San Juan County takes steps to require power plant demolition upon closure

With less than a year left before San Juan Generating Station’s scheduled closure, San Juan County officials are concerned that the facility could become an eyesore if it is retired in place rather than immediately demolished. In the past, the plant’s majority owner, Public Service Company of New Mexico, has said retirement in place—which means making the facility safe and fencing it off but not demolishing it—would save customers money. If the owners choose to go that route, it could be decades before the facility is demolished. But an ordinance that the San Juan County Commission is expected to adopt would require demolition of coal-fired power plants upon closure. The commission approved publishing a notice of intent to adopt the ordinance during its Tuesday meeting and a final vote on the measure is scheduled for Nov.

New campaign with New Mexico roots pushes for wildlife management reform

A newly launched initiative seeks to reform wildlife management not only in New Mexico, but across the nation. Wildlife for All is a campaign from the Southwest Environmental Center, which is based in Las Cruces. The advocates behind the effort say the current system of managing wildlife places too much emphasis on hunting and fishing and not enough emphasis on conserving biodiversity. While Wildlife for All emphasizes that it is not anti-hunting, it maintains that wildlife is a public trust for everyone, including people who don’t hunt or fish, and that it should be managed as such. The idea of wildlife management reform is not new.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to address poaching in Mexican wolf recovery plan

Conservation advocates say they won a partial victory in a lawsuit regarding the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. A federal district court judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday to produce a draft recovery plan. This plan must be released for public comment within six months and must include site-specific management actions to reduce the number of wolves illegally killed. The plan must be finalized no later than six months after the draft is released. Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Wolf Center, Wolf Conservation Center and David Parsons, a former Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator sued the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018.

Commission votes to send proposed redistricting maps to Legislature

The newly formed New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee, tasked with presenting new political maps for the state Legislature to consider, decided on a series of maps last week, but still has more work to finish this week. 

The committee approved three map concepts on Friday for congressional districts, state Senate districts and the state’s Public Education Commission. But the group is scheduled to meet again this week to approve state House districts. 

Largely at issue throughout conversations during last week’s meeting was whether the committee should push for “status-quo” maps or instead opt for maps that make significant changes to how certain districts are drawn, particularly with congressional districts. 

Congressional Concept A, for example, aims to keep New Mexico’s three congressional districts relatively similar to what they are now. It would keep Torrance and Bernalillo Counties in the First Congressional District, along with Placitas and the town of Bernalillo.  

Former Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, who was appointed to the committee by New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, advocated making changes to congressional districts that would group areas that have not been grouped together before. But former New Mexico Republican Party Chair Ryan Cangiolosi, who was appointed to the committee by House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, warned against changing map boundaries without a justified reason. 

“Change for just change’s sake sometimes, we’ve seen in history, is not good,” Cangiolosi said. “It doesn’t move anything forward.”

Later in the meeting, Sanchez defended making significant changes to congressional districts by saying that if certain communities that have raised concerns about their congressional representation, “can vote for the person of their choice,” then it is a “good change.”

Albuquerque-based attorney and former state Senator Lisa Curtis, who was appointed to the committee by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, agreed with Sanchez’s sentiment and further said the committee should be providing the Legislature with new ideas. 

“I think we’re sort of abdicating our responsibility by just putting the status quo map out for the fact of it,” Curtis said. 

Below is a breakdown of the congressional and state Senate districts the committee has approved so far. 

Congressional Concept A would mostly keep the three districts the same, leaving Isleta Pueblo and Cibola County in the 2nd Congressional District.

Los Alamos scientists work on technique for estimating stress in earth’s crust from oil and gas activity

A new method developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory could reduce the costs of determining if proposed oil and natural gas activity could lead to earthquakes and which direction fractures are likely to occur during hydraulic fracturing. A study published in Nature’s Communications Earth and Environment journal looked at a way to estimate the orientation of stress in the earth’s crust without doing the traditional borehole analysis or looking at past earthquake data. Scientists focused on north-central Oklahoma, which has experienced earthquakes induced by the injection of produced water from the oil and gas operations, as well as north-central New Mexico, which was chosen to compare the Oklahoma results with an area straddling a continental rift around the Colorado Plateau. The lead author on the study is Los Alamos scientist Andrew Delorey, who has spent years studying nonlinear elasticity. In an interview with NM Political Report, Delorey said it is easiest to explain nonlinear elasticity by first explaining linear elasticity.