Wednesday News Roundup: Los Alamos Resumes Nuclear-Waste Shipments

Apr 2, 2014

Los Alamos Resumes Nuclear-Waste Shipments The Associated Press

Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is under a tight deadline to get nuclear waste of its northern New Mexico campus before wildfire season peaks, has begun trucking the remainder of the waste to Texas.

Los Alamos and Department of Energy officials say the first shipments arrived at a commercial nuclear waste dump in Andrews County in west Texas on Wednesday.

Removal of the waste was halted in February after a truck fire and radiation leak shuttered indefinitely the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico. But federal officials last month reached an agreement to temporarily move the waste to Waste Control Specialists.

The state of New Mexico pressured Los Alamos to get the material off a mesa following a massive 2011 wildfire that lapped at the edges of lab property.

Vigil Planned In Response To New Mexico Police Shooting - The Associated Press

 A candlelight vigil is planned in the Albuquerque foothills in response to the recent fatal shooting of a homeless camper by police.

Organizers were calling on people to gather Wednesday evening at the Copper trailhead with candles or flashlights.

Last month, Albuquerque police shot 38-year-old James Boyd after a long standoff during which Boyd claimed he was a government agent. A helmet camera video of the shooting showed Boyd picking up his belongings before he was shot. He later died at a hospital.

Police said Boyd had threatened to kill officers and held onto knives as an unarmed officer from the canine unit approached him.

Boyd's death helped spark a violent protest Sunday that forced the city to call out riot police and unload tear gas on demonstrators.

Officer Under Investigation In Varela Case Fired  The Associated Press

One of two Albuquerque police officers under investigation for how they handled a child abuse call involving Omaree Varela has been fired.

The police department terminated Officer Gil Vigil on Wednesday.

Vigil's attorney, Sam Bregman, says his client's termination is unjustified and that the officer wants his job back.

Vigil and another officer were placed on administrative leave in February after it was discovered that they went to the boy's home in June to respond to a 911 call in which a dispatcher overheard threatening, profane and abusive comments.

The police department had said the officers never listened to the call and did not file a report.

Six months later, the boy died after his mother allegedly kicked him to death. She has been charged and remains jailed.

Lawsuit: Police Violated Taos Inmate's RightsThe Associated Press and The Albuqueruqe Journal

A new lawsuit says several New Mexico State Police officers violated a Taos County inmate's civil right when they used stun guns on him.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that attorneys for John Moya said in court documents that he was "physically attacked and Tased" by officers in Taos County jail last month. The lawsuit filed in state court says the 35-year-old Moya "was still in leg shackles" when officers used stun guns.

Two of the officers named on the lawsuit were involved in a chaotic traffic stop near Taos last year where an officer fired at a van full of children.

State Police spokesman Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, he said Moya was arrested on a probation violation at his Taos home where he was found hiding in an attic crawl space.


Martinez Announces Child Welfare Proposals The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at reforming the state's child welfare system and the way child abuse cases are investigated.

Martinez says the initiatives stem from an extensive review of the Children, Youth and Families Department and the case of a 9-year-old Albuquerque boy who police say was kicked to death by his mother last December.

The governor says she reviewed the case of Omaree Varela and every agency can learn from it.

Authorities say the boy had previously tried to report allegations of abuse. His mother has been arrested in his death.

Martinez will be signing a number of executive orders this week to implement the changes, one of which includes improving communication between social workers and law enforcement officers.

State Trust Land Leasees To Continue With Business - The Associated Press

The State Land Office says an agreement signed last week will allow leaseholders to continue with their business despite the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a federally threatened species.

State Land Commissioner Ray Powell says the agreement protects the future viability of the grouse while ensuring responsible use of natural resources in the southeastern New Mexico.

Lease sales, royalties and other revenues from development on state trust land help fund public education in New Mexico.

Officials say more than 400,000 acres of state trust land are covered under the conservation agreement.

Under the deal, non-federal landowners and industries can apply conservation measures to the property that will benefit the prairie chicken and still allows for oil and gas production.


Albuquerque Film Office Recognized - The Associated Press

The Albuquerque Film Office has won top honors from the Location Managers Guild of America.

The office was named "Outstanding Film Commission" of 2013 at the group's inaugural awards show Saturday, beating out three Southern California film commissions and Iceland.

Organizers say the award is given to the film commission "that rises above and beyond the call of duty." The Albuquerque Film Office was nominated for its contribution to the TV production "Breaking Bad" and the feature film "Lone Survivor."

Mayor Richard Berry credits city film liaison Ann Lerner and her team for the honor. He says the "the critical assistance they provide to the industry is a key reason Albuquerque is considered a great place for filmmaking."


Re-entry To Nuke Dump Postponed - The Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy has postponed plans to get a crew underground to begin investigating a radiation leak from the federal government's nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.

Officials on Monday said a crew of eight would enter the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on Tuesday. But spokesman Ben Williams said that has been postponed until later this week because the real-time radiation monitors they want the team to be wearing haven't arrived.

No one has been underground at the half-mile deep repository since the Feb. 14 radiation release, which contaminated 21 workers and sent low-levels of radiation into the air around the plant.

It's unknown what is leaking or how extensive the contamination might be below ground at the $2 billion plant, which is the nation's only permanent underground repository for low-level radioactive waste from nuclear weapons facilities.


US Marshals Shoot Man Outside Of Albuquerque - The Associated Press

Authorities say federal marshals shot a wanted felon Tuesday morning in southwest Albuquerque.

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office spokesman Aaron Williamson says shots were fired as the U.S. Marshal's Service Task Force moved in to arrest the man. Williamson said he didn't know if the suspect was armed.

The suspect was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he was reported in stable condition.

The suspect's name was being withheld, but Williamson says he is a parole absconder wanted for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, child abuse and possession of a firearm.

Williamson says a federal marshal also suffered minor injuries in the incident.

Sheriff's officials, state police and Albuquerque police are investigating the shooting, which sparked a small protest.

Hundreds of people took to the streets for 11 hours Sunday to protest against recent shootings by Albuquerque police.