Friday News Roundup: Udall Highlights Water Scarcity As Big Challenge

Sep 6, 2013

Udall Highlights Water Scarcity As Big Challenge - Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall says water scarcity is one of the most important challenges facing the West.

The New Mexico Democrat spoke Thursday at a conference in Albuquerque that explored ways to address future demands on limited supplies. Scientists and water managers from around the country attended.

Udall pointed to the Rio Grande, which cuts through the middle of Albuquerque. He says the river's flow is one-sixth of what it used to be, and it's now known as the Rio Sand in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico is in its third year of extreme drought. Stretches of the Rio Grande and Pecos River continue to dry and many reservoirs are at all-time lows.

Udall says he's pushing legislation that would establish a new water acquisition program on the Rio Grande.

NM Regulators Approve Power Plant Proposal - Associated Press

State environmental regulators have signed off on a proposal that calls for shutting down part of a coal-fired power plant that serves more than 2 million customers in the Southwest.

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board voted unanimously Thursday to back the plan.

The proposal was negotiated earlier this year by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state's largest electric utility, PNM.

The proposal settles two years of wrangling over the best way to curb haze-causing pollution at the 1,800-megawatt San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.

The plan calls for two units at the plant to be shuttered by the end of 2017. They would be replaced with a new natural gas-fired plant capable of producing at least 150 megawatts of electricity.

Court: Malpractice Law Covers Doctors' Businesses - Associated Press

New Mexico's highest court has ruled that businesses formed by doctors are covered by a state law that caps the damages that victims of medical malpractice can collect from health care providers.

The state Supreme Court issued the ruling on Thursday, saying that medical professional corporations and limited liability companies fall under the law's definition of a health care provider.

At issue was whether the 1976 law applied only to licensed physicians, hospitals, outpatient clinics and certain others such as chiropractors. A corporation established by a group of doctors for tax or business purposes isn't licensed, however.

The court said that excluding the businesses formed by medical professionals would undermine the purpose of the law, which was to increase the availability of insurance coverage for malpractice claims.

Education Pension Fund Earns 11% Investment Return - Associated Press

New Mexico's educational pension fund has grown by about $700 million during the past year because of strong investment returns.

The Educational Retirement Board reports that the pension fund's assets were valued at $10.1 billion at the end of June. That's up from $9.4 billion a year ago.

The fund had an investment return of 11 percent during the past fiscal year. It has averaged a 10.7 percent annual return over the past three years and 7.6 percent annually during the last decade.

The board has set a target of earning 7.75 percent yearly investment returns.

The educational pension program covers about 37,000 retirees and 61,000 workers ranging from public school teachers and principals to college faculty.