WIPP Managers Come Clean On Ceiling Collapse, Secretary Of State Says Democrat Will Take House Seat

Nov 16, 2018

Managers Come Clean On Ceiling Collapse At Nuke Waste Dump – Associated Press

Managers at the federal government's nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico have acknowledged there was waste in the area where a portion of the underground facility's ceiling collapsed earlier this week.

The acknowledgement came Friday, a day after the U.S. Energy Department announced there had been a rock fall at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The agency initially said there was no waste in the area, but watchdogs voiced concerns.

The radioactive waste included two containers encapsulated in holes bored into the salt formation that makes up the walls and ceilings of the repository and its disposal rooms. There also were pieces of equipment in the room where the collapse happened that were contaminated by a 2014 radiation release.

Wednesday's collapse prompted an evacuation, but officials said work resumed Friday following an inspection.

Arizona Man Gets Probation For Mexican Gray Wolf KillingAssociated Press

An Arizona man has pleaded guilty to shooting and killing an endangered Mexican gray wolf.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday that Jason William Kunkel, of Peoria, Arizona, was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to the slaying of a Mexican wolf in December 2017.

Federal authorities say Kunkel shot and killed a wild-born, female Mexican wolf in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Under the terms of his probation, Kunkel is banned from hunting and banned from the National Forests of Arizona.

He also had to forfeit his Remington Model 770, bolt action rifle with a scope to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The most recent survey showed there were at least 114 endangered Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.

Sheriff Says Driver Faulted In Deadly Bus Crash Not IntoxicatedAssociated Press

Authorities say a driver had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he slammed into a pick-up truck, triggering a series of collisions on a New Mexico highway that resulted in the deaths of three passengers of a commercial bus.

The Sandoval County sheriff released the results of a toxicology report Thursday following the July bus crash on a stretch of Interstate-25 north of Albuquerque.

Authorities say the bus driver lost control while trying to avoid the crash into the pick-up truck. The overturned bus was then sideswiped by a semi-truck.

Sheriff's officials say excessive speed was not a factor.

The investigation's final results are to be provided to prosecutors in about two weeks.

The bus was travelling from Denver to El Paso, Texas. Two dozen people were injured.

Museum Sells 2 Paintings For More Than $19.5MAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Santa Fe's Georgia O'Keeffe Museum sold two paintings for more than $19.5 million.

The Albuquerque Journal reports "A Street," from 1926, and 1928's "Calla Lilies on Red" sold in Sotheby's contemporary art auction Wednesday in New York.

"A Street," a painting from O'Keeffe's small series of New York cityscapes, sold for $13,282,500. It went into the auction with an estimated value of between $12 million and $18 million.

"Calla Lilies on Red," one of several paintings the legendary artist made depicting the flower, sold below its $8 million-$12 million estimated value, at $6,282,700.

The proceeds will go to the museum's acquisition fund for purchasing new items for the museum's collection.

The buyers' identities were not divulged.

Child In 911 Recording After Shooting: 'Mommy Got Hit'Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A series of 911 recordings show authorities received multiple reports of a shooting that killed four people and injured a fifth at a New Mexico home. One of the calls came from a child who says, "My mommy got hit."

The calls reporting the domestic shooting Tuesday in the Navajo Nation community of Tsayatoh were released two days later to the Gallup Independent newspaper in response to a public records request.

Authorities say the gunman was among the deceased. A woman was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

The suspect and victims' names have not been released.

Authorities say a man called first at 2:30 a.m., before the child called, saying "mommy's hurting."

Then a woman called saying "I'm gonna die," and that her boyfriend shot her twice.

Secretary Of State Says Torres Small Will Take US House SeatAssociated Press

The New Mexico secretary of state's office says it expects Democrat Xochitl Torres Small to take her U.S. House seat despite a push from her Republican opponent to inspect certain ballots.

New Mexico Secretary of State spokesman Alex Curtas said Friday the office is scheduled to certify results by Nov. 27 that will show, according to unofficial results, Torres Small defeating Republican Yvette Herrell.

State District Judge Manuel Arrieta ruled Friday the New Mexico secretary of state's office can tally results amid Herrell's request to impound absentee ballots in a key county.

Arrieta says meanwhile Herrell's lawyers and the New Mexico secretary of state's office can come up with agreement on how those ballots can be inspected.

Curtas says Torres Small is in Washington, D.C., and attending freshman orientation.

Hearing Set For Republican Seeking To Seize US House Ballots – Associated Press

A hearing is set for a New Mexico Republican who is seeking to impound absentee ballots in a key county that decided a U.S. House race in favor of her Democratic opponent.

