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New Mexico Regulators Approve Utility Rate Hike, Trump Declares Disaster On Acoma Pueblo

Dec 21, 2017

New Mexico Regulators Approve Utility Rate Hike With CaveatThe Associated Press

State regulators have agreed to allow New Mexico's largest electric utility to raise rates over the next two years but with the stipulation it cannot recoup the money the utility is spending to upgrade a coal power plant.

The state Public Regulation Commission approved the rate increase Wednesday, allowing the Public Service Co. of New Mexico to raise electricity rates by about 8 percent for the average consumer by 2019.

The commission has also barred the utility from recovering nearly $150 million spent on improvements for the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, describing that spending as "imprudent."

The utility and other involved parties have until next week to accept or reject the ruling. If it's rejected, the case would be sent back to a new round of hearings.

Trump Declares Disaster On Acoma PuebloThe Associated Press

President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for a New Mexico Native American community that is recovering from the effects of severe weather and flooding.

The declaration announced Thursday by the White House frees up federal money to help the Acoma Pueblo recover from damage to roads, bridges and sewer lines. The flooding also caused debris and wreckage to pile up, creating treacherous driving conditions along a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch, isolating part of the pueblo's lands.

The state's congressional delegation had urged the president to act earlier this month. They said the conditions affected members throughout the rural community, including those looking to gather firewood to heat their homes and ranchers who wanted to ensure their cattle had feed.

The pueblo is  (106 kilometers) west of Albuquerque.

New Mexico Adds 3 To Suit Against Opioid Makers, WholesalersThe Associated Press

The New Mexico attorney general's office has added three new pharmaceutical companies to a lawsuit accusing opioid manufacturers and distributors of exacerbating the state's drug addiction crisis.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced on Wednesday that Mallinckrodt, Insys, and Noramco were added to a lawsuit in state district court against five of the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and three major wholesale distributors.

The suit accuses opioid manufacturers of aggressively pushing highly addictive and dangerous drugs and falsely representing to doctors that patients would rarely succumb to addiction. It accuses distributors of failing to monitor, investigate and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.

Balderas said the lawsuit is modeled after past litigation against tobacco companies to funnel private profits toward drug treatment and law enforcement.

New Mexico's drug overdose death rate is far above the national average.

New Mexico Adds 3 To Suit Against Opioid Makers, Wholesalers Associated Press

The New Mexico attorney general's office has added three new pharmaceutical companies to a lawsuit accusing opioid manufacturers and distributors of exacerbating the state's drug addiction crisis.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced on Wednesday that Mallinckrodt, Insys, and Noramco were added to a lawsuit in state district court against five of the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and three major wholesale distributors.

The suit accuses opioid manufacturers of aggressively pushing highly addictive and dangerous drugs and falsely representing to doctors that patients would rarely succumb to addiction. It accuses distributors of failing to monitor, investigate and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.

Balderas said the lawsuit is modeled after past litigation against tobacco companies to funnel private profits toward drug treatment and law enforcement.

New Mexico's drug overdose death rate is far above the national average.

New Mexico Lobbyists Offered Training Against Harassment Associated Press

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office is offering training for lobbyists about sexual harassment in an effort to combat workplace misconduct.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Wednesday announced two training sessions on Jan. 11 and Jan. 18.

Toulouse Oliver said her office does not have the legal authority to mandate sexual harassment training for lobbyists. At the same time, the agency is urging lobbyists to disclose publicly whether they received anti-harassment training or adhere to outside policies.

The Secretary of State's Office also is providing lobbyists with draft anti-harassment policies and information to help them establish or improve policies at their own businesses.

The New Mexico Legislature is rewriting its own policy against sexual harassment in response to concerns that widespread misconduct has gone unchecked.

Second Trial Set For Former New Mexico State Senator Associated Press

A former New Mexico state senator convicted of fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations stemming from allegations that he used his position for personal gain will stand trial in a separate case next year.

Phil Griego is facing counts of perjury and embezzlement related to campaign finance reports that prosecutors say were falsified. He has maintained his innocence.

The trial has been set for Sept. 24. It's expected to take about two weeks.

