Abortion rights protestors rally in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. abortion rights rally marches to blockaded Pennsylvania Avenue

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of protestors supporting abortion rights marched for about four miles from the U.S. Supreme Court building to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. on Sunday. Marching to chants such as “we are not incubators,” “we won’t go back” and “this is what democracy looks like,” the peaceful rally traveled past congressional buildings on Independence Avenue before ending at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street at a blockaded portion of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. 

Police escorted the marchers and when the protestors reached the blockaded Pennsylvania Avenue, they turned the march into a sit-in in the middle of the street under the threat of rain. One anti-abortion demonstrator began to thread his way into the march shouting religious comments through a bull horn. A police car blocked him and some abortion rights protestors verbally confronted him a few times. Many protestors’ signs made connections between the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and LGBTQ rights.

Slight majority of voters give thumbs up to Gov on COVID response

A slight majority of voters support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while a slight plurality say the same about President Joe Biden according to a poll commissioned by NM Political Report. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that 51 percent of voters approve of the job Lujan Grisham has done in handling the ongoing pandemic, while 46 percent disapproved. The same amount disapproved of President Joe Biden’s job performance on the pandemic, though just 48 percent said they approved. The approval largely fell along partisan lines, with 81 percent of Democrats approving of Biden’s handling of the pandemic compared to 10 percent who disapproved, while 86 percent of Republicans disapproved of the handling of the pandemic and 12 percent approved. Among independent voters, 61 percent disapproved, while 33 percent approved.

White House approves New Mexico expansion of Medicaid postpartum care

Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Thursday the expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage for New Mexico and a few other states. The federal government made changes to Medicaid rules last year, which allowed states to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to 12. New Mexico began working last year to make the rule change and implemented the expansion by April 1. The expansion means that about 5,000 women in New Mexico will be able to access 12 months of postpartum care through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. Harris said during her remarks that the federal government was formally approving the expansion for New Mexico as well as for the District of Columbia, Maine and Minnesota.

PRC opens inquiry into utility vegetation management practices

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved an order to open an inquiry into the practices of utilities when it comes to the vegetiative management. The order issued Wednesday requires investor-owned electric utilities and rural electric cooperatives to provide the regulatory body with copies of their current practices and plans for managing vegetation as well as any other policies they might have to address wildfire risks. This comes as utilities have been under increased scrutiny following major fires that have occurred in the western United States that were caused by electric infrastructure. In New Mexico, the McBride Fire that killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes and properties near Ruidoso likely started after high winds caused a tree to fall onto power lines owned by the Public Service Company of New Mexico. In other parts of the west, the deadly Camp Fire that burned through the town of Paradise, California, in 2018 was caused by electric utility infrastructure.

Indian Youth Service Corps aims to combat climate change, empower Native youth

The U.S. Department of the Interior launched the new Indian Youth Service Corps and announced the program guidelines on Friday. This program—which was created through the John S. McCain III 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act—is modeled after other successful programs like the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps. The Department of the Interior is providing $2 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $700,000 to the National Park Service and $600,000 to the Bureau of Reclamation to establish this program. Its goal is to provide opportunities for Native Americans ages 16 to 30 to gain work experience in the natural resources field while also preserving traditional practices of land stewardship and creating awareness of Indigenous culture and history. During a press conference on Friday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland spoke about her Laguna Pueblo connections and being in the outdoors with her grandfather.

Phase one of gas waste rule wraps up, OCD launches new public portal

As the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s Oil Conservation Division reviewed gas capture data submitted by operators, the regulators noticed several companies reporting more than 100 percent gas capture, which OCD Director Adrienne Sandoval said is impossible. Phase one of the natural gas waste rule, which required data collection to gauge how much gas the operators are currently capturing, has now wrapped up and the second phase is beginning. In phase two, operators will be required to attain increasing rates of gas capture on an annual basis. 

Sandoval said the OCD sent letters to 10 companies requiring them to undergo a third-party audit and warned 74 companies to check their data after reporting more than 100 percent gas capture on either their first or second quarterly report. “That gas capture percentage is important because that is the starting point for operators as they move forward and try to meet the compliance requirements of this rule,” she said. All operators must achieve 98 percent gas capture by 2026, but some operators have farther to go to reach that target.

U.S. Senators ask Biden to take executive action on abortion

A group of 25 senators, including Sen. Martin Heinrich, signed a letter to President Joe Biden this week urging him to take executive action to defend reproductive rights across the U.S.

The letter urges Biden to issue an executive order to direct the federal government to develop a national plan. The letter expresses urgency due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s likely plan to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer when it issues the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The letter says that Biden has the “unique power to marshal the resources of the entire federal government to respond.”

The letter asks that Biden consider expanding access to medication abortion, provide vouchers for travel and childcare for individuals who must travel to other states for abortion care, establish a reproductive health ombudsman to gather and disseminate accurate reproductive information, guarantee Medicaid coverage for all family planning service clinics and clarify protections on sensitive information such as data gathered by some phone applications. The letter also encourages Biden to consider allowing abortion care on federal property, particularly in states where it will be restricted. Earlier this week Vice President Kamala Harris addressed a roundtable of faith leaders in Los Angeles and discussed, among other things, the need to protect reproductive rights.

Torrez wins Democratic Party nomination for attorney general

Raúl Torrez won the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, defeating Brian Colón. Torrez is a former federal prosecutor whose resume includes attending both Harvard and Stanford universities. He currently serves as the Bernalillo County district attorney—a position he has held for five years—and that county provided him with a healthy advantage. As results came in, Torrez took 57.7 percent of the early and absentee voters in Bernalillo County. 

As the district attorney, Torrez announced last year a memorandum of understanding with the state Indian Affairs Division to form a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force subunit within the district attorney’s office. Torrez also served as assistant attorney general in 2008 and 2009 where he handled cases of police misconduct and exploitation of children.

Biden signs RECA extension

President Joe Biden signed an extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act today, which lengthens the time that people who got sick after being exposed to radiation from uranium mining and processing or nuclear testing in Nevada have to apply for financial compensation. This extension keeps the possibility of expanding eligibility open. Currently, people in the Tularosa area who became sick after the Trinity test are not eligible for compensation. U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, both New Mexico Democrats, are among the lawmakers pushing to expand eligibility to those residents. The extension received bipartisan support in Congress.

Delays in Navajo-Gallup pipeline mean new wells have to be drilled

Two more groundwater wells will be drilled to meet the City of Gallup’s water demands until surface water can be transported to the area from the San Juan River. Delays in the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project mean that the City of Gallup must rely on groundwater supplies from aging wells that have seen dropping water levels for longer than anticipated. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project was supposed to come online in 2024, allowing Gallup to switch over to using water from the San Juan River that is stored at Navajo Lake. In addition to being delayed, the project is running over budget. The delays will be costly and, on Thursday, the Interstate Stream Commission authorized its director to finalize a funding agreement with the City of Gallup that will allow for the $8 million the Legislature allocated in the Colorado River Basin Bureau Work Plan.