Animas River state of emergency; is it a wake-up call for abandoned mines?

The Animas River spill, or the Gold King Mine spill depending on your preference, is one of the more high profile environmental disasters in recent southwestern United States history. Yesterday, New Mexico Political Report wrote about six things that you should know about the spill. However, the news continues to change and adapt, so here is the latest on what has happened with the spill. Associated Press: Spill prompts New Mexico to declare emergency: The Associated Press reports that New Mexico was the latest to declare an emergency on Monday. The state of Colorado also declared a state of emergency on Monday.Previously, La Plata County and the City of Durango in Colorado as well as San Juan County in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation had declared states of emergency because of the spill. Farmington Daily-Times: Gold mine’s toxic plume extends to Utah: Utah could easily be next, as the plume of pollution has now reached Utah.

Six things to know about the Animas River spill

The Animas River turned a sickly orange-brown as waste from an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado flowed into the river. The water with high level of heavy metals has made its way down the river into New Mexico. The cause? A breach from a team working for the Environmental Protection Agency that was trying to treat some of the contaminants in the mine. Here are a few things you should know about the spill as well as some other background.

New calls to return fugitive as US-Cuba relations improve

With relations between Cuba and the United States reaching a level not seen for decades, the calls for Cuba to return a fugitive who fled after the killing of a New Mexico State Police officer in the 1970s are growing louder. The latest call came from current New Mexico State Police chief Pete Kassetas. Kassetas told the Associated Press that he is cautiously optimistic that the extradition will happen. Kassetas also joked that he would pay for the ticket himself. Chief Pete Kassetas said his agency is working with the FBI on the possible return of Charlie Hill to face charges after the U.S. and Cuba restored formal diplomatic relations.

NM abortion rates drop sharply, despite lack of restrictions

The number of abortions are dropping across the United States regardless of restrictions in each state, according to an Associated Press survey released earlier this week,. Some of the biggest decreases happened in states that have little to no abortion restrictions, including New Mexico. From the AP:
Five of the six states with the biggest declines — Hawaii at 30 percent, New Mexico at 24 percent, Nevada and Rhode Island at 22 percent, Connecticut at 21 percent — have passed no recent laws to restrict abortion clinics or providers. The cause of the decline, which occurred over the past five years, isn’t completely clear. Abortion rights advocates attribute the change to more readily available birth control and sex education, while opponents credit the drop to a recent spike in public debate over the issue.

New Archdiocese of Santa Fe archbishop ‘A Pope-Francis kind of appointment’

Pope Francis selected John C. Wester as the next Archbishop for the diocese of Santa Fe. Wester was recently the bishop of Salt Lake City. He will replace Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who has to retire after turning 75, in June. In a press conference, Sheehan said, according to the Albuquerque Journal::This appointment was a Pope-Francis kind of appointment, representing the values that the pope himself has,” Sheehan said of Wester. “There were choices.

Same-sex marriage remains illegal on Navajo Nation

Same-sex marriage is becoming legalized in states throughout the country and a potential nationwide legalization looms on the horizon. But even if the Supreme Court of the United States rules in favor of same-sex marriage, these areas will not have legalized same-sex marriage. Some tribes around the country, which are sovereign nations, still do not allow same-sex couples to marry, including the Navajo Nation according to the Associated Press. The Navajo Nation—which spans through portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah—is one of the two largest sovereign Native American tribes in the country. From the AP:
Alray Nelson, a gay rights activist who lives with his partner Brennen Yonnie on the Navajo reservation, said the tribe’s law denies same-sex couples the right to be included in decisions on a partner’s health care, or to share in a home site lease.

As crude oil price drops, NM loses jobs

The nosedive in prices for crude oil will result in lower employment in the oil and gas extraction industry in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reported on Wednesday that the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department predicted a drop of at least 2,000 jobs in the industry because of the lower cost of crude oil. Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told New Mexico Political Report said that with crude oil prices dropping, companies need to adjust. “Companies are looking for every efficiency they have,” Drangmeister said in a short phone interview. One efficiency is fewer explorations, less “wildcat wells” in “unproven areas.”

‘Bid-rigging’ PARCC lawsuit appeal to be heard this week

A New Mexico judge will hear an appeal of a lawsuit over what has been called “bid-rigging” in relation to evaluation tests that are performed throughout the state. This could cut short the contract between the state and the vendor involved in the tests. The Associated Press reported on the appeal that will take place on Tuesday. The American Institutes for Research appeal challenges the multi-year contract awarded to Pearson to conduct the tests for the state. The tests are for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Education bills in limbo after tie votes

Due to a shortage on Republican members, two House bills were sent into legislative limbo following tie votes in committee. One proposed a solution to truant students and the other would change how students can opt out of certain standardized tests. Both had tie votes on party lines, with Democrats supporting one and Republicans supporting the other. The House Education Committee heard from Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. Hall presented HB 117 which would allow schools to work with the state’s Motor Vehicle Division in order to restrict driving privileges of some high school students.

Previous conservative House leadership changed committee names

The New Mexico Political Report staff spent much of Friday and Saturday last week looking in the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune archives at an interesting time in New Mexico House history — the beginning of the “Cowboy Coalition” in the state House from 1979-1982 (and again from 1985-1986). There will be more looks back at this tumultuous time in the state legislature from New Mexico Political Report in the days and weeks to come. It was the most recent example of conservatives taking control of the House of Representatives until Don Tripp, R-Socorro, took the Speaker’s gavel just a week ago. While this is the first time in decades that the House has had a Republican Speaker of the House, the House was run by Gene Samberson from 1979-1982. Samberson was a conservative Democrat from southern New Mexico who was voted into power thanks to a coalition made up of nearly all of the Republican caucus and a small group of conservative Democrats.