WED: Regulators Approve Solar Plan To Replace Coal-Fired Plant, Virus Cases Pass 20,000, + More

Jul 29, 2020


Regulators Tap Solar To Replace New Mexico Coal-Fired Plant - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico utility regulators have approved a plan for major investments in solar-generated electricity and battery storage to replace a coal-fired power plant.

The five-member Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously for a plan that relies almost entirely on renewable energy sources to replace electricity from the San Juan Generating Station as it is retired.

Advocates for renewable energy say the investments are in line with goals established by state lawmakers in 2019 for decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and channeling investments toward communities that relied on the coal industry.

The city of Farmington and others have been working to keep San Juan open as part of a proposed carbon-capture project.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $2.7 million for an engineering study to further investigate the feasibility.

Kyle Tisdel, an attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, said that project is less likely to go forward as the area's investor-owned utility moves forward with long-term contracts for solar panel arrays and battery storage facilities.

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In New Mexico Jump 352, Now 20,136 Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say the state has 352 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bring the state's total to 20,136.

The state Department of Health said Wednesday that six more people died from the virus and New Mexico's death total is now 632.

The spike was driven in part by 76 cases among people held by federal agencies at the Cibola County Correctional Center. Bernalillo County had 87 news cases and there were 38 in Doña Ana County.

There are 158 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico for the novel coronavirus. This number may include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are currently hospitalized in the state.

In addition, there are 7,817 COVID-19 cases designated as having recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health.

The latest numbers come as Republicans and restaurants battle Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over new health restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Execution Set For Sole Native American On Federal Death Row - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

The U.S. government has set an execution date for the only Native American on federal death row.

Lezmond Mitchell is scheduled to be put to death in late August. The Navajo man was among the first of a handful of inmates set to be executed after the Trump administration ended an informal 17-year moratorium.

Mitchell temporarily was spared by a federal appeals court as his attorneys argued to interview jurors for potential racial bias. The court sided against Mitchell in late April.

Mitchell was convicted of the 2001 murder of a Navajo woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Carl Slater, whose grandparents testified against capital punishment in Mitchell's trial as educators, has been pushing the tribe to request clemency from the federal government and affirm its position against the death penalty.

If the execution moves forward, Slater said it would send a message that the federal government has no problem using loopholes to infringe on the tribe's sovereignty.

"This completely conflicts with our values," he said. "The government has an obligation to express our values and reflect them. That's not just to our citizens, that's to other sovereigns that have these relationships."

Wyoming Wildlife Officials To Test Dead Rabbits For DiseaseRock Springs Rocket-Miner, Associated Press

Wyoming wildlife officials have asked residents to report dead rabbits in their yards, rural property and outdoor areas because a viral disease has been identified in several neighboring states.

The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reported that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has tested carcasses statewide for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus2 to monitor the spread of the disease. It does not pose a risk to humans.

The disease has been confirmed in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Texas. It has not been found in Wyoming.

Department veterinarian Samantha Allen says all rabbits and hares in Wyoming are susceptible to the disease, including domestic rabbits.

Former Illinois, New Mexico St Coach Lou Henson Dies At 88Associated Press

Lou Henson, the basketball coach who led Illinois back into the national spotlight and was the winningest coach at New Mexico State University, has died at age 88.

The school says Henson died Saturday and was buried on Wednesday. In 21 seasons at Illinois, Henson won a school-record 423 games and took his 1989 Illini team to the Final Four.

Henson was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Henson, a native of Okay, Oklahoma, played college basketball at New Mexico State in the early 1950s. After coaching at Las Cruces High School — where he won three state titles — and Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, Henson took over at New Mexico State in 1966.

His Aggies made the NCAA Tournament in each of his first five seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 1970.

Wins at New Mexico State led Henson to Illinois in 1975, where he took over a program that had struggled since an NCAA scandal in the 1960s.

Trump Administration To Resume Processing DACA Renewals – Associated Press

The Trump administration will begin allowing so-called “Dreamer” immigrants to renew their permits to remain and work in the U.S. for a year while it reviews a Supreme Court ruling and the underlying legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Renewals for the Obama-era program, which covers hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, had been halted as the Trump administration pushed to end the program.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that Trump failed to follow appropriate procedure when he tried to end the program, but affirmed his ability to do so. The White House has been studying the ruling and devising plans to try again to end DACA — though it was not immediately clear whether the politically sensitive move would be undertaken before November's election.