State District Judge Manuel Arrieta is scheduled Friday to hear arguments in response to an emergency petition filed by Yvette Herrell, who wants to inspect absentee ballots from Dona Ana County.

The AP called the race for Democrat Xochitl Torres Small after those absentee ballots tallied the day after the election put her over the top.

Court documents filed by Herrell's lawyers cited "chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties" but didn't give details.

Herrell hasn't provided any evidence about the alleged irregularities. Her campaign has not returned repeated voicemails, text messages and emails from The Associated Press.

Authorities Seize Records Of Ex-Athletic Director's Wife - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities have seized the bank records of the wife of former University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs as they continue to investigate the athletics department's finances.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the state Attorney General's Office served a search warrant on Marjori Krebs' records, seeking information about a large payment she made from her bank account to a credit card her husband used to make a $25,000 donation.

The investigation launched last year following the discovery that the university used nearly $25,000 in public money to pay some private donor expenses on a 2015 Scotland fundraising golf trip.

Attorney Gene Gallegos says Paul Krebs has never denied making a $25,000 donation to the UNM Foundation, and it's "not illegal, unethical or improper."

Paul Krebs retired last year.

New Mexico Governor Elect Names Transition Team– Associated Press

New Mexico Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has selected a panel of experts to help identify potential cabinet leaders and make other recommendations as she prepares to take the top office in state government.

The Democrat on Thursday announced the leaders of seven committees that will focus on separate areas of government. The committee co-chairs include a former governor who most recently led New Mexico State University as chancellor and a former state police chief.

Lujan Grisham said Thursday she will work with the bipartisan group as she focuses on the economy, education, public safety and improving access to healthcare.

The education committee will be headed by former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, a Republican; Kara Bobroff, founder of the Native American Community Academy; and Everett Chavez, a councilman and former governor of Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Police Release 911 Calls From Warehouse Shooting Suspect - By Mary Hduetz, Associated Press

A set of 911 calls from a man who police say shot three co-workers at an Albuquerque warehouse starts with him saying he opened fire at the food distribution center and that he had been hearing voices in his head.

Police say three men were wounded in the shooting Monday.

In the 911 recordings released Wednesday, the last thing 30-year-old Waid Anthony Melton says is that he'll meet police at a designated point in New Mexico's largest city. Then the call cuts out.

Police say Melton later shot and killed himself Monday night, hours after the attack at the Ben E. Keith warehouse.

Police say a female friend Melton picked up after the shooting and who was with him as he spoke on the phone with an officer was not harmed.

US Congresswoman Calls For Delay In New Mexico Oil Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico oil and gas regulators are being pressured to delay a decision on an application by a Texas-based company that seeks to ease restrictions on well locations in one of the nation's oldest producing basins.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who begins her first term as New Mexico governor in January, is the latest to ask for a delay in the proceedings. The request from the Democrat came Thursday on congressional letterhead.

Lujan Grisham says more information is needed from the Bureau of Land Management and Hilcorp Energy Co.

Environmentalists and landowners are concerned about increasing well densities in northwest New Mexico as developers look to tap reserves in the San Juan Basin. Hilcorp has said its application does not seek to drill more wells.

The Oil Conservation Commission is scheduled to hear the matter Monday.

Sandia National Labs Gets $1.2M To Help With Energy Projects – Associated Press

Sandia National Laboratories has been awarded $1.2 million in federal funds as part of an effort that supports some of the top research and development teams working to transform the nation's energy system.

The funds were announced Thursday by the U.S. Energy Department. In all, nearly $100 million is paying for 40 new projects.

Sandia will use its share to develop advanced core materials for electrical transformers with the aim of improving efficiency and resiliency.

Current transformers use copper windings surrounding a magnetic core to amplify the magnetic field generated by the coil. With new materials, scientists want to increase electrical efficiency while shrinking the size of the transformers by about 50 percent.

Sandia researchers also will work on developing a new polymer additive for transformer oil.

Fewer New Mexico Graduates Need Remediation In College -Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

State officials say the number of college-bound students taking remedial — below college level — courses in college has steadily declined since 2012.

The Albuquerque Journal reports data from the state Public Education Department says half of all New Mexico high school students entering a state higher education institution enrolled in remedial courses in 2012. Public Education Department Secretary Designate Christopher Ruszkowski says 33 percent of students took those courses at the end of last year.

Ruszkowski said Wednesday that the decline is a sign that the state's educational system is improving.

Ruszkowski described the decrease in remediation rates as a "culmination" of PARCC (standardized tests) implementation and rising proficiency rates, increased teaching standards, New Mexico's Common Core standards and other factors.

But the data only counts students who attended in-state institutions.