillo says there is a lot that still needs to be discussed.

The board could vote on the proposed schedule as early as February.

Concerns About Los Alamos-Area Water Amid Chromium PlumeSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

State lawmakers and members of the public say the safety of Los Alamos County groundwater is in doubt because of pollution from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

U.S. Department of Energy officials have acknowledged for years that there is a significant concentration of the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium pooled in the aquifer under Los Alamos. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the chemical came from decades of negligent lab waste disposal.

Lab officials testified at a legislative hearing Friday that new mapping shows the plume of pollution is larger than previously thought and closer to a well used for local and lab drinking water.

Los Alamos program manager Danny Katzman says cleanup could take decades.

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard says she left the hearing more nervous than she was before.

New Mexico State Police Probing Ruidoso Police ShootingAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police are investigating a police shooting in the popular tourist village of Ruidoso.

The Ruidoso Police Department announced Sunday that at least one officer opened fire after a vehicle rammed into a patrol car. Authorities say officers were investigating a call for suspicious activity.

It was not clear if any suspects were shot in the encounter.

No further information was available.

Group Home, State Sued Over Rape Of Young WomanSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A developmentally disabled Santa Fe woman's guardian is suing an Albuquerque group home and the state Department of Health after the woman was raped last summer after running away.

The lawsuit alleges the state contractor operating the group home should have known the 21-year-old had a history of running away from care centers and was at risk of exploitation. Opti Health officials didn't respond to a request for comment.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the guardian is also suing the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, New Mexico, saying her client was sexually assaulted there as well.

A state Health Department spokesman said it doesn't comment on litigation.

Santa Fe attorney Linda Hemphill called lapses that led to the assaults "an outrage." She said the woman required careful monitoring.

Alamogordo Grandmother Facing Deportation In Church RefugeLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

An Alamogordo grandmother who was facing deportation has sought refuge in a Las Cruces church.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Saturday that Martha Lorena Rivera sought refuge at the Franciscan-run Holy Cross Retreat Center.

She was set to be deported on Oct. 16 and sought refuge a day earlier. A news release from NM Comunidades en Accion y de Fé (CAFé) says she plans to speak at a prayer vigil on Monday.

Rivera has lived in Alamogordo since 2002 and has been working with an attorney to be granted a stay of deportation since 2011. She came to the attention of federal immigration agents after an accident involving her two children.

New Hiring Marks Possible Turning Point For Energy IndustryFarmington Daily-Times, Associated Press

Jobs in the energy industry are slowly coming back to northwest New Mexico, marking a shift after several setbacks in commodity pricing and market demand for U.S. oil and gas.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that producers and oil service companies in the Farmington area are beginning to hire again, falling in line with the local unemployment rate that has shown improvement this year after steadily increasing since 2014.

Halliburton's Farmington office posted for more than 30 job openings last month for service operators, supervisors, mechanics and technicians.

Halliburton District Manager Larry Kent says the hiring trend is consistent throughout the district and is a result of the increases in local activity. Kent oversees the Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming district.

New Mexico Regulators Report Drop In Methane Emissions - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

State regulators say methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in New Mexico have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past year thanks to advances in technology and changes in the way wells are drilled.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Ken McQueen told a panel of state lawmakers Friday that most companies that are actively drilling are reporting the volumes of methane intentionally released through venting and flaring as part of their operations.

McQueen says out of the 60,000 active wells that are documented each month, his agency found 56 instances in which operators failed to report the required data.

Environmentalists say the state isn't accounting for methane pollution resulting from leaks and that allowing the gas to escape is costing New Mexico millions of dollars in lost tax revenues and royalties.