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June 5, 2015

FCC Chairman Pushes For Broadband Lifeline Expansion -- KUNM News

Among Americans who make less than $30,000 a year, about half of them have high-speed Internet at home, but a program might help narrow the digital divide.

The program is called Lifeline, and right now it allows people with lower incomes to have cheap—or sometimes free—phone service.

Emmanuelle Leal, an organizer with the Media Literacy Project, said expanding Lifeline to cover broadband will make a big difference for a lot of families in the New Mexico.

Now, Internet infrastructure doesn’t exist in many rural parts of the state. Leal said if more rural families are eligible for service that will spur local government to attract Internet providers to their towns. -- 6/4/2015


EPA Finds No Widespread Drinking Water Pollution From Fracking -- NPR

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

"We found the hydraulic fracturing activities in the United States are carried out in a way that has not led to widespread systemic impacts on drinking water resources," says Tom Burke, science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Research and Development. "In fact, the number of documented impacts to drinking water resources is relatively low when compared to the number of fractured wells," he adds.

The EPA's draft assessment was conducted at the request of Congress. "It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date," says Burke, "including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports." -- 6/4/2015

June 3, 2015

Chains scramble as egg costs rise nationwide and in Las CrucesLas Cruces Sun News

The devastating bird flu that has wiped out flocks in the Midwest has come home to roost for some local restaurants that now must deal with a nationwide egg shortage and skyrocketing prices.

Avian influenza virus exists in various strains, and causes illness in domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and different varieties of other birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As of December 2014, about 45 million birds in 15 states have been casualties of the virus, the USDA reports. - - 6/3/2015


Wildfire burning near Silver City continues to growLas Cruces Sun News

A wildfire burning near Silver City in southwestern New Mexico remains relatively small but continues to grow. According to BLM’s New Mexico Fire Information, the fire has consumed 65 acres. That's up from eight acres as of Monday. The fire is located in the Treasure Mountain area approximately six miles northwest of Silver City on federal Bureau of Land Management land. - - 6/3/2015


Official: New Mexico water debate to be shaped by transfersLas Cruces Sun-News

Drought has eased its grip on New Mexico, but the arid state still will be faced with having to weigh proposals that call for transferring water across basins to where it's needed most, a top water official said Monday.

State Engineer Tom Blaine told members of a legislative committee focused on water and natural resources that inter-basin transfers are going to become a hot topic.

He pointed to a plan to pipe billions of gallons of drinking water from rural western New Mexico to more populated areas.

The Augustin Plains Ranch application was first rejected more than two years ago after the previous state engineer determined the proposal was vague and its effects could not be reasonably evaluated. It was one of the most contested filings in the history of the state engineer's office. – 6/1/2015

May 22, 2015

Justice Department Eyes Voting Reforms For American Indians - Santa Fe New Mexican/The Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking legislation that would require state and local election officials to work with American Indian tribes to locate at least one polling place on or near each tribe’s land.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the changes are needed because “significant and unnecessary barriers” exist for American Indians and Alaska Natives who want to cast ballots. American Indians sometimes have to travel great distances to vote, face language barriers and, in places like Alaska, do not have the same amount of time to vote as others.

June 1, 2015

Population growth makes Las Cruces one of the 300 largest cities in the U.S. – Las Cruces Sun News

U.S. Census estimates Las Cruces now has 101,408 residents. Las Cruces is still growing, albeit slowly, and has earned a spot on the Top 300 cities list, according the U.S. Census Bureau. Las Cruces now has an approximate population of 101,408. That's just a bit more than 101,378 the Census Bureau estimated a year ago.

But what is surprising to some longtime residents is that Las Cruces is one of the 300 largest cities in the U.S. The city's population now ranks Las Cruces 294 out of 752 U.S. cities that have populations of 50,000 residents or more. There are more than 19,000 communities in the United States that are designated as cities, towns or villages, according to the National League of Cities. –6/1/2015


Report knocks opposition to Clean Power Plan -- Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico environmental officials are among others in two dozen states pushing back against proposed federal restrictions on emissions from existing power plants. Without state support, the proposed Clean Power Plan won’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions the way the Obama administration hopes it will, according to a new report released by the nonprofit Brookings Institute. -- 5/31/2015


Report: Fracking pushes New Mexico’s natural gas production to 27th in worldSanta Fe New Mexican

Fracking and other drilling innovations helped boost New Mexico’s importance as a supplier of natural gas, an industry group says, though depressed prices recently have slowed production in the state.

Using data from 2012, the most recent year for which consistent international data are available, a new report from the American Petroleum Institute ranked the state 27th in the world and seventh in the United States as a source of natural gas.

A little more than 3 billion cubic feet a day of dry natural gas were produced in New Mexico that year, mostly from the San Juan Basin in the state’s northwestern corner. The state’s production was just slightly behind Arkansas, but well ahead of Oman and Venezuela. – 5/28/2015

May 21, 2015

Report ranks New Mexico’s rural roads among the worstSanta Fe New Mexican

One project would replace aging bridges and crumbling pavement near Galisteo. Another would straighten a hazardous curve on a road to Ruidoso. A third would widen U.S. 82 through Eddy and Lea counties, where traffic fatalities have doubled in the last four years, to accommodate an influx of heavy trucks in the oil patch.

The list of repairs grows even as a new report ranks New Mexico’s paved, rural roads as tied for ninth-worst in the 50 states.

Just as significant, the report by the nonprofit research group TRIP, for The Road Information Program, says those roads serve more than half of New Mexico’s 2 million residents.

The report — by a nonprofit funded by insurance companies, labor unions, equipment manufacturers and highway engineering businesses — was released as the U.S. House of Representatives approved a two-month extension of transportation funding. But Congress again avoided the question of how to pay for highways and transit over the long haul, an issue critical to New Mexico because 85 percent of its road construction projects are funded by U.S. taxpayers.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund relies on revenue from an 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax — an amount that hasn’t increased since 1993. The fund isn’t enough to cover transportation spending, but most lawmakers are reluctant to raise the tax. Since 2008, Congress has authorized 33 extensions to continue transportation funding without finding a longer-term solution. The extension passed by the House on Tuesday would expire July 31, when many lawmakers say they expect to go through the same exercise again.