Trump’s approval rating in NM continues to fall

New Mexico voters have soured on President Donald Trump, bringing his already-low statewide approval rating down below 40 percent in January. That’s according to numbers from pollster Morning Consult.

Pollsters found that in January 2017, when he was inaugurated, 52 percent of New Mexico voters approved of Trump’s job performance. But just one year into his four-year term, that number plummeted to 39 percent. His disapproval rating in the state also increased, from 35 percent in 2017 to 58 percent in 2018. Nationwide, however, his approval rating rose.

State moves to update oil and gas permits, while on the federal level, BLM cuts public protest period

The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Air Quality Bureau will host a hearing on Monday about proposed changes to construction permits for oil and gas facilities. The process kicked off in the summer of 2016, and the public comment period closed at the end of January. According to the department, the general construction permit codifies air protection rules for industry to “streamline the application process and to provide consistency in the oversight process.”

The issue is the latest in a line of moves that environmental groups say reverse protections for people and natural resources. Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that if finalized, the changes would make New Mexico’s new oil and gas construction permits among the weakest in the United States. “This is especially egregious when you consider the methane hotspot in the San Juan Basin and the importance of that issue in New Mexico,” Goldstein said.

EPA’s waters and jobs, plus climate change and Cape Town’s dwindling water supplies

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finalized the “Waters of the United States” applicability date. Last March, President Donald Trump directed the agencies to review the “Clean Water Rule” also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which was finalized in 2015 as a way to clarify confusion over parts of the Clean Water Act. The rule applies to navigable waterways and their tributaries. Under the rule, a tributary doesn’t need to be a continuously flowing body of water. But it must have flowing water—marked by a bed, bank and high water mark—to warrant protection.

DOJ threatens (again) to withhold funds from Bernalillo County over immigration info sharing

The U.S. Department of Justice is again threatening to withhold some crimefighting funds from Bernalillo County over what the Trump administration has called “sanctuary” policies. The DOJ contacted Bernalillo County and 22 other jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, saying they violated the law that promotes sharing immigration enforcement information with the federal government. DOJ says the statute requires cooperation as a condition for receiving grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Wednesday, DOJ threatened to subpoena officials who do not comply with their documents request. The threat is the latest in the fight between the federal government and local jurisdictions they deem as “sanctuary.” There is no formal definition of a so-called “sanctuary” city or county, though the Trump administration generally uses it to refer to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal requests to aid enforcement of immigration law.

SF Mayor responds to Trump admin threats to arrest ‘sanctuary city’ pols

Santa Fe’s mayor has a message for the Trump administration after the Department of Justice floated the idea of arresting elected officials in charge of cities with “sanctuary policies”: You know where to find me. On Facebook Wednesday evening, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales linked to a Newsweek story about the controversial, and likely unconstitutional, idea. “The Trump administration can find me at the Santa Fe Mayor’s office from 8-6, Monday – Friday,” Gonzales wrote. “I will stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together.”

Gonzales, who is leaving the mayor’s office this year but running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, has been an outspoken supporter of sanctuary efforts. Santa Fe is one of the more progressive areas of the state.

Martinez’s legacy undefined as she approaches final session in charge

Gov. Susana Martinez leaned in, and a discernible vigor crept into her voice. Speaking at a news conference earlier this month about her proposed state budget, the former prosecutor seemed in her element, discussing an issue that has come to define her two terms in office: crime. She started her presentation on the state’s spending plan talking about a crime wave, and when a reporter asked about bail reform, she eagerly lambasted new court policies as creating a “revolving door at the jail.” Yes, there was talk of tax reform and education, too. But if there is any issue Martinez has felt most comfortable railing about in front of the cameras, it is crime.

SOS calls end of Trump voter fraud panel a ‘victory’

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was quick to react to the dissolution of President Donald Trump’s controversial commission that sought evidence of voter fraud. “This is a victory for the integrity and privacy of New Mexico voters,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement Wednesday evening. “From its inception, President Trump’s election commission never demonstrated that the collected data would be used for lawful purposes, how voters’ personal data would be secured, or how comparing insufficient data would produce any meaningful conclusions.”

The White House cited the lack of cooperation from states as one reason to dissolve the commission. “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

Trump administration relaxes financial penalties against nursing homes

The Trump administration — reversing guidelines put in place under President Barack Obama — is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury. The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. The American Health Care Association, the industry’s main trade group, has complained that under Obama inspectors focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve. “It is critical that we have relief,” Mark Parkinson, the group’s president, wrote in a letter to then-President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016. Since 2013, nearly 6,500 nursing homes — 4 of every 10 — have been cited at least once for a serious violation, federal records show.

2017 Top Stories #5: National monuments under fire

About 739,000 acres of public lands in New Mexico became a big news story this year. At the end of April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a number of national monument designations, including two in New Mexico, made under the Antiquities Act since 1996. See all of our year-end stories

The two New Mexico monuments were the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces

The executive order was a gift to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who had been seeking a way to diminish protections of two monuments in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. At the signing ceremony for the order, Trump recognized Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and in particular, Hatch. “Believe me, he’s tough.

What it’s like inside the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback at the EPA

Betsy Southerland knew something was wrong the moment she walked into her office at the Environmental Protection Agency. It was 8 a.m. on a Thursday in April and already, her team was waiting at her door, computer printouts in hand. For months, staffers in the Office of Water had been in help-desk mode, fielding calls from states implementing a federal rule that set new limits on water-borne pollution released by coal-fired power plants. The rule on what is known as “effluent” had been hammered out over a decade of scientific study and intense negotiations involving utility companies, White House officials and environmental advocates. The EPA had checked and rechecked its calculations to make sure the benefits of the proposed change outweighed the cost to the economy.