KUNM News Update
7:05 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Thursday News Roundup: NM Deal Clears Way For Oil, Gas Development

NM Deal Clears Way For Oil, Gas Development  The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says the state has brokered an agreement that stands to benefit Navajo landowners who want to lease their land to oil and gas developers.

Martinez visited Farmington on Thursday to announce the partnership between the state, San Juan College and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Federal Indian Minerals Office.

The college will work with the agency to process signed lease agreements that have been stuck in the pipeline for months. Some Navajo allottees say they've had to wait years.

The backlog stems from federal budget cuts and staffing issues at the agency.

Dan Fine with the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department says the partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and could serve as a model in other western states.

Navajo Nation Eyes Treatment Center For Gallup The Associated Press and The Gallup Independent

A Navajo Nation official says the tribe plans to eventually convert the current detox center in Gallup into an outpatient and residential treatment facility.

The Gallup Independent reports that the aged facility takes in about 85 intoxicated people a night, functioning much like a drunk tank.

There are no beds and intoxicated people stay until they sober up, typically about 12 hours. Most are delivered by police or community service aides.

Clinical Director Vera John says the idea is to look for ways to promote treatment services to stop what she calls "the revolving door."

John says the facility needs immediate renovations that could take months and that there's no official timeline for completion.

 

Santa Fe Postpones Enforcement Of Plastic Bag Ban  The Associated Press

Santa Fe's new ban on merchants providing shoppers with plastic carryout bags is now in effect but the city is postponing enforcement and also dropping a planned 10-cent fee for paper shopping bags.

The City Council on Wednesday voted to drop the fee after lawyers for the city said it can't be levied under New Mexico law.

The council also voted to postpone enforcement of the plastic-ban taking effect Thursday until March 27 in order to provide merchants with a 30-day grace period.

Restaurants are exempted from the plastic-ban, as are bags for produce and bags for bulk items such as baked goods.

 NM state lands off-limits to fireworks, smoking - The Associated Press

Thousands of square miles of drought-stricken New Mexico are now off-limits to fireworks, open fires and smoking until further notice.

Land Commissioner Ray Powell made the announcement Wednesday, saying he's doing what he can to prevent catastrophic wildfires from starting on state trust land.

He pointed to the severe drought, the potential for gusty winds and dense vegetation around the state.

National weather forecasters say this winter has been much drier than normal for New Mexico and it's on track to be the third driest winter on record. Precipitation is only 35 percent of normal, snowpack is dismal across the mountains and reservoirs remain low.

In addition to the prohibitions, Powell says the Land Office is working on forest thinning projects and prescribed fires are planned to reduce fuel loads.

 New Mexico Lawmakers Average $16K In Compensation -  The Associated Press

State records show that New Mexico legislators averaged a little over $16,000 in compensation last year although they receive no annual salary.

The New Mexico Legislature is part-time. House and Senate members collect a daily expense payment, called a per diem, when the Legislature is in session and while attending or traveling to committee meetings throughout the rest of the year.

Four state senators were the highest compensated members of the Legislature last year, according to information from the Department of Finance and Administration obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Democratic Sen. John Pinto of Gallup collected $27,463. Democratic Sen. Carlos Cisneros received $26,905, and Republican Sen. Lee Cotter of Las Cruces got $26,800. Senate President Mary Kay Papen, a Las Cruces Democrat, received $26,289.

 

Santa Fe Postpones Enforcement Of Plastic Bag Ban -  The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe is postponing enforcement of its new ban on merchants providing shoppers with plastic carryout bags and also dropping a planned 10-cent fee for paper shopping bags.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the City Council on Wednesday voted to drop the fee after lawyers for the city said it can't be levied under New Mexico law.

The council also voted to postpone enforcement of the ban on plastic bags until March 27 in order to provide a 30-day implementation period.

Restaurants are exempted from the plastic-ban, as are bags for produce and bags for bulk items such as baked goods.

 

New Mexico Senators Back Effort To Secure Water Resources - The Associated Press

New Mexico's U.S. senators are backing legislation they say would help conserve water and promote sustainability.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say the measure would expand grants and increase federal funding for conservation and drought-mitigation projects. It would also provide resources for collecting data and analyzing water supplies and use.

The bill was introduced by Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. It's scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

Heinrich says the drought has taken a heavy toll on New Mexico. With the legislation, the state could tap into more resources to plan for and combat the dry conditions.

With little to no snow or rain over the winter, the drought in New Mexico has worsened. More than half of the state is dealing with severe conditions or worse.