While Indigenous nations across the United States have vast energy resources, it can be hard for them to develop that potential. Tribal representatives spoke to the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs on Thursday about the challenges they face in developing energy resources. Sub-committee chairwoman U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, said 30 percent of coal reserves west of the Mississippi River are on tribal lands.
“These untapped resources can be a key revenue source for tribes, particularly in rural areas, and can increase the United States’ supply of energy,” she said. While several tribes have sought to develop their energy resources, Hageman said development of energy projects on tribal lands requires “jumping through more hoops, more bureaucracy, and involves more agencies than on any other type of lands.
President Joe Biden vetoed resolutions on Tuesday that would have stripped protections from the endangered lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico as well as a bat found in the eastern United States. Congress, led by Republican lawmakers, passed the resolutions in an attempt to remove the endangered and threatened species protections from the lesser prairie chicken as well as the northern long-eared bat.
The lesser prairie chicken received protections under the Endangered Species Act earlier this year. “The final rule, issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), provides Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to an American bird species whose historical habitat on the Great Plains has diminished by approximately 90 percent and whose populations have plummeted toward disappearance,” Biden wrote in his veto message regarding the lesser prairie chicken. The Fish and Wildlife Service has divided the lesser prairie chicken into two distinct population segments. The southern population, which is found in New Mexico, is classified as endangered, while the northern population is classified as threatened.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a private Albuquerque attorney have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against CoreCivic, the for-profit company that operates the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia. ACLU-NM and Coyle & Benoit, PLLC filed the civil suit in the First Judicial District in Santa Fe on Tuesday on behalf of the estate of Kesley Vial, a Brazilian man who sought asylum in the U.S. last year. Vial died by suicide* after spending an additional two months in detention after he lost his immigration hearing in June of last year. Vial was held in immigration detention from April 2022 until staff found him unresponsive in a cell on August 17, 2022. Related: Immigrant advocacy organizations seeking answers around Brazilian man’s death by suicide while in ICE custody
The lawsuit alleges both negligence and medical negligence by CoreCivic, whose staff were aware of Vial’s deteriorating mental health, according to the complaint.
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez opened a Law Enforcement Summit Tuesday to address gun violence. The summit was Tuesday afternoon at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. “As the chief law enforcement officer in the state, I have a duty, I believe, to try and help elevate the voice of frontline police and prosecutors, and in many respects, the debate the conversation that has transpired in this community and in the state over the last several weeks, I think obscures some important facts and realities that the people of this community and the people that every community in New Mexico deserve to hear,” he said. Torrez added that he has a special interest in addressing the gun violence problem that he said seems to be endemic to Bernalillo County because he was born and raised in Albuquerque and is raising his family there. “I am profoundly upset and frankly angry about the lack of progress that has been made specifically with regard to the reduction of gun violence,” Torrez said.
Representatives from the abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising told members of the Interim Indian Affairs Committee on Monday that their monthly abortion fund budget has doubled since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Jonnette Paddy, Diné and IWR abortion fund director, told the committee on Monday that IWR previously spent $20,000 a month providing abortion patients with help to obtain an abortion but in 2021, that expenditure rose to $40,000 a month. Paddy told the committee that in 2020, IWR served 58 clients but in 2021, when Texas’ six-week gestational ban went into effect, the grassroots organization served 277 clients. Paddy said that at that time, the organization began providing what she called solidarity funding to individuals who are unhoused, are later in pregnancy, are minors, undocumented or Black. In 2022, the year of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, IWR funded 600 clients, which represented a 116 percent increase over the previous year, she said.
The company that hopes to build a transmission line to move wind energy from Union County across the state to San Juan County told state legislators on Monday that it will begin an environmental review process next year and, depending in part on permitting timelines, may be able to begin moving electricity at the end of the decade. Invenergy, which already has developed a wind farm in Roosevelt County, now plans on constructing the North Path transmission line. That transmission line would be able to deliver 4,000 megawatts of clean energy. Officials presented an update on that project to the interim Indian Affairs Committee during its meeting in Santa Fe, which includes plans to begin the National Environmental Policy Act review process. The project will involve two converter stations on either end that will change the electricity from alternating current to direct current and then back to alternating current.