Report: US Agency Holding Nuke Bombs Grapples With Oversight – Associated Press
The U.S. Department of Energy has its share of challenges as it conducts some of the world's most high-tech research, maintains a stockpile of nuclear weapons and cleans up after decades of bomb-making.
A report released this week outlines some of those management struggles while providing a look at the expansive scope of the department's responsibilities and costly liabilities.
According to work over the past year, the agency's inspector general says a growing problem is oversight and management of more than 11,300 contracts to keep operations humming at 17 national laboratories, dozens of contaminated sites and other facilities.
Most of the agency's $30 billion budget goes to contracts.
The report identifies millions of dollars in losses related to quality assurance and other problems at sites from Washington state to New Mexico and South Carolina.
Hopi Last Of Arizona Tribes To Sign Gambling Agreement – Associated Press
The Hopi Tribe is exploring the gambling business.
The tribe signed an agreement with Arizona this week that allows it to lease or operate up to 900 slot machines. It's the last of Arizona's 22 tribes to do so.
Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie signed the compact a day before his term expired. The new chairman, Tim Nuvangyaoma, took office Friday.
The tribe faces economic uncertainties with the expected closure of a coalmine in 2019. The royalties make up about 85 percent of the Hopi budget.
It's unclear whether the tribe is leaning toward leasing slot machines to be used in another tribe's casino or opening its own casino.
Hopi voters have rejected gambling at least twice before. Honanie has said opinions change and gambling should be considered.
Auditors Question Settlement Over Nuclear Waste Dump – Associated Press
New Mexico auditors are questioning a settlement with the U.S. Department of Energy over a radiation release that forced a nearly three-year shutdown of the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports auditors are concerned the agency will avoid paying hefty fines by promising to fund environmental projects under the agreement.
In a letter dated Nov. 21, Deputy State Auditor Sanjay Bhakta told Environment Secretary Butch Tongate that settlement policies should be reviewed.
The state and the Department of Energy settled last year over dozens of permit violations stemming from the mishap at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad in 2014.
At the time, the total $74 million settlement was the largest ever negotiated between a state and the Energy Department.
New Mexico Governor Appoints Commissioner As State Auditor – Associated Press
Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson as the new state auditor.
Her office made the announcement Friday after calling earlier this month for applications to fill the remainder of the term vacated by Democrat Tim Keller, who was elected mayor of Albuquerque. Johnson, a Republican, was unsuccessful in his mayoral bid.
Keller stepped down as auditor Thursday.
Johnson was chosen from among 10 applicants and will hold the office until the next general election in 2018.
Johnson is a two-term county commissioner, a business owner and member of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
Martinez says Johnson has championed transparency, ethics and accountability during his time on the Bernalillo County Commission and she's confident he will bring those standards to the auditor's office.
New Mexico Jury Acquits Illinois Man In 2003 Killing – Associated Press
A New Mexico jury has acquitted an Illinois man in a 2003 killing.
William Wilbur Hadix was acquitted of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the shooting death of Jessie Clyde "J.C." Tucker at his Clovis storage business.
The Eastern New Mexico News reports that jurors deliberated about 90 minutes before issuing their verdict Thursday night.
Authorities alleged Hadix stole more than $2,500 from Tucker.
Now 69, Hadix was arrested in 2015 in Illinois' Cumberland County where he'd moved from Clovis soon after Tucker's death.
Juror Jamaal Williams said jurors concluded they lacked enough evidence to convict Hadix.
Williams said jurors questioned the credibility of a Louisiana woman who testified that Hadix pointed a gun at Tucker and demanded money before she heard a bang and ran away.
Democrat Tim Keller Set To Take Helm As Albuquerque Mayor – Associated Press
Democrat Tim Keller is set to take over New Mexico's largest city as Albuquerque's mayor amid rising crime and a struggling economy.
The former New Mexico state auditor takes the helm on Friday and promises to immediately make changes to Albuquerque's troubled police department.
Keller has already made appointments including tapping a former Rio Rancho Police Chief Mike Geier as Albuquerque's interim chief.
Keller held a private swearing-in ceremony on Thursday and takes office on Friday.
He will hold a public swearing-in ceremony Friday evening.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry did not seek re-election after eight years in office.
US Officials Drop Mining Cleanup Rule After Industry Objects – Associated Press
President Donald Trump's administration is dropping a proposal that would have forced mining companies to prove they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution.
Friday's announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency comes after industry groups and Western-state Republicans pushed back against the proposal first made under former President Barack Obama.
The U.S. mining industry has a long history of abandoning contaminated sites, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for cleanups. Thousands of abandoned mines leak contaminated water into rivers, streams and other waterways, including hundreds of cases in which the EPA has intervened.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement that modern industry practices and state and federal rules already in place adequately address the risks from hard-rock mining.
New Mexico Cities Break Temperatures Records For November – Associated Press
Albuquerque and Roswell have shattered records for November after logging high temperatures way above seasonal averages.
The National Weather Service in Albuquerque on Friday released data for the month that just ended, saying such temperature records are typically broken by a tenth or two rather than whole degrees as was the case this year.
The warmest November on record for Albuquerque resulted in an average temperature of 52.8, beating the 51 degrees marked more than a century ago in 1909.
For Roswell, November's average was 55.4 degrees. The previous record was set in 1927 with an average high of 54.6 degrees.
Aside from the warm weather, the western half of New Mexico is dealing with varying degrees of drought according to the latest map . Albuquerque has gone nearly two months without measureable precipitation.