Environmental report on USAF flight expansion over Gila delayed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Opponents of a U.S. Air Force plan to expand its flyover zone over the Gila National Forest will likely wait months longer for a draft environmental statement. Public comment is being taken during a scoping process by the Air Force under the National Environmental Policy Act. Residents of Silver City and Grant County were not included in public meetings last year, and some worried that it seemed the flights already had begun. Since then, retired Air Force Colonel Susan Beck, also a Silver City resident, has stepped in to get as much information as possible from the Air Force and bring it back to community leaders and residents. “One of the things to know is that, whereas we thought the draft environmental impact statement would be coming out this fall, we’ve just been told that it may be on at least a three-month delay,” Beck said.

Beto O’Rourke, Veronica Escobar lead Father’s Day march on tent city housing separated immigrant children

TORNILLO — World Cup soccer and backyard barbecues were set aside Father’s Day morning for hundreds of people who chose instead to descend on this small West Texas outpost that’s become famous the last 72 hours for being home to an immigration detention center for children. Lawmakers, political candidates and members of the faith-based community joined people from across the country here to express their outrage toward the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from parents who are seeking asylum. “We decided there wouldn’t be a more powerful way to spend Father’s Day than with children who have just been taken from their fathers, children who have been taken from their mothers, children who won’t be able to be with their family,” said U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who spearheaded Sunday’s protest with former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, the Democratic nominee to succeed O’Rourke in Congress. Others attending the demonstration included Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor; Democratic state Reps. Mary González of Clint and César Blanco and Lina Ortega of El Paso; and Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes; and Julie Oliver, the Democrat running to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Williams.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, speaks to the crowd marching on the tent city where children separated from their parents at the border are being held at Tornillo Land Point of Entry, on June 17, 2018.

On Father’s Day and every day, families belong together

As a recent college graduate returning to my home state after four years, I feel grateful to be able to celebrate Father’s Day with my family this summer. We devote time every year to celebrate our parents and all that they do for us because, as Americans, we value family. But this Father’s Day, I cannot help but think about the current immigration policies that are tearing young children away from their moms and dads and ignoring the importance of family. Our family members ground us. They foster our development, they teach us resiliency, they offer immense support, and they shape us as individuals.

Trump administration will build temporary shelter for immigrant children at Tornillo Land Point of Entry near El Paso

The Trump administration has selected Tornillo Land Point of Entry, a crossing point along the Texas-Mexico border near El Paso, as the site of its first temporary shelter for immigrant children separated from their parents under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed Thursday. The department chose the site in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, according to the spokesperson. The federal government will erect tents at the site to house immigrant children whose parents are facing prosecution for crossing the border illegally. Under the new “zero tolerance” policy, which U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April, thousands of children have been separated from their parents at the border and have quickly filled Texas shelters. The Tornillo site will take in 360 children in the coming days and expand from there, according to the department spokesperson.

New Mexico official says Texas landowners are “stealing” millions of gallons of water and selling it back for fracking

ORLA, TEXAS — After you head northeast on Ranch Road 652 from tiny Orla, it’s easy to miss the precise moment you leave Texas and cross into New Mexico. The sign just says “Lea County Line,” and with 254 counties in Texas, you’d be forgiven for not knowing there isn’t one named Lea. But the folks who are selling water over it know exactly where the line is. That’s because on the Texas side, where the “rule of capture” rules groundwater policy, people basically can pump water from beneath their land to their heart’s content. But on the New Mexico side, the state has imposed tight regulations on both surface and groundwater that restrict supply.

Federal royalty committee meets in NM today

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Royalty Policy Committee meets in Albuquerque today. While it isn’t a household name, the RPC was rechartered by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after the Trump administration made increased production of domestic oil, gas and coal the centerpiece of its energy policy. When companies drill or mine on federal lands, they currently pay 12.5 percent in royalties to the federal government and states. Because New Mexico receives the second-largest amount of federal royalty revenues in the nation, said Pam Eaton, senior energy advisor with The Wilderness Society, the state stands to lose significant income if that changes. “We have a committee that was pulled together by the Trump administration that’s really just focused on making those public lands cheap, easy and fast to drill,” she said, “so that companies can make the biggest buck possible.”

NM renewable energy group awaits conflict-of-interest decision

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico needs more affordable solar, but a renewable energy group says two members of the Public Regulation Commission have a conflict of interest and should not be allowed to participate in the decision. Mariel Nanasi, an attorney with New Energy Economy, says commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy should not vote on a PRC solar contract decision because they’re up for re-election and they received campaign contributions from the company. The PRC will decide on an application by El Paso Electric to purchase a $4.5 million solar farm to be built by Affordable Solar. The company’s registered lobbyist is also the campaign consultant for Jones’ and Lovejoy’s re-election bids. Nanasi maintains the two commissioners should recuse themselves from the decision.

Climate change’s impact on our food

There was a time when wading waist-deep into the Rio Grande in the heat of the summer’s blistering solar rays was as common as finding a wild willow tree growing by the river. But as we observe this becoming a distant memory, a new reality is emerging. A farmer friend, on his way to the river with some friends, sent me a few pictures. In it were children enjoying the river, just ankle deep, grateful even for the small reprieve. I thought of Laura Paskus’ article and the fish trying desperately to escape impending death.

DOH should acknowledge cannabis’ legitimate role in addressing opioid abuse

The New Mexico Department of Health is placing political ideology above public health by refusing to recognize the reality that cannabis offers a viable alternative to opioids (“DOH: Reports on cannabis for opioid abuse are ‘poor in quality,’ May 20). This ‘Flat Earth’ position ignores a myriad of data generated from other states, as well as from New Mexico’s own experience with medical cannabis. Population-based studies find that medical cannabis access is associated with reduced levels of opioid use, hospitalizations, and mortality. Specifically, data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

A pair of studies published earlier this year further finds that medical access is linked to fewer opioid prescriptions. For instance, a longitudinal analysis of opioid prescribing trends among those eligible for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage determined “that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year … when a state instituted any medical cannabis law.” In the second study, “State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing” patterns among all Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care enrollees – a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.

LANL to build part of next-gen nuclear weapons

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – The National Nuclear Security Administration announced Thursday that New Mexico and South Carolina will share in the development of next generation nuclear weapons with expanded plutonium pit production. The “pit” is the core that triggers a nuclear warhead. The Trump administration wants to dramatically increase annual pit production, from 30 to 80. The NNSA says a troubled and not-yet-completed nuclear facility in South Carolina will be re-purposed to make 50 pits a year, while Los Alamos will make 30. Nuclear watchdog groups are alarmed by the ramp-up.