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September 8, 2015

Congress wades into toxic mine spill caused by EPA crewLas Cruces Sun News

The focus on a toxic mine spill that fouled rivers in three Western states shifts to Congress this week as lawmakers kick off a series of hearings into how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accidentally unleashed the deluge of poisoned water.

Republican committee leaders in the House and Senate said EPA officials were frustrating their attempts to investigate the spill by withholding documents that could explain what went wrong when a cleanup team doing excavation work triggered the release of 3 million gallons of rust-colored sludge from the inactive Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. -- 9/8/15

September 3, 2015

Auditor: New Mexico had $100M special education shortfallLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico saw a shortfall of more than $100 million in special education funding for three years, and that shortfall put the state at risk of losing important federal funding, the New Mexico State Auditor's office announced Wednesday.

An independent accounting firm found the shortfall in special education funding from July 2009 to June 2012 during the audit, according to the office. Those numbers were based on New Mexico Public Education Department's calculations, the office said.

The announcement was just the latest in the long dispute over special education funding in New Mexico, and it comes at a time when Republican Gov. Susana Martinez pushes through record education spending this year. The state's Public Education Department is currently in a legal dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over to how to calculate New Mexico's special education funding.  - - 9/3/15


Court strips lesser prairie chicken of federal protection -- Santa Fe New Mexican/Associated Press

A federal court in Texas has stripped the lesser prairie chicken of Endangered Species Act protections, a victory for oil and gas companies that argued conservation efforts are working.

District Judge Robert Junell ruled Tuesday in Midland that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make a proper evaluation of the states’ conservation plan when it listed the lesser prairie chicken — a species of grouse with feathered feet and striped plumage — as threatened.



September 1, 2015

Aerospace company chooses New Mexico spaceport for testing -- KRQE/Associated Press

An aerospace company based in southern New Mexico plans to begin testing its aircraft and space launch vehicles at Spaceport America beginning next year.

Officials with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority announced Tuesday that ARCA Space Corp. has selected Spaceport America as the site for its testing. -- 9/1/2015

August 28, 2015

Judge blocks Obama administration regulation on waterways -- KOB/Associated Press

A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday blocked a new Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waterways.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo issued a temporary injunction against the rule which would have given the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers authority over some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The rule was scheduled to take effect Friday. -- 8/27/2015


Commission Expands Hunting Of Bears And Cougars -- KUNM/Associated Press

The state Game Commission has voted unanimously to approve the expansion of cougar and bear hunting in New Mexico.

The vote came Thursday during a meeting in Santa Fe that was attended by dozens of wildlife advocates who voiced concerns about the proposal.

The new rules will allow for more black bear hunting in all but two of the state's game management districts as well as the doubling of cougar hunting limits. The trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and state trust land will also be allowed without special permits. -- 8/28/2015

August 27, 2015

FDA lays out proposal for naming lower-cost biotech drugs -- Santa Fe New Mexican/Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration released its proposal Thursday for naming lower-cost biotech drugs, a critical step in creating a market for the new class of medicines.

These quasi-generic biotech drugs have the potential to save the U.S. health care system billions of dollars in costs. But representatives for the generic drug industry warned that the FDA's proposal could curb those savings by making the drugs more difficult to prescribe. -- 8/27/2015


August 26, 2015

State Delays New Rules On Food Stamps -- KUNM/Associated Press

New Mexico is pushing back the timeline for certain low-income adults who will have to meet work and job-training requirements to remain eligible for food stamps.

State Human Services Secretary Brent Earnest told The Associated Press on Tuesday his department decided to delay implementation of the requirements and make some changes in response to concerns voiced during recent public meetings.

The final rules will be published Friday, and Earnest says the delay in implementation will give the state and the 60,000 recipients who will be affected more time to prepare. -- 8/26/2015


Crime Program Aims To Close Trust Gap Between Government, Tribes -- NPR

The Justice Department is trying to make it easier for Native American tribes to gain access to national crime databases. Federal authorities say the program could prevent criminals from buying guns and help keep battered women and foster children safe.

Under the Justice Department pilot program, 10 tribal communities will get their own hardware and training, so they don't need to rely on local authorities. -- 8/25/2015

August 24, 2015

EPA knew of ‘blowout risk’ at mine -- Albuquerque Journal

U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” of toxic wastewater from an inactive gold mine, yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when government contractors triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA released the documents late Friday following weeks of prodding from media organizations. -- 8/23/2015


Amid push to cut coal, feds review mine lease program -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The Department of the Interior is leasing millions of acres of federal coal to private mining companies even as the Obama administration ramps up efforts to curb greenhouse gases from coal-burning power plants and natural gas pipelines under the president’s Climate Action Plan.

Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell called for a review of the federal coal lease program in a meeting in March at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s important to have an honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal government’s coal program,” she said at the time. “I have heard many concerns about how the federal government leases coal, the amount of royalty charged and whether taxpayers are getting a fair return from public resources.”

In her March comments, she said, “Coal is going to continue to be an important part of our nation’s energy mix in the future. But the Government Accountability Office, our Inspector General, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle agree that the federal coal program needs reform.”