Tuesday News Roundup: New Mexico Biofuel Plant Fire Prompts Evacuations

May 27, 2014

New Mexico Biofuel Plant Fire Prompts Evacuations - The Associated Press

UPDATE: An evacuation order has been lifted and residents of about 350 homes in Anthony are being escorted back to their homes after a biofuel facility caught fire.

A series of small explosions was reported Tuesday at the Rio Valley Biofuels plant near the town of Anthony, but authorities say there are no reports of any injuries.

Operations manager Jed Smith says he believes all five employees who work at the plant were OK.

Dona Ana County spokesman Jess Williams says the fire now has been contained and firefighters are concentrating on hot spots and smoldering areas.

County hazardous-materials specialists plan to inspect the site further to determine what chemicals may have been affected or released in the fire.

New Mexico Voter Registration Up 7 Percent Since 2012 The Associated Press

Voter registration has increased nearly 7 percent since New Mexico's last primary election, but a growing share of the electorate can't cast ballots in primary contests.

Independents — those unaffiliated with a political party — are the fastest-growing part of the electorate.

According to the secretary of state's office, nearly 1.3 million people are registered to vote — an increase of 6.6 percent since the 2012 primary election.

There are nearly 997,000 Democratic and Republican voters, an increase of 4 percent. Only Democrats and Republicans can vote in their primary contests.

There was a 16 percent increase in independent and minor party voters. They account for 22 percent of registered voters, up from 20 percent in 2012.

About 47 percent of voters are registered Democrats, and 31 percent are Republican.

US Plants Prepare Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage - Michael Melia, The Associated Press

Nuclear power plants across the United States are building or expanding storage facilities to hold their spent fuel — radioactive waste that by now was supposed to be on its way to a national dump.

The canisters used to store the waste on-site were envisioned as a short-term solution when introduced in the 1980s. The canisters, or casks, are now the subject of reviews by industry and government to determine how they might hold up — if needed — for decades or longer.

Most of the waste remains in pools. But with the pools at or nearing capacity, the majority is expected within a decade to be held in dry-cask facilities. Only three of the country's 62 commercial nuclear sites have announced plans to build their own.

Railroad Facility To Officially Open Wednesday The Las Cruces Sun News, The Associated Press

A massive new railroad facility in southern New Mexico is set to officially open this week.

Union Pacific Corporation has already begun operations at its newly constructed hub facility in Santa Teresa, but is holding its grand opening on Wednesday.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the facility will transfer cargo between trains and trucks.

The facility spans 2,200 acres and also includes fueling facilities and crew-change buildings.

Construction began in 2011.

The project is opening well ahead of its 2015 projected date.

Union Pacific says dignitaries scheduled to participate in the event include New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

New Mexico Overhauling 10 Bridges This Year The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Associated Press

The state of New Mexico is overhauling 10 structurally deficient bridges this year and has plans to replace three dozen bridges next year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that 55 bridges out of almost 3,000 state-owned bridges are due for preventive maintenance, such as replacing deck joints, deck sealing and painting.

Nearly 300 more bridges around New Mexico were listed as structurally deficient in the 2013 National Bridge Inventory, and it will cost millions of dollars to fix them all.

Many are more than half-a-century old or have to carry a lot more vehicle traffic than they did when they were built.

A structurally deficient bridge doesn't mean it's ready to collapse, but it does have load-bearing features that have deteriorated to poor condition.

New Mexico To Offer Free Online 'Curandero' Class –  Russell Contreras, The Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is going to offer a free online class on curanderismo — the art of traditional healing.

The school announced this month it will host the Massive Open Online Course as an offshoot of its popular curanderismo class offered on campus every summer.

Eliseo "Cheo" Torres, vice president for student affairs, says he will teach the class along with traditional healers from Peru, Mexico and New Mexico. He says the healers will show how traditional medicine is widely used among indigenous populations in the Americas.

Curanderismo is the art of using traditional healing methods like herbs and plants to treat various ailments.

Curanderos also could be found in parts of New Mexico, south Texas, Arizona and California.