Advocates say new mining claim near Mogollon threatens ecosystem and sacred sites

A new mining claim threatens the ecosystem and sacred sites around the town of Mogollon, about 75 miles northwest of Silver City, according to Indigenous and environmental advocates. In late August, Canadian-based mining company Summa Silver announced that it had staked a new claim at the Mogollon Project. 

“Although the Mogollon mining district remains underappreciated, we think it has good potential to develop into a classic American mining district,” CEO Galen McNamara said in the Aug. 30 announcement. “Within that context, acquiring mineral rights to more land via inexpensive claim staking was an easy decision, particularly given that the new claims are known to have a number of prospect trenches and remain completely unexplored by modern methods.”

While many people might think of jewelry when they think about silver, the metal also plays an important role in solar energy production. This has driven an increased demand for silver.

Group accuses PNM, AVANGRID of misleading the public

An environment and consumer protection advocacy group said the Public Service Company of New Mexico and AVANGRID engaged in an ad campaign to mislead the public. New Energy Economy filed a motion to show cause with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on Friday. In a press release, the group stated that the order to show cause comes as a result of emails from confused New Mexico residents who have seen advertisements that make it look as if PNM and AVANGRID are a single company. The PRC rejected an application for the two entities to merge last year, though that decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. NEE has asked the PRC to investigate what it terms as a “deceptive and misleading co-branding strategy” that it alleges PNM and AVANGRID are engaging in because “they believe that the PRC’s decision is no more than a small pothole on the way to the merger that they are hell-bent on accomplishing.”

“When PNM CFO Don Tarry was deposed in another case, he accidentally referred to the merger as ‘delayed’ rather than its actual status – denied, because the PRC that we elected determined that it would not serve the public interest,” NEE Executive Director Mariel Nanasi said in a press release.

As EPA fails to fine oil and gas polluters, New Mexico officials demand answers

New Mexico officials are asking the federal government to explain why it decided not to impose fines on oil and gas producers it caught violating the Clean Air Act in the state. In May, Capital & Main reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 24 companies had 111 leaks from wells and other equipment, following an airborne monitoring program over New Mexico’s portion of the Permian Basin in 2019. However, only 11 companies were given violation notices, and only one received a fine for Clean Air Act (CAA) violations. Another company was fined for a permitting violation. Now, James Kenney, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich have asked the regional EPA office to explain the paltry number of violation notices and fines.

Scientific paper raises awareness about wildfire misinformation

As wildfires spread at sometimes an alarming rate through the western United States, so does the misinformation about fire science and wildfires. A group of fire scientists have penned an article published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment highlighting the misinformation about wildfires. “Misinformation confuses people about the causes, contexts, and impacts of wildfire and substantially hinders society’s ability to proactively adapt to and plan for inevitable future fires,” the authors wrote in the paper. Gavin Jones, a research ecologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Center based in Albuquerque, was the lead author in the paper. He said the main goal was to raise awareness about the issue.

Ronchetti calls for constitutional amendment on abortion

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti wants a constitutional amendment to determine the legality of abortion. Ronchetti announced that he wants to “put it on a statewide ballot so everyone gets a say” in a new TV ad he released today. In the ad, Ronchetti sits next to his wife, Krysty. 

He says, “No politician should decide this” and describes his own position as wanting to “end later term abortion and protect access to healthcare” and describes Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham’s position as “abortion up to birth, no limits.”

New Mexico’s state constitution only allows legislation to be done through the state legislature. This means that voter referendums or special elections cannot take place. 

The only exception is amending the state’s constitution, which can be done if a proposed amendment passes both the state House and Senate with a majority of votes, after which it would be sent to voters at the next general election. Democrats currently hold majorities in both the state House and Senate.

Abortion fund calls for Lovelace to end relationship with a crisis pregnancy center org

Indigenous Women Rising, an abortion fund in New Mexico, wrote an open letter to Lovelace Health Systems in Albuquerque calling on it to publicly end any relationship it has with an organization that runs crisis pregnancy centers. Care Net is a Christian-based nonprofit organization that tries to discourage pregnant individuals from abortion. Care Net runs 39 percent of the 31 CPCs in New Mexico. “These organizations have been reported by previous CPC clients to use coercive measures to pressure people out of obtaining abortions. Moreover, this extremist organization is anti-contraception, which indicates the organization does not support reproductive health options,” the letter states.

Revised recovery plan released for Gila trout

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its plan on Wednesday for recovering the Gila trout, which is found in high mountain streams in parts of New Mexico and Arizona. The plan prioritizes efforts like reintroducing the fish into historical habitats, removing or managing nonnative trout species and captive breeding of the Gila trout at hatcheries. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Gila trout is one of the rarest trout species in the country. It first was listed as endangered in 1973 when the Endangered Species Act passed, but has been recognized as endangered since 1967. It was later downlisted to threatened in 2006.

Poll: Lujan Grisham widens lead over Ronchetti

A new poll conducted by SurveyUSA for KOB-TV found that incumbent Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has a double-digit lead over her Republican opponent, Mark Ronchetti in her reelection campaign. The poll of likely voters found that Lujan Grisham has the support of 48 percent of likely voters, with 36 percent saying they would vote for Ronchetti and 5 percent for Libertarian Karen Bedonie. Another 11 percent would not say or are undecided. The poll found Lujan Grisham had a lead of 59 percent to 26 percent among Hispanic voters, while leading by 18 percentage points among women and 6 percent among men. Men are traditionally more conservative voters.

Native American groups challenge changes to the PRC, say ballot wording caused confusion

A petition filed this week in the New Mexico Supreme Court challenges a constitutional amendment that made sweeping changes to the state Public Regulation Commission. 

The amendment, approved by voters in 2020, reduced the number of commissioners on the Public Regulation Commission and transformed it from an elected body to one with members appointed by the governor, effective Jan. 1, 2023. Three Indigenous nonprofits led by women—Indigenous Lifeways, New Mexico Social Justice & Equity Institute and Three Sisters Collective—filed the petition on Sept. 12. They claimed that the ballot language in the 2020 election when voters approved the constitutional amendment wasn’t adequate to inform voters about what would happen if it was approved.

New U.S. Census data indicates improvements in child poverty and other child well being indicators

U.S. Census data released on Tuesday indicated national improvements in income, poverty and health insurance for families across the U.S.

New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit that advocates for legislative policies that benefit children, believe the new census data showing some initial improvements could positively impact New Mexico’s child well-being that were not reflected in the 2022 National KIDS COUNT Data Book. The recent 2022 Data Book, which the Annie E. Casey Foundation released in August, ranked New Mexico at 50th for child well-being. Emily Wildau, research and policy analyst for NMVC, said that the census information released on Tuesday does not drill down into state-level data but more census data at the state level will be released later this week. 

But, she said, the new data includes supplemental income benefits, such as SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] and tax credits. “Adding in these income supplemental benefits gives a nuanced look,” she said. Wildau said the overall drop in poverty for children at the national level is, “truly astonishing.”

“The biggest thing we see is the overall rate of poverty for kids under 18 dropped from 9.2 percent [in 2020] to 7.8 percent [in 2021],” she said.