Ben Ray Luján aims to connect with voters across the state

On a quiet Saturday morning, just as an early morning rain had stopped and the clouds drifted away, a pile of inflatable rafts sat piled under a tree at La Llorona Park in Las Cruces. Soon, about a dozen teenagers trickled into the park, ready to float about 3 miles down the river with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. 

Luján’s district is about 300 miles north of the public park, named after a folklore character associated with rivers and children, that butts up against the Rio Grande. Luján wasn’t there on official business, but instead to engage with young people from other parts of the state not within his congressional district as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate. 

Luján’s name is likely familiar to those who even casually follow political news. Earlier this year, he was tapped to become the assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest rank in Democratic leadership. His father, Ben Luján, served as the New Mexico Speaker of the House and many have speculated that if Ben Ray Luján stayed the course in Congress he might be in line to succeed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

Confusion reigns in calculating methane emissions

No one knows exactly how much methane is released into the atmosphere each year in New Mexico. And with record production in oil and gas for the state of New Mexico, and a governor that wants to transition to clean energy, that’s a big problem. According to EPA data, methane makes up just 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.—but it is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, with eighty times the warming power of carbon dioxide. In 2014, the NOAA documented an alarming methane “hotspot” hovering above the Four Corners area. Subsequent research indicated the methane cloud was in fact due to oil and gas production in the region.

Guv’s office: A special session without a plan ‘is the wrong kind of reactive’

Despite a call by the Speaker of the House for a special session to deal with domestic terrorism, the governor’s office is expressing caution and indicating a special session is not currently in the offing. A statement from Dominic Gabello, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s senior advisor for policy and strategy, outlined legislation that the governor supported in this year’s legislative session, including some that became law. However, Gabello said, “To call for a special session, to lean into the well-founded fears of violence in this state and elsewhere, without a focused plan, without caucus outreach, is the wrong kind of reactive. We can be quick without hurrying.”

Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, asked the governor to call the legislature into a special session for legislation to combat domestic terrorism. Egolf reacted after the announcement from the governor’s office.

During Trump’s visit, El Paso residents criticized his divisiveness — and lawmakers’ inaction on gun laws

EL PASO — The message here wasn’t subtle. And neither was the anger. Four days after a gunman walked into a Walmart and killed 22 people, hundreds of El Pasoans on Wednesday packed into a southside park just miles from the international border with Mexico to tell President Trump he isn’t welcome in this reeling border community. “We can’t sugar coat it anymore, [things] have gone too far,” Kylie Oliver said as she held up a sign that read ‘F**king do something!’ “We’ve tried to be politically correct but it’s time to stop. For me personally, it’s turned to anger.”

The tensions here underscored residents’ mounting anger and frustration about lawmakers’ seemingly intractable positions on stricter gun laws in a city still dealing with grief from what police suspect may have been a racially motivated massacre.

Groundwater levels on the rebound in Albuquerque

Groundwater levels in Albuquerque are rising at the same time as water sources across much of the West are depleting. New research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) indicates water levels in the aquifer beneath Albuquerque have reached the highest levels recorded since the USGS began mapping groundwater in the area in 2002. The trend began in 2012, when groundwater levels near Albuquerque began rising compared to historical conditions, and despite below-normal annual precipitation, according to maps produced by USGS. In 2016, USGS maps indicated “relatively high” levels of groundwater. At the same time, USGS noted that groundwater level declines, called drawdown, have reduced significantly.  

According to USGS hydrologists Amy Galanter and Andre Ritchie, that means the aquifer system that Albuquerque has relied on to supply drinking water to residents since the 1950s is rebounding after more than twenty years of efforts to restore it. 

Depleting groundwater across the country

Groundwater levels have dropped significantly across much of the West in recent years, impacting food production and drinking water access.