Candidates report spending in high-dollar elections

Both federal and state candidates filed campaign finance reports this week, showing how much they spent on their races this year. The reports showed several very high-cost races. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham spent nearly twice as much as her Republican opponent on the way to her victory in last month’s elections, and spending by the two exceeded $14 million. In all, Lujan Grisham spent over $9.5 million, while Steve Pearce spent just under $4.9 million. Lujan Grisham’s total includes money spent during a primary, which she easily won, while Pearce didn’t face a Republican opponent.

NM Environment Review: Cannon AFB, double drilling & wolf news

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

• This week the New Mexico Environment Department issued a Notice of Violation against Cannon Air Force Base over water supplies contaminated with toxic chemicals from the base.Then, this morning we learned that Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján met with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson (also, a former New Mexico representative) to discuss the contamination. (As we’d previously reported, Luján first reached out to Wilson back in mid-October…) According to a joint statement from Udall, Heinrich and Luján, “As we discussed with Secretary Wilson, the Air Force must do more to address this serious issue with the urgency it demands.

Lujan Grisham’s transition members on education, Indian affairs

After two terms of clashing with the governor, teachers unions will have a loudervoice, at least during the transition period. Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham is rushing toward her inauguration on Jan. 1 and is working with various people to fill her administration in different areas, including education and Indian Affairs. Previously: Lujan Grisham names transition team for environment, energy and water

Earlier in November, Lujan Grisham named former New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers, former Santo Domingo Governor Everett Chavez and Principal and CEO of the Native American Community Academy Kara Bobroff as co-chairs of the Education and Indian Affairs transition committee. Last week, Lujan Grisham named more people to her transition team.

Lujan Grisham names transition team for environment, energy and water

Shortly after Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected governor, she started assembling her transition teams for various state agencies. In November, Lujan Grisham announced that Sarah Cottrell Propst and Toby Velasquez will head the Natural Resources Committee, which reviews the agencies that oversee water, energy and environment issues. Velasquez is deputy director of New Mexico State Parks. Cottrell Propst is executive director of Interwest Energy Alliance and served as the energy and environmental policy advisor to Gov. Bill Richardson from 2006 to 2010. Over the weekend, Lujan Grisham announced transition teams for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department; the Environment Department; the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission.

New Mexico: Air Force is violating state water law at Cannon AFB

The state of New Mexico says the U.S. Air Force needs to immediately develop a plan to protect dairies from chemicals at Cannon Air Force Base. The New Mexico Environment Department announced today that Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis is violating the state’s Water Quality Act and related ground and surface water regulations. The state agency issued a Notice of Violation, which requires the Air Force to create a plan to protect local dairies from contamination in the short-term and also evaluate the possibility of installing systems to treat contaminated water supplies. If the military fails to comply, New Mexico can issue civil penalties of up to $15,000 per day for each violation. Chemicals from fire fighting training activities have been found in the groundwater below Cannon, and in groundwater wells off-base.

Opponents to rally in NM over sale of public lands for drilling

SANTA FE — New Mexico is becoming an “energy sacrifice zone,” according to those who oppose the sale of 84,000 acres of state lands for oil and gas drilling. Opponents will rally at the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters in Santa Fe on Wednesday, one day ahead of Thursday’s planned online sale. The sell-off will include 46,000 acres in the culturally significant Greater Chaco region. The sale is scheduled despite 10,000 citizen protest comments, according to Miya King-Flaherty, organizer of Our Wild New Mexico at the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. She said the BLM is showing chronic disregard for public concerns, community health impacts and tribal consultation.

Drought persists over Four Corners, rivers & reservoirs low across the SW

The Four Corners is at the epicenter of drought in the continental United States, even as conditions in other parts of the Southwest improve. “The Four Corners is getting further and further behind in precipitation,” said Royce Fontenot, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, during a briefing Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Integrated Drought Information System. “That’s had a huge impact on local water supplies, particularly local municipal water supplies in the Four Corners.”

He noted, “Almost all the reservoirs through the intermountain West are below normal for where they should be this year.”

Two of the worst-hit systems, he said, are the Rio Grande and the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado River. But the Chama, Jemez, San Francisco and Gila rivers in New Mexico are also lower than normal for this time of year. In southern New Mexico, Elephant Butte Reservoir on the Rio Grande has bumped up a bit from earlier this fall—but is still only at about six percent capacity.

Luján elected to House leadership post

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, entering his sixth term in office, was unanimously elected the Assistant Democratic Leader for the next Congress. In a statement, Luján said he was “honored” to be selected for that position, which makes him the number four Democrat in the House. “As Assistant Democratic Leader, I will welcome ideas from all corners of our Caucus to build our agenda, protect our majority, hold the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans accountable, and make a positive difference in people’s lives,” the congressman said. “Just like the midterm elections, the road ahead won’t be easy. But I’m confident that if we are all willing to come to the table, listen, ask the hard questions, and put in the work, we will successfully meet this moment.”

Luján led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a group tasked with electing Democrats to the U.S. House, throughout the past two election cycles.

State lacks policy allowing inmates to breastfeed their children

The New Mexico Department of Corrections does not have a current policy that would allow inmates to breastfeed their children, despite a judge’s order last year to put one in place. While Corrections implemented a lactation policy, it only covers access to electric breastfeeding pumps, a department spokesman told NM Political Report. Despite the order, the spokesman said in-person breastfeeding only applied to one woman. Last June, inmate Monique Hidalgo sued the Corrections Department to be able to use an electric breast pump and breastfeed her then-newborn daughter, Isabella, in-person. The injunctive order handed down last August by state District Court Judge David K. Thomson ordered the department to allow inmates to breastfeed their children.

NM near bottom of wage growth over last year, since Great Recession

New Mexico’s personal wage growth continues to lag behind the country as a whole and the region. The latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows that through the 2nd quarter of 2018, New Mexico’s personal income has grown just 1.1 percent since the Great Recession. That’s compared the national average of 1.9 percent. Looking at just the most recent year, through the end of the 2nd quarter of 2018, New Mexico also saw just a 1.1 percent growth. The West is home to many  states with the largest growth rates, both since 2007 and in the most recent year.