Griego was recently convicted of charges that he used his position as a state senator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in Santa Fe by pushing the transaction through the Legislature without proper disclosure. He will be sentenced in that case in February.

Griego, a Democrat, resigned from the Senate in 2015 amid an inquiry by a legislative ethics committee.

New Mexico City Manager: Racy Texts Were 'Consensual' Associated Press

The manager of a small southeastern New Mexico community who is facing sexual harassment accusations says racy text messages he sent were "consensual."

Jal City Manager Bob Gallagher told The Associated Press on Wednesday he sent "legal and consensual" text messages to an adult female and denied harassment allegations.

In a statement, Gallagher says his female accuser is a "willing, greedy accomplice" who is working with a Jal resident who is angry about a disposal well that was ruled out of compliance.

His statement comes after KOB-TV reported that two women were accusing Gallagher of sending them crude text messages and asking for sex.

Dadrianne White told the station Gallagher repeatedly sent her lewd text messages for two years.

Gallagher says he already has apologized to his wife and family.

Trump Nominates New Mexico Lawyer For Appellate Court Post Associated Press

President Donald Trump is nominating a part-time federal magistrate judge in eastern New Mexico to a seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce made the announcement Wednesday, congratulating Joel Carson. The Senate will have to confirm the nomination.

Carson has continued his private practice while serving in his part-time judicial role since 2015.

After earning a degree from Texas Tech University, Carson continued his education at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He then served as a law clerk in the 10th Circuit.

He also worked as general counsel for one of the state's largest oil and gas producers.

Carson has served on legal committees for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico.

FBI, Tribal Police Try To ID Body Found In Whiteriver Fire Associated Press

The FBI and White Mountain Apache Police Department are trying to identify the remains of a man found after a fire at an abandoned house in northeastern Arizona.

The tribal police and fire departments responded to the fire in Whiteriver on Dec. 1.

The house was located in an area frequented by transients and the body was discovered after the blaze was extinguished.

The FBI says the body is that of a man around 5-foot-5 and likely between the ages of 34 and 55.

Authorities are seeking information from the public to help identify the man.

Shots Fired Near A Shiprock Elementary School; No Injuries Associated Press

Authorities say a suspect is in custody after shots were fired in the vicinity of an elementary school in Shiprock.

Navajo Nation police say there are no reported injuries.

They say Shiprock police officers arrived on the scene about 3 p.m. Wednesday at Nizhoni Elementary School and secured the area.

After being pointed out by witnesses, police confronted the male suspect who was walking near a city market.

Police say the suspect resisted arrest and officers used a stun gun on him before he was taken into custody.

They say a handgun was found in the suspect's possession. His name and age weren't immediately released.

Police say the school was placed on lockdown as a safety measure.

They say the incident remains under investigation.

Police: New Mexico DWI Suspect Smashed Car With Child Inside Associated Press

A Santa Fe woman is facing charges after police found her bloody and topless following an apparent alcohol-related crash with a young child inside her car.

Jennifer Jensen was arrested last week following reports that she smashed her red Toyota van in a McDonald's parking lot.

According to a criminal complaint, officers found the 36-year-old Jensen wearing only black underwear and suffering from various cuts. Officers reported also finding an open container of Vodka and a child with no coat in the backseat of the van.

Jensen was later transported to a local hospital for minor injuries. She was charged with aggravated drunken driving and child abuse.

Records show Jensen was arrested for aggravated drunken driving in 2003.

It was not known if she had an attorney.

New Mexico Tribe Plans New Casino Near Santa Fe Opera Associated Press

A Native American tribe in northern New Mexico has plans to build a new casino adjacent to the famed Santa Fe Opera.

Tesuque Pueblo's Tribal Council made the announcement Wednesday, saying the casino will be unlike any other in New Mexico. The tribe released few details, saying only that it will have a unique look and will be designed by the Albuquerque-based architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

The tribe says the project will create jobs and boost the region's economy.

Ground breaking is scheduled for next month with the opening anticipated in late 2018.

As part of the first phase, the casino will operate 750 slot machines and a variety of table games. Future plans call for a hotel and other amenities.

The tribe has operated Camel Rock Casino north of Santa Fe for more than 20 years.

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