Thursday News Roundup: Crews Preparing To Enter Underground Nuke Dump

Mar 27, 2014

Crews Preparing To Enter Underground Nuke DumpAssociated Press

The Department of Energy says it expects to get underground next week to begin investigating a mysterious radiation leak from the government's nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.

Officials on Thursday said the inspections of the shafts workers will use to access the half-mile deep repository are complete and they are preparing to send an initial crew of eight into the mine early next week.

The dump has been shuttered since mid-February, when radiation was released above ground and into the air around Carlsbad, contaminating at least 17 workers with low doses of radiation. Four more workers are undergoing additional tests to see if they were exposed.

The leak came nine days after a truck hauling salt underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant caught fire.

It's unclear if the incidents were related.

Prairie Chicken Listed As ThreatenedAssociated Press

The Obama administration is placing the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species.

The decision could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.

The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below "endangered" status and allows for more flexibility in how the protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement is expected Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the listing decision in advance.

The wildlife agency's director says he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states but that the bird is "in dire straits" and needs help.

The states are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

NM Chile Numbers Down For 2013Associated Press

The amount of chile planted, harvested and produced in New Mexico in 2013 was down from the previous year.

Statistics released Thursday by state and federal agriculture agencies show there were only 65,000 tons of chile produced last year. That's about 16 percent less than the nearly 78,000 tons produced the year before.

Officials say fewer acres were grown in 2013 and yields were lower for most varieties, including hot and mild long green chilies.

The value of the crop also dropped to an estimated $49.5 million. That's almost $16 million less than its value in 2012.

Chile has been a staple in New Mexico cuisine for centuries, and the Hatch Valley in southern New Mexico has become world famous for the flavorful and intense chilies grown there.

Open government group questions Martinez policy - The Associated Press

 The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is asking Gov. Susana Martinez about the administration's policy for handling information requests from the Legislature's watchdog committees.

The questions were raised in response to a story by The Associated Press that Martinez agencies have told the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee to send their information requests to the governor's chief of staff for approval before an agency will respond.

Foundation Executive Director Susan Boe sent a letter Wednesday to the governor asking if her chief of staff now serves as the "chief records custodian" for agency requests under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

The foundation also made a public records request for any correspondence or memorandum sent to agencies about the governor's new policy.

Albuquerque police under new shooting scrutiny The Associated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department came under new scrutiny Wednesday after officers shot and killed a man outside a public housing complex in the second deadly encounter in the last 10 days.

Police said the man was killed after he opened fire on officers responding to a frantic call from a woman who said the suspect had pointed at gun at two girls.

The family of the man, identified as Alfred Redwine, however, insisted he was not armed and only had a cellphone in his hand.

But Police Chief Gorden Eden released video from an officer's helmet that indicated shots had been fired from somewhere before an officer opened fire. He also showed pictures of the suspect's gun with three spent casings.

Still, it's too soon to know if the shooting was justified, he said.

New Mexico's energy policy will be the focus of a daylong forum in Socorro - The Associated Press

The state Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources is convening a listening session at New Mexico Tech on Thursday to solicit technical and science-based comments on concerns related to energy development around the state.

Officials say the overall question is aimed at determining what should be included in the state's energy policy.

Water use and reuse, the possibility of contamination due to hydraulic fracturing, emissions and nuclear power technology are among the topics.

During the session, some two dozen questions will be presented to New Mexico Tech students and faculty who are experts in hydrology, geology and petroleum engineering.


Previous listening sessions have been held in Farmington, Hobbs, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.

Hearing set for boy charged in Roswell shooting The Associated Press

A judge in Roswell will hold a hearing Friday on whether a 12-year-old boy is competent to stand trial in a Jan. 14 middle school shooting in which two other students were wounded.

District Judge Freddie Romero will preside over the hearing for the boy, who is charged with three counts of aggravated battery in a deadly weapon in Berrendo Middle School's gym.

A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were seriously wounded.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that Special Prosecutor Matt Chandler declined comment on whether he thinks the boy charged in the case should stand trial.

He would stand trial as a juvenile.