It’s quiet outside the Metropolitan Detention Center, a hulking facility of brick, cinderblock and glass nearly 20 miles west of Albuquerque. On a recent day, cattle graze near the jail’s parking lot and though the Sandia Speedway is just up the road, the tracks are silent. Even the air is fresh — free of the stench of rotten eggs from the Cerro Colorado Landfill just two miles away. Inside New Mexico’s largest jail, it’s a different story.
Back in 2020, as oil and gas prices tanked because of the COVID crisis, New Mexico implemented an emergency program that would allow oil and gas producers to temporarily stop production and shut down wells for up to three years without penalty. The state’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) created the program so that companies could bank petroleum reserves until prices rebounded — a move that would preserve profits for the companies and safeguard future tax revenue from the state’s largest single stream. Understandably, the program proved popular and, at its peak, 34 companies idled 6,505 wells — roughly 12% of the state’s total number of active facilities. As energy prices rebounded and then soared into record territory in the last year, most of those idled wells returned to producing fuel and tax revenue. But not all.
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A lot of news following the Senate passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has focused on provisions to help address climate change, like making it easier for people to purchase electric vehicles. You can read my coverage on the topic here. However, the package is not a death toll for the fossil fuel industry.
Events reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection surrounding the death of a migrant child last month are questionable, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said. CBP released a statement last week to report the death of the child on July 23. Based on the information provided by CBP, the ACLU-NM is concerned that the agency didn’t do enough to try to save the child, Rebecca Sheff, senior staff attorney for the organization told NM Political Report. According to CBP’s statement, on July 22 an unidentified person requested help from CBP agents who were in an area south of Deming following foot tracks. The guide led the CBP agents to a nearby remote area approximately 16 miles northeast of the Columbus Port of Entry.
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission denied Southwestern Public Service Company’s request to delay implementing the community solar program while the state Supreme Court weighs an appeal. SPS appealed the PRC’s final ruling in the community solar case in July, which some community solar proponents see as an attempt to stall. In its appeal, SPS argued that the rule does not adequately protect customers. Community solar allows people to receive electricity from small arrays. This is intended to benefit people who cannot afford solar panels for their homes or who rent or live in an apartment where they are not authorized to install solar.
The “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres. Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.
Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die. Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.