The administration has vowed not to accept new applications for the program.

New Mexico High School Sports Try To Plan Amid UncertaintyAssociated Press

High school athletic directors across New Mexico are actively seeking to obtain schedules for the 2020-21 school year amid a pandemic, uncertainty and fewer games.

The Albuquerque Journal reports school districts are waiting for each other to finish crafting basketball, soccer and volleyball schedules.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Activities Association has eliminated regular-season tournaments and overnight travel for the upcoming school year.

Albuquerque Public School unquestionably faces the most arduous assignment, since APS has 13 public high schools. Moreover, many other districts — like Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Los Lunas and Las Cruces — regularly maintain non-district scheduling relationships with APS.

Rio Rancho Public Schools and Los Lunas Schools, both of which have two high schools, are planning to schedule full seasons. For 2020-21 only, “full” is defined as seven in football, down from 10. Basketball is down from 26 to 18. Baseball and softball are down from 26 to 20. Soccer is down from 20 to 14.

Torres Small Releases New Ad Touting COVID-19 Relief Aid Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico released this week a new commercial touting her bipartisan work on a COVID-19 relief package as she prepares to face a tough reelection fight.

The Las Cruces Democrat unveiled the ad entitled “Accountable ” that says she worked with Republicans, Democrats and President Donald Trump to get the aid measure passed.

Appearing with farmers and walking alongside an arroyo, Torres Small said it was time to hold the federal government and banks accountable for mismanaging relief dollars.

The ad is scheduled to air in Albuquerque and El Paso markets in English and Spanish.

Republicans immediately attacked the ad’s bipartisan message and reminded voters in a news release that Torres Small voted to impeach Trump.

Torres Small faces Republican Yvette Herrell in a closely watched race in southern New Mexico. It's a rematch of the 2018 election where Torres Small won by less than 4,000 votes to flip the traditionally GOP-leaning district.

Police: Intruding Neighbor Dispelled By Boiling Water Associated Press

A New Mexico man is facing charges after police said he barged in on his neighbor in an angry tirade and was dispelled only after the neighbor doused him with boiling water.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Joseph “JoJo” Garcia was arrested Sunday in Las Cruces following an argument over a bathroom break.

According to police, a man was approached by a woman he knew from his neighborhood who asked him if she could use his bathroom. Shortly after, Garcia ran into the house armed with a knife and demanded to talk to his girlfriend.

The neighbor grabbed the boiling water as Garcia fled but was eventually doused with the water outside. Police said Garcia threw three cinder blocks through different windows to the apartment.

Garcia was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property over $1,000, and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.

It was not known if he had an attorney.

US Attorney Urges City To Embrace Surge In Federal AgentsAssociated Press

U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson is defending a decision to deploy 35 more federal agents to Albuquerque to address violent crime, urging the city's Democratic mayor to embrace the effort.

A letter to the mayor Tuesday reiterated that the new agents will conduct “classic crime fighting” activities by augmenting existing federal task forces in Albuquerque.

President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced last week the new law enforcement deployment, with assurances it would not involve agents in tactical gear like those used to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrations have spiraled into violence.

The plan was greeted warily by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said agents should be monitored to avoid civil rights violations.

Among Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s demands was a call for federal agents to be readily identifiable when making arrests and equipped with body-worn cameras.

Anderson suggested that would undermine the effectiveness of undercover agents.

Virgin Galactic Shows Off Passenger Spaceship Cabin InteriorAssociated Press

Passengers flying Virgin Galactic on suborbital trips into space will be able to see themselves floating weightless against the backdrop of the Earth below while 16 cameras document the adventures, the company said Tuesday.

Highly detailed amenities to enhance the customer flight experience were shown in an online event revealing the cabin of the company’s rocket plane called SpaceShipTwo, which is undergoing testing in preparation for commercial service.

There are a dozen windows for viewing, seats that will be customized for each flight's six passengers and capable of adjusting for G forces, and, naturally, mood lighting.

Virgin Galactic was founded by British billionaire Richard Branson after the prize-winning flights of the experimental SpaceShipOne in 2004. Branson plans to be the first passenger when commercial flights begin.

SpaceShipTwo was developed in Mojave, California, and will operate commercially from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, where passengers will undergo several days of training before their flights.