Oil Rights Near Chaco Canyon Sell For $3 Million Despite Protests – The Associated Press
The Bureau of land Management has auctioned oil and gas drilling rights in northwest New Mexico despite protests from Native Americans and environmentalists.
The rights for drilling on 843 acres sold for $3 million on Wednesday. The sale of the parcels had been postponed on three occasions since 2012.
Critics contend the parcels are too close to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and that development in an expansive stretch they refer to as "the greater Chaco area" could damage cultural resources.
BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel says the parcels are all outside of a 10-mile buffer that has been established around the park.
She also said the agency will not release the parcels to the winning bidders until several protests filed in connection with the sale are resolved. The names of the winning bidders will not be released until the payment process is complete.
This story has been corrected to show that the parcels are not within Chaco Canyon or the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
New Mexico Democrats Seek Out Jobs In Hemp, Minimum Wage – The Associated Press
Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature say they want to create new jobs and boost the economy by allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp, raising the state minimum wage and adding local preferences to economic development incentives.
Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants on Thursday announced the Democrats' six-point plan to boost employment that includes investments in broadband internet infrastructure. He says other economic solutions are contained in next year's $63 million capital outlay plan, the smallest allocation in years.
New Mexico's 6.6 percent unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation, and the state's overall economy output shrank during the fiscal year ending in June 2016.
House and Senate Democrats are backing several bills that would increase the statewide minimum wage to as high as $10.10 by 2020.
UNM Suspends $3,400 Fee For Group To Host Speaker – The Associated Press & KRQE
The University of Mexico has suspended a $3,400 fee it was charging its College Republicans organization to host speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.
KRQE-TV reports that the school announced Wednesday that it would suspend the fee until a policy review is conducted.
UNM College Republicans were notified of the security charge on Jan. 10, which UNM College Republicans President Marina Herrera says was too late to gather the funds. She called the charge a "free speech fine" and accused the university of attempting to censor the controversial speaker.
University officials say they plan to increase security when Yiannopoulos speaks this weekend because there are planned protests.
Lawmakers Accepting Applications For Law Enforcement Posts – The Associated Press
Three members of New Mexico's congressional delegation say they're accepting applications for two federal law enforcement positions in the state.
Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce say the positions of U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal for New Mexico become vacant as a result of President Trump's election.
A joint statement says the senators with the assistance of Pearce will provide Trump with a short list of qualified candidates for the positions.
Feds Obligated To Consider Cultural Ties – The Associated Press
An attorney for a group of Hispanic ranchers says the federal government failed to consider social, economic and cultural effects when deciding to limit grazing on historic land grants in northern New Mexico.
Simeon Herskovitz told a federal judge Thursday the U.S. Forest Service had an obligation to weigh previous recognitions by the agency that grazing was integral to maintaining the heritage and traditional values of the Hispanic people who have called the region home for centuries.
The ranchers filed their lawsuit in 2012. It chronicles a history in which they claim the property rights of Hispanics have been ignored and an institutional bias has been allowed to continue.
Efforts to get the Obama administration to address their concerns about discrimination and civil rights violations went unanswered.
A U.S. Justice Department attorney argued the Forest Service did not have to consider the ranchers' cultural ties before limiting grazing in 2010.
It's unclear when the judge could rule in the case.
'Sanctuary Cities' Undaunted By Trump Move To Cut Funding – Associated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican
Politicians in New York, Seattle and other "sanctuary cities,” including Santa Fe, say they won't be intimidated by a move by President Donald Trump to cut off millions in federal funding to such communities.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Mayor Javier Gonzales said Santa Fe will stand by its policy of not allowing local police to help immigration officials identify undocumented immigrants, except in cases where other criminal activity is an issue.
Santa Fe has gets about $6 million in federal funds, which make up about two percent of its budget. The city has struggled with a budget deficit.
Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya said the move by Trump could harm his department’s relations with community members. Albuquerque dropped its sanctuary policy in 2010. Advocates are pushing Mayor Richard Berry to reinstate it.
A bill introduced this week by Democratic State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque would prevent law enforcement around the state from enforcing federal immigration laws.
Governor Says Solvency Plan 'Not Perfect' – Associated Press
Gov. Susana Martinez says through a spokesman that a budget solvency package approved by the state's Democrat-led Legislature is close to what she envisioned in discussions with lawmakers but "not perfect."
Solvency bills approved by the Legislature on Wednesday would plug a deficit and shore up the state's general fund by targeting school district reserves and transferring money from dozens of state accounts. The bills also would trim spending on programs for economic development and school initiatives that the governor has pledged to support.
Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan says that lawmakers chose to protect their personal legislative retirement accounts while trying to squeeze money out of other areas of government. He says the governor is going to take a closer look at the proposed legislation in the coming days.
Martinez has three days to consider the bills from the time they reach her office.
5th Navajo Sues Mormon Church For Alleged Sexual Abuse – The Associated Press
A fifth person has filed a lawsuit against the Mormon church accusing religious officials of not doing enough to protect Navajo children from sexual abuse in a now defunct church-run foster program that placed thousands of American Indian children with Mormon families.
