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April 20, 2015

Wild horse advocates disagree on contraceptives for mustangs– Las Cruces Sun News

United in their belief wild horses should remain free to roam public rangeland across the West, groups including the BLM are working to protect the mustangs and are increasingly at odds over whether contraception should play a role in the decades-old dispute over efforts to reign in the natural size of the herds.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign - made up of more than 60 groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Welfare Institute and In Defense of Animals - has been willing to accept treating mares with the anti-fertility drug PZP as a more humane alternative to gathering and shipping mustangs to costly holding facilities. -- 4/20/2015


DOE report on WIPP: Los Alamos radiation release could have been preventedLas Cruces Sun News

A radiation leak that forced the indefinite closure of the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository could have been prevented, a team of investigators said Thursday.

A combination of poor management, lapses in safety and a lack of proper procedures were outlined in a final report released by the U.S. Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board. Officials planned to review the findings Thursday night during a community meeting in Carlsbad.

The investigators spent more than a year looking into the cause of the radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. – 4/17/2015


1,000 pounds of marijuana found in metal spools in El Paso, CBP officials sayLas Cruces Sun News

It took El Paso U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers 12 hours to remove more than 600 packages of marijuana from an elaborate smuggling attempt Tuesday at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, officials said Thursday.

CBP officials said that 1,365 pounds of marijuana were found during the inspection of a flatbed trailer arriving from Mexico with a cargo of metal cables. Officers had to remove the cable from the large metal spools and cut open metal containers hidden in the middle of the spools to reach the marijuana, officials said. – 4/17/2015

April 16, 2015

Post-Election spending by PACs drops in New Mexico- Las Cruces Sun News

Some political action committees continued to spend and raise money in New Mexico after the November election. But the latest financial disclosures filed with the secretary of state's office show it wasn't nearly as much as before voters went to the polls.

Spending by the New Mexico House Majority Fund and the Keep New Mexico House Majority PAC dwindled to virtually zero following the election that saw the GOP take control of the House for the first time in decades. The filings for the Oct. 7 to April 6 reporting period were due Monday for all PACs and elected officials.

ActBlue, a committee that contributed to Democratic campaigns, raised and spent about $93,000. The Realtors Association of New Mexico PAC raised about $74,000 and spent $30,000, including $5,000 for Gov. Susana Martinez's inaugural. -- 4/15/2015


Martinez signs gambling compacts with 5 New Mexico tribesLas Cruces Sun News

Five New Mexico tribes have new 22-year gambling compacts with the state. Gov. Susana Martinez signed agreements with the Acoma and Jemez pueblos, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Tribe and the Navajo Nation. Martinez signed the agreements Monday during a ceremony at the governor's office with tribal leaders in attendance.

The signings followed several years of negotiations and legislative consideration capped by passage of a gambling compact bill during this year's session. Tribal officials also have signed the agreements, which now go to the federal Department of the Interior for its approval. -- 4/14/15

April 10, 2015

Martinez signs ‘responsible’ $6.2B budget -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a $6.235 billion state spending package that bolsters education, economic development, child protection and public safety, though not at the levels lawmakers envisioned months ago before oil prices collapsed and dragged down revenue expectations.

Besides the necessary trimming that resulted from falling revenue projections, Martinez made cuts of her own. The governor used line-item veto power to strike pay raises for health workers and public defenders, and $1.8 million for a courthouse in Mora County, from the spending package for the fiscal year that begins July 1. -- 4/10/2015


Another tough year on tap for Rio Grande water users -- Albuquerque Journal

Cities and farmers that depend on water from the Rio Grande could be in for another tough year.

Snowpack from the mountains that feed the waterway is halfway gone, and there has been little to no precipitation in the last month. That means federal officials will be managing the river for drought for a fifth consecutive year.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the annual operating plan Thursday for the Middle Rio Grande. Some of the lakes that store river water are in better shape than last year but nowhere close to the 100 percent average that federal officials had predicted a month ago when snowpack was plentiful. -- 4/9/2015


Announcing a Week of Making this June 12-18 -- The White House Office of Science and Technology Blog

Last year, on June 18, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” By democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

The White House will celebrate a “Week of Making” this summer from June 12-18. The week will coincide with the National Maker Faire here in D.C., featuring makers from across the country and will include participation by federal agencies including: the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, Corporation for National and Community Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Smithsonian. -- 4/9/2015


Fight For Water Heats Up In Desert Southwest -- NPR Morning Edition

In New Mexico, there's a battle over the Gila River. The state has decided to divert the river and capture the water for later use. Critics say the move will be too costly and environmentally harmful. -- 4/8/2015


Scientists descend on New Mexico to solve methane plume mystery -- KRQE News

 It’s a scientific mystery: Why is there a giant plume of methane hovering over the Four Corners region?

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other agencies are spending the month in New Mexico and Southern Colorado to try to figure it out.

