Rita Daniels

Reporter

Rita Daniels is an award winning reporter and radio producer who was raised off the grid in the Wild West by a pack of hippies and Pueblo Indians. She's pretty sure these unique circumstances have something to do with her love of the oral tradition as well as her unyielding obsession when it comes to to capturing stories about the human experience. Upon graduating from Emerson College in the Media Arts, Rita began recording and producing radio stories while roaming the planet. In 2010 she was invited to join NPR's Snap Judgment Team as a founding producer. Building on her previous work with The National Radio Project, Rita is now reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

Ways To Connect

Dick Thomas Johnson

UPDATE 6:05 pm - NEA New Mexico's Charles Goodmacher was in the courtroom late this afternoon and said the judge ruled in favor of the union. We will be following this story as it unfolds. Check back for updates.

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A district judge heard arguments Thursday in a case against the Public Education Department. A union representing teachers sued the agency over a mysterious statistic.

Rita Daniels

Key players in New Mexico’s energy economy came together Wednesday in Albuquerque to talk about some of the challenges they face.

The energy summit was hosted by the New Mexico Business Coalition and was dominated by concerns that federal regulations are stymieing the oil and gas industry. According to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the state produces 120 million barrels of oil in a year.

via Engaging Peace

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week on a law limiting mercury and other emissions from power plants will not affect a coal-fired plant in northwestern New Mexico.

EcoFlight

If you are a member of the Navajo Nation with respiratory problems and you live near the Four Corners Power Plant, you may have more access to health care soon.

The owners of the power plant struck a deal with the EPA and clean air advocates last week to create a $2 million pot of money for medical treatments for people with respiratory illnesses who live near the plant.

Rita Daniels / KUNM

The federal monitor overseeing reform of the Albuquerque Police Department held his first public meeting in town this week.

James Ginger responded to skeptics who questioned his take on what successful police reform will look like and criticized him for not including anyone from New Mexico on his 10-person team.

“Cut us a little bit of slack,” Ginger said. “Let us get our feet on the ground. Let us do a reconnoiter. Let us figure out what it is we need to do, and then we’ll have meetings like this periodically throughout the year.”

Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to recertify an underground nuclear waste storage facility in southeastern New Mexico. It’s the first time the Department of Energy has gone through this process since a drum burst deep underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, leaking radiation and contaminating workers.

Rita Daniels

This weekend marks Albuquerque’s 39th PrideFest, promoting a positive image of the LGBT community. But many transgender people feel like there’s still a long way to go in the fight to end discrimination.

Over one hundred people got together Thursday night at the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico before the candlelight vigil that launches Albuquerque’s PrideFest weekend. 

Agomezig via Compfight

The Santa Fe National Forest Service is asking the public what kind of environmental protections they would like to see for geothermal energy development in the Jemez Mountains. The U.S.

Public domain image.

The Department of Energy has fined the contractors that manage Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories nearly $1 million for mishandling sensitive material.

Hectore via Compfight

If you are out cruising the open roads of New Mexico, your ride might be a whole lot smoother and safer soon. Governor Susana Martinez is expected to sign off on a capital outlay bill next week that will throw $45 million to road projects.

One stretch that gets a lot of attention is US 82 near the oil fields in Lea County where narrow bumpy roads riddled with potholes are the norm. 

Rita Daniels

A federal judge approved the U.S. Department of Justice’s agreement with Albuquerque to reform the city’s police department this week, which has made some critics of APD hopeful. An investigation revealed that APD engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing and use of excessive force.

District Judge Robert C. Brack said the months of negotiations between the city and the Department of Justice were fair and honest.

Wikimedia

Underground rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant where radiation leaked in 2014 have been sealed off, but nuclear watchdogs are not satisfied.

When the container of nuclear waste burst at WIPP last year, the state environment department ordered the plant to close off the area as quickly as possible.

Rita Daniels

This year’s spring rains and snow have eased New Mexico’s drought and made it less likely that we’ll see huge, damaging wildfires this season. But in the big picture, fire ecologists say it’s not a matter of if there will be fire, it’s when. They're trying to use flames now to protect watersheds for years to come.

jonathan mcintosh via Flickr (cropped)
Creative Commons License

Border patrol agents are racially profiling and routinely harassing people in southern New Mexico according to an investigation by the ACLU.

The investigation revealed that border patrol agents detain people at checkpoints based on the color of their skin. It also detailed how roving agents pull over ambulances that are transporting patients.

Rita Daniels

People are going to have to wait to find out whether or not New Mexico’s largest utility will be allowed to continue investing heavily in coal power. Regulators decided to delay their decision on PNM’s power replacement plan Wednesday.

