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May 22, 2014

Obama designates Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument“– Las Cruces Sun News

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation Wednesday formally designating nearly half a million acres of land in Doña Ana County as a national monument — a move that comes after years of heated local debate over the proposal. – 5/22/2014

May 21, 2014

"Obama to declare Organ Mountains a national monument"  – Albuquerque Journal, 5/20/2014

President Barack Obama on Wednesday will designate 496,000 acres of federal land in five south-central New Mexico mountain ranges as a national monument, bypassing Congress to ensure the rugged but scenic country is protected for future generations.

The White House announcement on Monday was the culmination of more than a decade of grass-roots activism aimed at securing federal protections in the five ranges surrounding Las Cruces. The land, owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management, is home to ancient petroglyphs and lava flows, rare plants and animals, and vast recreational and hunting areas.

See also:

Antiquities Act of 1906, AS AMENDED

Cultural Resources, Archaeology And History of the Proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, Doña Ana County, New Mexico: An Exploration of Significance and Risks for a National Treasure,  July 1, 2013, by Rebecca Procter , Ph.D., Jean Fulton, and Polly Shaafsma.

Economic Impacts of National Monument Designation, Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks, New Mexico, FINAL REPORT August 16, 2013, BBC Research & Consulting

S.1805 - Organ Mountains--Desert Peaks Conservation Act, 113th Congress (2013-2014)


NMED Responds to “Kitty Litter” Evidence as Cause of WIPP Radiation Leak

Last week, the news media was reporting that a scientist, James Conca, presented a hypothesis that the use of organic kitty litter in the shipping containers caused a chemical reaction resulting in the radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February, 2014. Conca’s hypothesis was detailed in a May 10, 2014 Forbes blog post, “Nuclear Waste Leak Traced To --- Kitty Litter.”

The kitty litter hypothesis appears to have been correct.  On May 20, 2014 New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued an Administrative Order to the Department of Energy & the Nuclear Waste Partnership, requiring detailed proposals for the “expedited closure” of certain storage room at WIPP. On May 19, 2014, NMED issued an Administrative Order to the Department of Energy & Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) requiring the preparation of a plan for isolating and securing similar containers at LANL.  In the press release for the administrative order, NMED Secretary Flynn issued this statement:

“Based on the May 15th visual inspection, the Department of Energy (DOE) has indicated that the radiological release in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground did, in fact, originate from one of two transuranic (TRU) mixed waste containers packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The containers in question contain nitrate salts, which DOE postulated may have been the source of the release. As soon as DOE suspected that a container with nitrate salt mixed with organic kitty litter may have been the source of the release, the Environment Department required DOE to take immediate action to isolate and secure all nitrate salt bearing waste containers at WIPP, LANL and WCS.“

See also:

NMED’s WIPP Update on the NMED homepage.

State demands that DOE seal two rooms at WIPP” – Albuquerque Journal, 5/20/2014

May 16, 2014

BLM Comment Period Open through May 28, 2014 on Farmington Resource Management Plan Amendment

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Farmington Field Office, New Mexico, intends to amend the Farmington Resource Management Plan to accommodate a potential boom in oil and gas production in the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone Formation in the San Juan Basin. The comment period has been extended to May 28, 2014. The BLM has held public meetings in the four corners area. The land use plan would include Chaco Culture National Park, private, federal and tribal lands.


"Hearing Set On New Mexico Medical Marijuana Rules" – KUNM News Roundup, May 14, 2014

New Mexico health officials plan a June 16 hearing in Santa Fe on proposed new rules for the state's medical marijuana program, including new limits on how many plants that producers and licensed patients could grow.

The Department of Health is proposing that producers could grow 150 mature plants and 300 seedlings. That'd be up from the current total of 150. Meanwhile, patients would be allowed six plants, down from 12.

See: New Mexico Department of Health, Medical Cannabis Program Announcement

The proposed changes affect the following rules; 7.34.2, 7.34.3 and 7.34.4 NMAC, otherwise known as the Advisory Board Responsibilities and Duties (View Markup), Registry ID Cards (View Markup) and Licensing Requirements for Producers, Production Facilities and Distribution (View Markup).


New Mexico Game Commission chooses agency director– Las Cruces Sun News, 5/16/2014

The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday selected a 20-year-veteran of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to serve as the agency's new top administrator. Alexandra Sandoval was announced as department director during the commission's regular meeting in Albuquerque. She was among four finalists being considered for the position following a national search for candidates. 


May 12, 2014

"Feds failed to inspect high-risk oil wells in New Mexico" – Santa Fe New Mexican, 5/12/2014

Federal report shows a failure of Federal inspectors to keep up with inspections of high-risk oil and gas wells.

The Bureau of Land Management has posted information about their role in Energy Production.

The BLM has also posted statistics on oil and gas production and their inspection activities.

For more detailed information on current oil and gas well drilling technology, hazards and safeguards, the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) has a very useful and well-illustrated website.  Of particular use is the page for Well Completion, which includes information on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

May 8, 2014

Report: NM to be hotter, drier“ – Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s current drought, with dwindling water supplies and increasing wildfire risk, is a taste of our future under climate change, according to a sweeping new federal report released Tuesday.  While climate’s natural ups and downs are playing a major role in our current drought, rising greenhouse gases increase the odds of conditions like New Mexico is now experiencing, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment. – 5/7/2014


Report: Uranium Cleanup in Navajo Nation Meets Most Objectives“ – Arizona Public Media

According to the new U.S. Government Accountability Officereport, Uranium Contamination: Overall Scope, Time Frame, and Cost Information Is Needed for Contamination Cleanup on the Navajo Reservation, GAO-14-323, federal agencies working to address uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation met most of the objectives outlined in a five-year plan.  But the GAO report showed the agencies fell short in two out of the eight objectives.  The GAO said the work schedules for the Northeast Church Rock mine near Gallup, New Mexico and the Tuba City Dump were optimistic and ambitious. – 5/6/2014

May 7, 2014

WaterSMART Funding Opportunity Available to Establish or Expand Watershed Groups

The Bureau of Reclamation's Cooperative Watershed Management Program is accepting applications from entities seeking to establish or expand watershed management groups.  Funding is available for states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States Territories to establish a watershed group.  Funding is also available for an existing watershed group to expand.  Applications are due on June 6, 2014 at 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. – 5/7/2014

May 2, 2014

Feds, ICE arrests over 600 gang suspects” – Las Cruces Sun News

More than 600 suspected gang members have been arrested in the Homeland Security Department's largest crackdown on street gangs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday. – 5/2/14


Governor names Las Cruces to New Mexico panels” – Las Cruces Sun News

Gov. Susana Martinez announced a number of appointments to New Mexico boards and panels on Thursday. – 5/2/14


"N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez announces summer food program for NM kids” – Las Cruces Sun News

Gov. Susana Martinez says the state is ready to help children who face the threat of going without a meal once school lets out for the summer. Martinez announced this year's food service program during a visit to Albuquerque on Thursday. She'll be in Espanola on Friday to talk more about the program. – 5/2/14