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January 6, 2015

In new report, feds rip WIPP’s emergency plans -- The Santa Fe New Mexican

A new federal report about safety conditions at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad criticized the contractor that operates the below-ground nuclear waste repository for inadequate and unreliable information in the plans it developed to guide decision-makers during an emergency.

The report, based on a review conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments, which evaluates federal contractors, focused on WIPP’s recovery plan for operating diesel equipment with restricted airflows. airflows inside WIPP have been limited to about one-seventh of their normal level since a Feb. 14 radiation leak that began with the rupture of a drum of nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory. -- 1/5/2015


New Mexico land office postpones solar land auctions for Santa Teresa, Chaparral acreage -- El Paso Times

The New Mexico State Land Office indefinitely postponed two Monday auctions for state land leases for proposed solar projects on 2,770 acres near Chaparral and Santa Teresa.

The auctions, set by former New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell, were postponed until further notice, reported Lilia Urrutia, a spokeswoman at the land office in Santa Fe. No reason was given for stopping the auctions. 1/6/2015

December 30, 2014

Poor federal evaluation costs LANL operators about $57M -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory received a grade of “unsatisfactory” in key areas of its annual federal evaluation for the last fiscal year. The private consortium that manages the lab will receive a mere 10 percent of what it could have in performance fees and was stripped of one year of its multibillion-dollar annual contract, according to documents made public Monday. -- 12/29/2014

Related National Nuclear Security Administration documents:


December 18, 2014

New York to ban fracking -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Handing environmentalists a breakthrough victory, New York plans to prohibit fracking for natural gas because of what regulators say are its unexplored health risks and dubious economic benefits.

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he is recommending a ban, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, responded that he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on the decision.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, Martens said, and after that he will issue an order prohibiting fracking.

Document in the Spotlight:

A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development, New York State Department of Health, December 2014

December 19, 2014

Report: Radiation leak at WIPP was smallLas Cruces Sun News

A final report by independent researchers shows the radiation leak from the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico was small and localized. The report released Thursday by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center also says no negative health effects are expected among workers or the public. 12/18/14


Middle-aged woman becomes first to die of the flu in El Paso this seasonLas Cruces Sun News

An El Paso woman who had tested positive for influenza virus has died. The El Paso Department of Public Health said the middle-aged woman, who was not identified, had several underlying medical conditions and had been receiving treatment at a hospital. She is the first flu-related death in El Paso this season, officials said. 12/18/14


President Obama Creates the Task Force on 21st Century Policing -- The White House Blog

Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.

In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and around the country, the Administration announced new steps to strengthen the relationships between local police and the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. One of the primary actions was the creation of a task force to improve community policing.

 President Obama signed an Executive Order to create the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and announced the members of the new task force. -- 12/18/2014


National Park Service to take over management of Valles Caldera Preserve -- Albuquerque Journal North

With a stroke of the President’s pen, management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve is expected to soon shift from a trust that has been overseeing the preserve since it was created by an act of Congress in 2000 to the National Park Service.

The management change is part of a Congressional compromise, embedded in the defense spending bill that has passed both chambers and awaits the President’s signature.

The bill also designates the Columbine-Hondo area within the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico as wilderness, and establishes the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos and other sites. -- 12/19/2014


Manhattan Project memorialized -- Albuquerque Journal North

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act passed recently by Congress and awaiting the president’s signature authorizes creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, with sites in Los Alamos, as well as in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash.

Seventeen locations on the Los Alamos National Laboratory campus – including still-standing structures where bombs were built and, perhaps more significantly, where scientists figured out how to make them – are included, as well as 13 properties in Los Alamos itself.

Those include Oppenheimer’s house and the one-time home of Hans Bethe, the 1867 Nobel prize winner in physics, which are under control of the Los Alamos Historical Society, and other “Bathtub Row” homes, originally built for masters at the old Los Alamos Ranch School and prized during the Manhattan Project because they had their own bathtubs. -- 12/19/2014


Digital Life in 2025: The Future of Privacy -- PewResearch Internet Project Report

The terms of citizenship and social life are rapidly changing in the digital age. No issue highlights this any better than privacy, always a fluid and context-situated concept and more so now as the boundary between being private and being public is shifting.

This report is a look into the future of privacy in light of the technological change, ever-growing monetization of digital encounters, and shifting relationship of citizens and their governments that is likely to extend through the next decade.-- 12/18/2014

Don't Miss: Privacy in 2025: Experts’ Predictions


December 17, 2014

Bye Bye Birdie? Climate Change And The Natural World -- KUNM News

The National Audubon Society was recently awarded Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Award for its comprehensive report linking climate change to a drastic reduction in future bird populations. Biologists and birders in New Mexico are already seeing drastic changes.

The National Audubon Society mined through 40 years' worth of data on hundreds of bird species. Scientists then modeled that information with global temperatures, humidity levels and precipitation. They found that more than half of the common bird species they studied are under threat of extinction by the end of this century. -- 12/17/2014