Wednesday News Roundup: EPA Moves Forward With Plan For NM Power Plant

Apr 30, 2014

EPA Moves Forward With Plan For NM Power Plant – The Associated Press

Federal regulators are moving forward with a proposal they say would target some of the oldest pollution in the country by closing part of a New Mexico coal-fired power plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed approving a plan they’ve negotiated along with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration and the state's largest electric provider, PNM.

A 30-day public comment period kicks off today.

The plan aims to curb haze-causing pollution from the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. Critics have long complained that San Juan and other coal-fired plants in the Four Corners region have compromised air quality and visibility at national parks in the area.

EPA officials say air pollution has no geographical boundaries and the plan will go a long way toward improving scenic visibility under the Clean Air Act.

Expert: Bernalillo County Inmates Denied Rights The Albuquerque Journal, The Associated Press

A court-appointed expert says Bernalillo County jail inmates in segregation units are being denied their required out-of-cell time for not making their bed properly, yelling repeatedly or otherwise misbehaving.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Manuel Romero testified Tuesday that corrections officers also have withheld out-of-cell time without getting prior approval from a supervisor.

Under a court order, such inmates in solitary confinement are supposed to get about an hour a day outside their cells.

Attorneys for inmates are asking U.S. District Judge James Parker to impose substantial fines for failure to comply with his orders from last year. The orders were intended to improve conditions in the jail as part of a long-running civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates.

An attorney for the county says the jail has made a number of improvements.

NM Forest To Impose Fire Restrictions The Associated Press

Fire restrictions will take effect across the Cibola National Forest next week as dry conditions persist.

Forest Supervisor Elaine Kohrman says the restrictions will start Monday morning on the Sandia, Mountainair, Mt. Taylor and Magdalena ranger districts.

Kohrman says the drought and increasing fire danger have made the restrictions necessary.

That means no campfires except within developed recreation sites, and smoking will be limited to enclosed vehicles, buildings and developed recreation sites.

Kohrman says forest employees regularly assess the dryness of the vegetation by monitoring temperatures, humidity and precipitation. This information will be used to determine how long the restrictions remain in place.

Nearly every corner of the state is dealing with some level of drought. Conditions are classified as severe in more than three-quarters of New Mexico.

New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Opposes Guard Cuts The Associated Press

New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez has joined with leaders from other states in opposing possible cutbacks to Army National Guard personnel.

In a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama, Sanchez and other members of the National Lieutenant Governors Association objected to possible budget reductions that could lower National Guard troop levels.

The state officials said the National Guard was a ready, reliable, and essential force for responding to emergencies and natural disasters and serving overseas.

The National Governors Association has also opposed potential National Guard cuts.

The Obama administration has proposed the reductions as part of a defense budget that also would trim the active-duty Army from over 520-thousand soldiers to between 440- and 450-thousand.

Mexican Wolf Found Dead On Arizona Reservation The Associated Press

Wildlife managers are investigating the death of a Mexican gray wolf on tribal land in eastern Arizona.

The male wolf was found dead at the end of March on the Fort Apache reservation. The animal belonged to one of two packs known to frequent the area.

State and federal officials involved in the reintroduction effort say the cause of the wolf's death remains under investigation. It marks the second wolf death since the beginning of the year.

The reintroduction program has been hampered over the years by politics, illegal killings and other factors. Disputes over management of the predators have also spurred numerous legal actions by environmentalists and ranchers.

A survey in January showed there were at least 83 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.

Kansas, Colorado Groups Aim To Save 'Chief' Route – The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Associated Press

A coalition in Western Kansas and Southern Colorado has pledged $9 million dollars to keep Amtrak's Southwest Chief on its current route through those areas and Northern New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the coalition announced Tuesday that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which owns the track along the Southwest Chief route, has said it will commit to contributing $2 million dollars. Meanwhile, Amtrak has pledged $4 million dollars and the Kansas Department of Transportation has committed another $3 million dollars.

No such steps have been taken in New Mexico, where a state study is underway to determine the economic benefits, infrastructure needs and costs, and possible constitutional constraints.

The coalition is also pursuing $24 and a half million dollars in federal grants.

UNM Lobo Cornerback Arrested In Rape Case The Associated Press

A defense attorney says evidence will vindicate New Mexico cornerback SaQwan Edwards in a rape case.

Police say the 21-year-old junior from Houston remained jailed after surrendering Tuesday on a warrant accusing him of criminal sexual penetration and kidnapping.

Defense attorney Paul Kennedy says the defense has surprising forensic evidence concerning the allegations but he would not provide further details.

Edwards was arrested after a female student said she was raped by three men on April 13th.

Edwards' teammate Crusoe Gonbay and a former university student also have been arrested in the case. The two players have been suspended from the team.

Gongbay's lawyer has said his client is presumed innocent.