Protest period opens for proposed Greater Chaco drilling

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal government is proceeding with plans for a December auction of oil and gas drilling leases on thousands of acres of land in the Greater Chaco region. A comment period on the proposal opened today and will continue through October 31, despite a pending Senate bill that would protect the area, and without a cultural review and consultation promised by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Miya King-Flaherty, organizer with the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said the government is violating its own procedures by not having a resource management plan in place. “They’re not following their own rules,” King-Flaherty said; “they’re really just rubber-stamping these drilling permits while not giving the thorough analysis that they are mandated to do.” New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have introduced legislation to protect the greater Chaco region.

Forget ‘Border Security’—migration is an economic development issue

For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have made “border security” as a top campaign issue. The bipartisan obsession with “securing the border” is baffling to those of us who live in border communities. Border cities such as Las Cruces, El Paso, Brownsville, McAllen, and San Diego are already among the safest in the United States. Current rates of migration are well within the historical range over the past 50 years, and far below rates seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Border communities are well equipped to accommodate this migration, and, in many cases, eager to welcome asylum seekers to their communities.

Let’s create an economy that works for everyone. Right now.

Stocks are soaring. Corporate profits are at record highs. Unemployment is low. So everyone should be happy, right? The problem is, many folks aren’t for darn good reasons.

Study: Visitors to NM’s outdoors generate an economic windfall

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The recreational opportunities for hunting, angling and wildlife-watching on Bureau of Land Management lands in New Mexico are matched only by their economic benefits, according to a new study. The research to determine spending on wildlife-related recreation tells the New Mexico story – millions in salaries and wages, products and services sold, and state, local and federal tax revenues. Todd Leahy, acting educational director with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, says wildlife-related activities are an equal or greater economic driver than many other industries. “This is huge,” says Leahy. “I would venture that sportsmen don’t even know these numbers – $24 million in wages?

Weary of court drama, gerrymandering opponents shift their strategy

Discouraged by seemingly endless court battles, gerrymandering opponents in some states are shifting their strategy two years before the 2020 census sparks another round of redistricting for legislative seats. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah will decide in November whether to have independent commissioners, rather than state lawmakers, draw congressional maps and the lines for state legislative seats. Except for Colorado, where lawmakers added the ballot measure, activists got these initiatives on the ballot by gathering signatures. And earlier this year, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that requires bipartisan support for new lines, though the power to draw them returns to the majority party if several redistricting attempts fail. The new system goes into effect in 2021.

States see energy boom along with economic expansion

An oil and gas bonanza in Southwestern states may be helping to drive the continuing national economic boom. The nation’s 4.2 percent growth in GDP, estimated last month by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the highest quarterly growth since 2014. State estimates aren’t due until mid-November, but many experts see oil and natural gas drilling, driven by higher prices, as a leading reason. “The states that contribute most might be the ones with strong increases in energy production,” including Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, said Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and an economic analyst for the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. GDP measures gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in a given period of time.

Feds continue environmental rollbacks with new methane emissions rule

SANTA FE, N.M. – Conservation groups are slamming a move by the Trump administration to weaken rules on methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The new rule, proposed on Tuesday, would allow companies to inspect their lines for leaks less often, and take longer to fix issues that arise. Industry has long claimed the Obama-era rules are too expensive and burdensome. However, Matt Watson, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Program, said methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that merits a strong federal standard. “Over 20 years, it’s more than 80 times more powerful than C02 [carbon dioxide] at trapping heat.

Congress should reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

In New Mexico, it can be easy to take our public lands and beautiful, unique landscapes for granted. After all, many of us have been hunting, hiking, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors our entire lives. These traditions handed down from generation to generation instilled in us an appreciation for the land and our heritage. But on a recent trip to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument I was reminded how lucky I am and how much we stand to lose if we don’t speak up for the land we love and use. As a sportsman and videographer, I’ve been lucky enough to combine two things I’m very passionate about into a career running my own film business.

Improperly Sealed: Lawyers, not judges, selecting which NM fed court documents stay secret

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have shielded records from public view without a judge’s order in New Mexico’s federal courts, an apparent violation of the U.S. District Court of New Mexico’s own rules, New Mexico In Depth has learned. Judges, not lawyers, are supposed to decide which documents are made available to the public and which should remain secret through an established protocol based in part on decades of case law: Attorneys must submit a written request asking a judge to seal records and a judge must consent before records are sealed. Despite this well-known standard, in numerous instances spread among three criminal cases, the New Mexico offices of the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Public Defender have decided unilaterally to make documents secret without a judge’s order, according to a review of federal court records by NMID. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. It is not clear how many of the thousands of federal court records each year have been sealed this way, but one federal public defender says the practice has gone on for years.

Why New Mexicans need a higher minimum wage

Hard-working families in our state are drowning. Families should never have to choose between buying healthy groceries and paying their utility bills, but they do. Kids should be focusing on their work instead of their grumbling stomachs during school, but they cannot help it when their hard-working parents can only provide one meal a day. Workers should not have to take out payday loans for exorbitant fees to afford back-to-school supplies for their kids. I’ve heard too many devastating stories about the challenges that New Mexico’s minimum-wage workers face, and I believe that hard-working New Mexicans deserve better.