Brainwise via Flickr

UPDATE 12:00p: New Mexico Regulators Delay Decision On Power Plant - Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

New Mexico regulators are giving Public Service Co. of New Mexico more time to ink agreements with a mining company, delaying a decision on whether to approve a plan to close part of the San Juan Generating Station.

The Public Regulation Commission voted 4-1 during its meeting Wednesday.

PNM Rate Hike Rejected

May 13, 2015
fallsroad via Flickr

The Public Regulation Commission voted unanimously to reject PNM’s application to raise rates by 16 percent for residential users.

Rita Daniels

Hundreds of clean energy advocates marched in front of PNM headquarters on Tuesday during the utility’s annual shareholders meeting. The crowd called for New Mexico’s largest electricity provider to rethink its energy portfolio and continued investment in fossil fuels.

Leszek Teterycz wants PNM to replace all of the power that will be lost when two coal units are shuttered at the San Juan Generating Station with energy harnessed from the sun.

Mike Tungate via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Santolina developers and their opponents will appeal parts of the master plan for the 22-square-mile suburb at the Bernalillo County Commission meeting tonight.

Santolina was recommended for approval in December of 2014 by the planning commission.

Rita Daniels

Profits at New Mexico’s largest electric company have skyrocketed in the last few years, according to a new report, and demonstrators are planning to protest outside of PNM’s shareholder meeting Tuesday morning. 

Rita Daniels

There is a growing demand for locally grown food in New Mexico, but farmers here are getting older. The average age is 65. However, there are programs that aim to inspire and train up-and-coming young farmers.

Will Thomas

New Mexico’s largest utility company promised to have a completed coal-supply agreement for their power plant in place by last Friday but PNM missed its own deadline.

The coal-supply agreement for the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico is one of the linchpins for the plant’s future energy production. The utility wants to shut down two units there and replace that power with nuclear, natural gas, some solar and more coal.

Killbox

The Albuquerque Board of Education signed off on hiring the district’s next superintendent. The local teachers union approves the board’s choice.

By mid-summer Luis Valentino will be at the helm of the Albuquerque Public School District. 

Moon Man Mike via Flickr

New Mexico’s craft beer and winemakers will be able to sell their products in more places come July 1st, 2015.

So this summer when you stop by a brewery you may be able to order a glass of local wine. And if you're visiting a tasting room at a winery, you might be able to order a pint produced at a local brewery.

That’s because New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed a few bills expanding markets for breweries and wineries around the state.

Nico Ortiz of Turtle Mountain Brewing Company is excited to sell his beer outside of his taproom.

fallsroad via Flickr

 

New Mexico’s largest electric utility plans to appeal a Public Regulation Commission hearing examiner’s decision to reject a rate hike proposal

Public Service Company of New Mexico has two weeks to file objections with the PRC after their request to increase rates by more than $ 100 million was dismissed on Friday.

Two coal-burning stacks at the San Juan Generating Station will be shuttered in 2017. To replace that coal-generated power, Public Service Company of New Mexico has proposed investing mostly in other coal, natural gas and nuclear energy. The utility, which provides power to half a million customers in New Mexico, says it’s the most cost effective, reliable option. 

Courtesy San Juan's Citizen Alliance

On Wednesday, a Public Regulation Commission hearing examiner recommended against part of PNM’s energy replacement plan for 132 megawatts of coal-generated electricity.

PNM has been looking for a way to replace the energy that will be lost when two coal burning stacks at the San Juan Generating Station are shut down in 2017.

flikr2570 via Compfight CC

For years, dairymen, the state and environmental watchdogs have been trying to reach an agreement about how to deal with the waste that comes from hundreds of thousands of cows in New Mexico. The Water Quality Control Commission held a hearing Monday afternoon to consider proposed amendments to the Dairy Rule. But that’s not what they ended up talking about.

Rita Daniels

People dropped off children’s books by the carload Thursday at a bus stop on Albuquerque’s west side.

The goal was to literally stuff a city bus with tens of thousands of kids’ books as part of the Discover a Book program. They will be used to resupply the cubby of free books found on all of Albuquerque’s buses.

Nick Manole works with ABQ Ride and says since they started putting kids’ books on the buses almost 10 years ago they realized that many adults were reading them, too.

Karen Roe via Compfight

Watering restrictions are officially in effect for many New Mexicans.

Starting Wednesday, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority customers are prohibited from using sprinklers between 11a and 7p. 

Katherine Yuhas, Water Conservation Officer at the utility, said predictions for a moist spring and summer mean they could bank water in the aquifer by leaving it in the ground instead of pumping it.

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