Images picked up by a European satellite, published last year, show the nation’s largest plume of methane is hanging over the San Juan Basin. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

There will be a public forum about the San Juan Basin methane plume on April 17, 2015 at 9 a.m. at San Juan College in Farmington. -- 4/8/2015

April 13, 2015

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege -- The New York Times

On maps, the mighty Rio Grande meanders 1,900 miles, from southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. But on the ground, farms and cities drink all but a trickle.

In a region that has replumbed entire river systems to build cities and farms where they would not otherwise flourish, the drought is a historic challenge, and perhaps an enduring one. Many scientists say this is the harbinger of the permanently drier and hotter West that global warming will deliver later this century. -- 4/13/2015

Resources cited:

1938 Rio Grande Compact

Elephant Butte Irrigation District

Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, Pending petition.  SCOTUS Blog

West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment: Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment. US Bureau of Reclamation


Studies question wisdom of thinning forests to stop fires -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe officials are now considering joining a collaborative brought together by The Nature Conservancy to thin and burn thousands of acres over the next 20 years in mountain ranges that drain water into the Rio Grande. The partnership hopes the plan will reduce the kind of catastrophic wildfires that wreaked havoc in the West over the last several years.

New studies question how, and where, fire and tree thinning in Western forests should be used to restore forest health and protect watersheds. The studies, and the move toward treating forests across large landscapes, are fueling some old debates over the best way for people to manage forests that have been dramatically altered during decades of fire suppression, logging and overgrazing. -- 4/12/2015

Resource cited:

Odion DC, Hanson CT, Arsenault A, Baker WL, DellaSala DA, et al. (2014) PLoS ONE 9(2): e87852. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087852


Net neutrality rules get published -- let the lawsuits begin -- CNET.COM

The Federal Communications Commission's rules for a free and open Internet were published Monday in the Federal Register, putting them one step closer to reality -- and officially subject to lawsuits.

The publication of the 400-page Net neutrality order in the federal government's journal of regulations starts a 60-day clock before it takes effect (on June 12). But it also means companies can officially take the FCC to court over the rules. And they didn't waste any time.

Under the new rules -- approved by the FCC in February and then released to the public in March -- Internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are not allowed to block lawful content, slow down applications or services, or accept fees for favored treatment. The rules essentially provide a framework for all Internet traffic to be treated equally. To do so, the FCC has reclassified broadband in a way that places providers under the same strict regulations that now govern telephone networks.-- 4/13/2015

Public input sought on Los Alamos stormwater proposal -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The public has until Thursday to weigh in on a proposed stormwater permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory and urban areas of Los Alamos County.

The Environmental Protection Agency made a preliminary decision in March that pollutants draining off parking lots, streets, roofs and other developed areas at the lab were contributing to Clean Water Act violations in streams. -- 4/12/2015


April 9, 2015

Gov. Susana Martinez signs bill to ban e-cigarette sales to minorsLas Cruces Sun News

Gov. Susana Martinez has signed legislation banning the sales of e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid containers to minors in New Mexico.  Sen. John Ryan's bill also requires those containers to be sold in child resistant packaging and prohibits online sales to minors. He says nicotine is "addictive and harmful" and can be the "gateway to a lifelong addiction."

Martinez signed Senate Bill 433 Wednesday. The Public Education Department has to revise its tobacco, alcohol, and drug free school districts rule to include the products by Aug. 1. – 4/9/15


Project Wildfire: Homeland Security Investigations arrest gang members in El Paso regionEl Paso Times

Fifteen gang members and associates were arrested in El Paso recently as part of nearly 1,000 arrests in a national gang crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, officials said Wednesday.

The arrests were part of Project Wildfire, a "surge operation" lead by HSI in 282 cities, including El Paso, Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

ICE officials said that a total of 116 people were arrested on a variety of criminal charges in the El Paso region, including 53 in Albuquerque, 10 in Las Cruces and 38 in Alpine, Texas. The operation ran from Feb. 23 to March 31. – 4/9/15


Agreement Reached By New Mexico Dairy Industry, Environmental Advocates -- Fronteras

New Mexico's dairy industry may soon have a revised set of rules that both farmers and environmental advocates can agree on.

The agreement reached between representatives for the dairy industry, environmental groups and state officials was presented at a public hearing in Roswell, New Mexico, on Monday. The hearing, which was scheduled to go on for five days, lasted less than six hours.

"It happened very quickly," said Dal Moellenberg, an attorney representing the dairies. "It was a little bit of a surprise to all of us, but we're very happy that we were able to reach an agreement."

At issue is a set of rules enacted in 2011 that deal primarily with how dairies manage wastewater and monitor groundwater. The industry appealed the current set of rules calling them overly burdensome and costly. Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, contend the rules are in place to prevent groundwater contamination. Six years ago the state environment department found that more than 50 percent of dairies in New Mexico were leeching high levels of nitrates.  – 4/7/2015.