The new lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Navajo Nation court by a woman who says was sexually abused as a teenager over a three-year period from 1968-1971 by her foster father at a house in Spanish Fork, Utah. She says was 15-years-old when the abuse began.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined comment on the new case.
Church officials haven't commented on the abuse allegations, though lawyers have pointed out that families volunteered to participate in the program and a large number never reported any problems.
Sandia Labs' New Management Team Taps Former Los Alamos Exec – Associated Press
A former Los Alamos National Laboratory executive has been tapped to lead Sandia National Laboratories under a new management team headed by a subsidiary of Honeywell International.
The team announced the appointment of Stephen Younger as director Wednesday, noting that the National Nuclear Security Administration has cleared the team to begin transition activities as they prepare to take over the Albuquerque-based lab.
Lockheed Martin's current contract expires April 30.
Younger previously worked as a senior associate director for national security at Los Alamos lab, where he was responsible for ensuring the safety and reliability of most of America's nuclear deterrent.
Younger also was a nuclear weapons designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during the 1980s and worked at the Nevada National Security Site and for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
New Mexico Legislature Considers Legalizing Marijuana – Associated Press
Democratic state lawmakers say the time is ripe for New Mexico to legalize and tax marijuana sales for recreational use as the state grapples with a budget deficit and plunging revenues.
Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque on Wednesday announced details of a forthcoming bill to legalize marijuana and tax sales by at least 15 percent to help shore up shaky state finances and reinvigorate the economy.
Local governments would choose whether to allow marijuana sales and could collect a 5 percent tax. Former district attorney and Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has consistently opposed legalizing marijuana or industrial hemp production.
Supporters of legalization also are pursuing a constitutional amendment that could go to a statewide vote in 2018 without the governor's say.
Lawmaker's Aide: EPA Freeze Won't Stop Colorado Mine Cleanup – Associated Press
A spokeswoman for Colorado Republican congressman Scott Tipton says the cleanup of a massive mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado won't be affected by the Trump administration's freeze on some environmental spending.
Liz Payne said Wednesday that Tipton's office got assurances from the White House that restoration work and water quality monitoring after the Gold King Mine spill will continue.
The spill polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The administration ordered a temporary suspension Tuesday of new business activities at the Environmental Protection Agency, including work assignments to contractors.
The EPA oversees the Gold King cleanup. The agency inadvertently triggered the 3-million-gallon blowout in August 2015.
The freeze created widespread confusion about its reach. Tipton's statement was the first word on whether the Gold King would be affected.
Federal Hiring Freeze Could Kill Hundreds Of New Mexico Jobs – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press
New Mexico officials say a government hiring freeze announced by President Donald Trump could put more than 300 advertised federal jobs in the state at risk. Many of the jobs are high-paying professional positions.
The New Mexican reports that Trump's decision could hit hard in New Mexico, the state where the unemployment rate is the nation's second worst.
A University of New Mexico economist says the damage to the state's economy would probably be minimal, but the state's Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall called the president's hiring freeze a "reckless, blunt decree."
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, however, said in an email that the hiring freeze will help the Trump administration assess the federal work force's strengths and weaknesses.
Carlsbad Councilor Fired After Facebook Post About Women – KOAT-TV
A city councilor in Carlsbad who posted on Facebook women have the right to be slapped was fired from his private sector job.
KOB-TV reported J.R. Doporto lost his job as a network engineer for oil company HollyFrontier Corp. after he posted on his Facebook page that women have the right to be slapped, as well as the right to cook and clean. Doporto wrote the post during women’s marches around the world last weekend.
Doporto has apologized but said he was joking and he has the right to free speech.
"It's great we live in America,” he told the Santa Fe Reporter. “If I feel like joking around about domestic violence and I feel it's okay to joke around about that, that's my opinion."
The state Democratic and Republican parties condemned Doporto’s comments.
Navajo Nation Council Approves $242K For Emergency Services – Associated Press
The Navajo Nation Council has approved $242,000 for emergency response services after recent heavy snow on the vast reservation.
Council members voted 18-3 to pass the emergency bill to provide supplemental funding.
It now will be sent to the office of the tribe's president and vice president for consideration. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye will have 10 calendar days to consider it.
The council introduced the legislation after a state of emergency was declared by nine chapters due to recent winter storms.
Council members say the tribe's 33 chapters have less than $10,000 for emergency services right now.
The emergency declaration directs Navajo Nation entities to immediately begin coordinating resources to meet the needs of all communities and activate emergency funds for personnel and equipment to restore and main infrastructure.
2 New Mexico Cities Make Donations To African Sister Cities – Associated Press
Two New Mexico cities are donating emergency response equipment to their sister cities in Africa.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says New Mexico's largest city will be donating firefighting gear along with a retired firetruck to the community of Lusaka in Zambia.
In 2014, Lusaka became Albuquerque's 10th sister city and first on the African continent. With only two fire stations covering an area with more than 2 million people, the mayor says the much-needed donation will be immediately put to use saving lives.
The city of Clovis in eastern New Mexico is donated a retired ambulance to its Zambian sister city of Kasama.
A Zambian delegation attended Wednesday's announcement. They presented the New Mexico officials with a check to cover the cost of shipping the donated vehicles and equipment.